The joy of writing about drinking is not just drinking, but also watching what, and how, other patrons drink. (You guys really like vodka tonics. And when did Long Island Iced Teas become a thing again?)
But sometimes, I wish I had the chutzpah to lean over to say, “Add two dashes of bitters to your cocktail. It will taste 10 times better.” Or yell: “For the love of God, don’t order two more glasses of wine. Just buy a bottle.”
Well, I had four weeks of vacation to mull this over, to list things I wish patrons could do to drink better and smarter. (I know what you’re thinking. Is the job of a drink writer so stressful that you need a month off?)
Nevertheless, I did. And I scribbled some thoughts on cocktail napkins. My thoughts:
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▪ Drink like you’re in Europe.
Order wine by the bottle, not by the glass, if you’re drinking with friends. It’s a much better deal. Besides, you don’t know how long those open bottles have been sitting on the shelf.
▪ Order a cocktail with fresh pineapple juice.
Once you realize how good a tropical drink tastes with fresh pineapple juice, you’ll never want the canned version again. Thanks to the Tiki trend, many local craft cocktail bars now use the good stuff.
▪ Drink beer, now.
It’s one of the best times to throw down a few, and not just because of Oktoberfest. Also, haters will say the tap selections at bars around this time of year are unfocused, all over the map. I prefer the word eclectic.
Taverns are putting on their last summer kegs of lighter beers and pilsners while rolling out darker beers and bourbon-barrel aged brews to welcome in autumn, the best of both worlds.
▪ Drink like you’re in Tokyo.
Japan may be the epicenter of mixology, but what do the locals there drink? Japanese whiskey highballs. I’m a convert. Take about one and a half ounces of Japanese whiskey and top the glass with sparkling water and ice for a light, bubbly drink. They even sell whiskey soda in a can in Japan.
▪ Ask for bitters in your mojito.
Everyone loves mojitos. You’ll love it more if you order it with two dashes of Angostura bitters. It adds a layer of complexity and rounds out the rum and the sugar nicely. This rule is also true with martinis (two dashes of orange bitters) and Manhattans (two dashes either).
▪ Don’t order off-menu drinks.
In the cocktail climate of late, it became trendy to saddle up to the bar and tell the mixologist “dealer’s choice,” to have him or her make something off the menu. You look cool while other patrons stare at what the bartender has under the old arm garter.
I say order from the menu. It’s how I judge a craft cocktail bar on a first visit. The menus around town are much better thought out now, with interesting original and seasonal drinks. And in Seattle, the star bartender doesn’t work every night, but his or her imprint is on the cocktail menu.
▪ Make a Moscow Mule at home.
This popular vodka drink runs from $10 to $15 at many bars, even though it only costs about $1.25 to make. Save your money and make it at home. It’s easy. And don’t believe the marketing hype. Your Moscow Mule will taste just fine without the fancy copper mug this drink is typically served in.
Here’s what you do: Buy the cheapest vodka. It won’t matter. The ginger beer, though, you shouldn’t skimp on. I prefer Barritt’s, Fever Tree or Goslings. Pour 2 ounces vodka and 1 ounce fresh lime juice in a tall glass with ice cubes. Top with 4 ounces ginger beer and stir. Garnish with lime wedge.