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Although the craft cocktail thing has been growing steadily over the past few years, there are a lot of people out there who simply prefer the whiskey and coke/ domestic beer lifestyle of the neighborhood pub over the innovations of the cocktail bar. I get that. As much as I enjoy my craft, I’ve never been one to preach the “craft cocktail uber alles” creedo. I understand that although it’s my place to innovate, create, and develop new techniques to craft the highest quality beverages, not everyone is going to give a shit, nor should they. Some people will appreciate what craft bartenders do and others will always prefer to stick to their Bud Light.

If you’re the domestic beer/whiskey and coke type you’ll inevitably be dragged to a cocktail bar by your friends at some point. What do you do when you find yourself surrounded by champagne flutes, martini glasses, and a “cocktail menu?” You feel like a fish out of water, and all you want is something simple to whet your whistle. Here are a few tips to guide you through this scenario:

Always check out the beer and wine selection

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Cocktail bars pride themselves on seeking out the best products available and this ethos always translates into their beer and wine selection. If you’re into craft beer and well-curated wine, you’ll definitely be able to find something that you can enjoy without having to peruse a huge cocktail menu. If you’re not into either that’s still OK. Most of these establishments have a running beer and shot special (i.e. a High Life and a shot of rye whiskey) that will get you buzzed without having to ask a lot of questions. If such a special isn’t offered, you can always ask for a good pilsner or lager. The bartender will be able to get what you’re looking for and steer you in the right direction.

You’re bartender doesn’t hate you

I can see why people who aren’t used to the craft bar scene could assume that just because they walk up to the bartender discussing the difference between vermouth and quinquina with another customer that the bartender must be a snooty know-it-all that is going to sneer at an order as simple as a draft beer.  The fact of the matter is that your craft bartender is a just another member of the service industry and is probably going to swig down a bunch of beer and whiskey when they get off work, too. In fact, as much as craft bartenders love plying their trade, when they’re trying to muddle their way through a sea of customers being able to simply crack open a cold one let’s them enjoy a moment of relief.

It’s OK to drink from a “martini” glass

If I had a dime for every time a man sent a drink that was served in a “martini” glass back with the request that their drink be poured into a rocks glass, I would have a yacht, and not a small one. What is called a martini glass by most people is called a cocktail glass in our world, as in, a glass in which cocktails are served. There’s nothing emasculating about it. If a drink is served in that particular glass, it’s because that’s the proper way for it to be served, and all of the snooty “cocktail enthusiasts” around you will understand that. In no way does drinking out of a cocktail glass affect your macho, virile image and if someone says something about it you can always save face by offering to carry on the conversation in the parking lot. See, it’s starting to feel just like you’re at your regular haunt.

If you want liquor, but don’t want a “fancy cocktail,” you can always order a gin and tonic

Ordering a Crown and Coke at a cocktail bar will most likely elicit an “I’m sorry. We don’t stock that particular product, but may I offer you something else?” type of response. Some craft bars will happily serve the standard two-part drinks, but a lot of them refuse to. I know that this can be frustrating, but these bars define themselves with an ideology, and just like every other time in human history when divergent ideologies meet, they tend to clash. The bridge between the two sides of this conflict though is the gin and tonic. This drink is easy to make and still has enough character that craft bartenders love serving them. Even if you’re not a gin drinker, it’s worth a shot to try a g&t. At least you’ll know what to expect when it’s served and you don’t have to worry about paying double digit prices.

Asking about the pricing on high-end booze is always OK

When perusing the back-bar at a cocktail lounge you’ll likely notice a lot of bottles that you’re not familiar with that look really expensive. Craft bars do love to shake up a great drink, but they also tend to be really dorky about their selection of spirits. Whether it be vintage cognac, rare bourbon, extra anejo tequila, or independent bottlings of scotch, most cocktail bars will be partially stocked with booze that you never imagined existed. The bartenders are aware that they deal in expensive liquor and would rather you understand what you’re getting into before they get to the end of the night and present you with a tab that would make Richard Branson cry. They have the decency to understand that we all work for a living and would be happy to help you find a great glass that fits your price range.

Here’s a little secret about these bottles that you might like to know. Some of them are going to be priced exorbitantly high, but there will almost always be one or two bottles that they don’t mark up as much because they want to give customers an opportunity to try rare and unique spirits. Yes, it will still be expensive, but if you’re felling like splurging a little you can try something magnificent for a steal of a deal.

Even if you’re not the type who doesn’t seek out the latest and greatest that fine bars have to offer, you can still find a good time at a cocktail bar. At the end of the day all bars want their guests to enjoy the experience, catch a buzz, and laugh with their friends. Cocktail bars just go about achieving those ends in a different manner than sports bars, pubs, or nightclubs. I hope that next time you find yourself in a craft bar that these points will help navigate you through the confusion and help you just relax and have a good time.

 

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