Reader K writes: I’m a fan of your blog and I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this. I travel to trade shows a few times a year with my bosses who are somewhat square and conservative, business-y, husband wife team — she always has a big cabernet, he has a Tanq-10 and tonic. And I’m usually pretty flummoxed on what to order in the strange hotels and airport bars where we end up.
It feels like I’m always having to explain the drink to the waitress (an Americano, please… no, not the coffee drink), raising eyebrows with a somehow inappropriate choice (apparently ‘only Jersey girls’ will drink sambuca after an Italian dinner), or they don’t have it (Chopin vodka should be in every bar, damn it). So I usually give up and get a good microbrew on tap or some Maker’s Mark on the rocks. But I’m pretty much the entire creative department in our small company and I don’t get out to bars much, so I’d like to have something a little more original that I can’t necessarily get at home. Bold, beautiful consultant with us always gets Stoli O, part-timer who’s also an actress always gets amaretto sours. And I… flounder. Doesn’t help that I’m also clumsy and terrified of spilling anything in a top-heavy martini glass.
Any advice on reliable, easy-to-order drinks for travellers who want to stand out a little? Particularly a young, female weirdo like myself? Thanks!
Such a tall order, K, but I feel your pain. Figuring out what to drink can be a real chore. Unlike a dinner menu, where you might have a dozen choices to deal with, a bar presents literally infinite variations that can make for a stultifying selection process.
At its most basic, I always think you should drink what you like, how you like it. If you like an Americano, order an Americano (even if you have to give the recipe). If you want Miller Lite, drink Miller Lite. I can’t really tell you what to drink because I don’t really know your tastes.
That said, I’ll try to offer some ideas that fit your desire to stand out a little bit from the cosmos-and-mojitos crowd…
Since you like Americanos, a Negroni (gin, sweet vermouth, Campari) might be a good choice. You might mix it up further by subbing in Aperol for the Campari. Or ask for a Spritz (Aperol, Prosecco, and a dash of soda). Add a twist or splash of the citrus of your choice and you’ve really made it your own.
I find that in a busy bar, you can’t go wrong with a single malt Scotch whisky. Most bars tend to have one or two bottles you aren’t likely to have encountered before, and if you spend a minute scouring the shelves or drink menu you’re likely to find something new no matter where you go. (If not, fall back on Oban 14, Macallan 12, or Glenmorangie “Original” — you’ll find at least one of these in every bar in the world.) Ask for a water back.
Want to stand out more than that? My two favorite cocktails are the Casino and the Sazerac — though both are a bit labor intensive and, in my experience, you’ll find many bartenders that can’t (or won’t) make them. In situations like this, especially busy establishments, it’s best to fall back on something simple.
Some easier/more common possibilities: An Old Fashioned (name your whiskey — maybe try a rye like Templeton if they have it), a Manhattan (ditto), or even a Corpse Reviver if you want to get a little funky. A Sidecar would also be very distinctive in the hands of someone under the age of 50. Again, name your Cognac.
Hope these help, and I invite the Drinkhacker readership to offer up their own advice on what our “weirdo” friend can drink to truly make her own.