An Asutralian walks into a bar and asks “what beer do you have”?
No, this is not the start of a lame joke, though it is funny, in an awkward way. A friend of mine walked into an old New York bar – the name escapes me – it was some fancy place in an even fancier hotel. The bar had been around since forever and it was the kind of place men went to be men, you know, sip whiskey, smoke cigars, talk stocks, that kind of thing. Anyway, he walked up to the barmen and asked what beer they had, the bar man replied with “when you know what you would like Sir, I’de be happy to pour it for you”. Ok, sure I’m paraphrasing, but I think you get the gist of it. No gentleman should walk up to a bar without knowing what it is he wants, more importantly though, when he does he should know how to order it.
I overhear too many guys ordering drinks at the bar incorrectly so I think it’s time we stop confusing (or rather annoying) our barmen with this little bit of drinkucation! Yes it’s a made up word.
For the purpose of this exercise, Ive used a bottle of Gentleman Jack, not only because it’s one of my favourite whiskeys, but it works across all 3 examples.
Ordering a drink “Neat” will get you your poison of choice in a glass un-chilled, with no ice and no mixer. This kind of request is best kept for a good whiskey, bourbon or brandy, something that is aged and is best enjoyed at room temperature. Of course, if you’re out on a bender and looking for results, you could order anything you want neat – just maybe sit on the corner of the bar close to the toilets.
This one we all know right? “Gimme a Jack on the rocks!” It simply refers to liquor poured neat over ice, allowing the liquor to chill and dilute as you sip it. In this case, your ice grade is very important. Yes, their are different ice grades and a good bar should be able to offer you gourmet ice (yea, it’s a real thing) also known as Top Hat or Octagon ice. You’ll recognise this ice from its clarity, that’s because it’s produced in such a way that it is free from contamination, free from impurities, and contains no minerals allowing a clear cube (not like my foggy home made ones up above).
The benefit of gourmet ice, is that it melts slower and doesnt alter the flavour of your drink with all the minerals and impurities found in tap water. If you want to be a complete whiskey snob, your ice cubes should be made with the same water they use to make the whiskey. But that’s pretty next level stuff.
Here’s the drink that brings in all the confusion. The term ‘straight up’ means that the drink has been chilled over ice either via shaking or stirring, strained and served in a glass (usually a stemmed glass) with no ice. This is best for when you are looking to chill your drink without too much dilution. A Martini is a great example of a drink usually served straight up.
Unfortunately, the term ‘straight up’ has now also become used to describe a drink served ‘neat’ – as in “straight up with no bullshit!”. Ordering a drink ‘up’ should get you a chilled drink served in the traditional ‘straight up’ way.
The drink above was chilled in a stirring glass and pored with a twist of lime. What’s a twist now? Ordering a drink with a twist refers to garnishing the drink with a thin strip of citrus peel – not a wedge. In most cases, lemon is the default unless otherwise specified.
So that’s it really. Pretty simple in the end.
Now excuse me while I go enjoy these drinks I just poured.
Okay. Stay fancy.