What they ask for "Whatever's good but not boozy."
Making cocktails for the ambiguous.
We've all been there. You're working the bar, making everyone's specific drinks as they ask for it and tell you exactly how they like it. Then someone comes up and says, "eh, I don't know, whatever's good but not too boozy."
Those who have never bartended don't know that this open-ended request can be thousands of cocktails and combinations of liquors and mixins. If you are unprepared for off-the-cuff drink making such as this, this one guest can stop your flow instantly.
Here are a few tips to avoid crashing and burning.
Pro Tip: Always have a go-to drink for these indecisive guests.
Think of this as an opportunity to save yourself some time on a drink. Always keep a few options that are easy, and easy to spruce up for times like these.
My go-to is usually the Vodka-Cranberry. When asked for something different, I take this classic and spruce it up with some sprite, maybe some lime juice, or if I'm feeling froggy, I'll add some orange, grapefruit, or pineapple juice for some top-color. Depending on which route you went, garnish with a lime, orange slice, or cherry.
The goal is to have an easy base to start with, then know how to really sell it to the guest. Even though a Vodka-Cranberry is a two-ingredient, two-step drink, adding those one or two extra steps and making it a process really makes a difference to that person.
Pro Tip: Always have a back-up "base"
Since this person is paying for their surprise drink, it is best to give them some sort of idea of what it will be before making it. So, if your first thought is the Vodka-Cran variation, ask "How does a Vodka-Cranberry with Sprite, topped with orange juice sound?" Don't be caught off guard if they say no!
Here are a few other classic cocktails and one or two things you can add to spruce it up:
- Margarita - add a splash of Amaretto and garnish with an orange slice (this is known as an Italian margarita)
- Gin & Tonic - Stir with lemon juice, and garnish with slice or peel of lemon. For bonus points, garnish with herbs such as mint or rosemary. In the summer, try grapefruit juice instead of lemon juice for a fresh take.
- Gin Mojito - All the components of a mojito just replace rum with gin. This is the beginnings of a Southside cocktail which may have its origins in the south side of Chicago as it was Al Capone's favorite drink. Tell them this fun fact and they might just come back for that high-dollar cocktail.
- Screwdriver - Top with grenadine; for uniqueness, add club soda or ginger ale.
- French 75 - a fancy sounding drink that is too easy to make: gin, champagne, lemon juice, simple syrup
- Vodka Soda - add a bit of grapefruit or pineapple juice to freshen up this classic!
Your base should be something so simple you can make it in seconds, then find some way to make it look like you're making something different entirely.
Also, the more you bartend, the more people will ask for some seemingly-strange things in their drinks. They might just be on to something, though. Keep a mental note and try it later, it might just be your new go-to for your indecisive guests.
Pro Tip: Never try to actually figure out what this person wants
Remember, this is someone who couldn't decide what they wanted before even coming up to the bar. They won't appreciate the pressure of you asking a million questions to figure out exactly what (they don't even know) they want.
You can start with one or two simple questions such as what flavors they're looking for and what liquors they prefer. A simple, "Alright, I got you!" will suffice after that.
This is an opportunity to save yourself some time by making a simple drink...don't waste that time asking more questions than you need. Run with it!
Even if they didn't like the first surprise drink you made, they're still more likely to come back to you since they now have a rapport with you and they see that you're trying to give them what they're looking for.
This is your chance to experiment with drinks! Have fun with it!