How To Drink In a Craft Cocktail Bar: Five Tips

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Flickr user dinnerseries

You walk up to a bar to get a drink and you notice they've got six types of rye, one kind of vodka, a lineup of brown-glass medicine bottles with eyedroppers, infusing jars where the line of beers normally sits, and really freaking pretty ice. Congratulations: you've stumbled into a craft cocktail bar, a place where cocktails are created with the same precision and care as food in a high-end restaurant.

Great, so... now what? You want a drink, they want to serve you a drink, but you're at an impasse as to how to get one, because no two craft cocktail bars have the same offerings. I put the question to some of Orange County's top bartenders, and this is what they had to say.

5. Know what you're interested in.

Flickr user weeklydig
"Something like a Negroni, but less like being punched in the coglioni by a projectile gall bladder, please."

"I don't like sweet drinks" is not a valid drink order. Neither, for that matter, is "I like gin." "I usually drink Manhattans, but I find them a little sweet," however, is often all a great bartender needs to get you the drink you never knew you craved. Know what you like and what you don't; just be specific.

4. Don't be afraid to send it back, and don't lie about whether you like it.

Flickr user zperry
"Maybe it could be just a little bit--or a lot--less bitter, please?"

This is hard to do. We've all grown up with this idea that wasting alcohol is worse than wasting food, and so when the bartender comes down the rail and asks us how we like our intensely bitter admixture of Cynar, rye that's been filtered through a Kentucky raccoon's liver, and an unpronounceable Italian amaro, we smile grotesquely and mumble our appreciation.

This is crap. If you don't like it, send it back. You know where the line is between genuinely not liking something and being a needy pain in the behind; stay clear of that line and give the bartender your honest feedback. It's not an indictment of their skill; it's just a taste mismatch.

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