Let’s get straight to the bottom of the bottle: there’s no wrong way to enjoy a drink.
If you’re someone who enjoys a good cocktail, or glass of wine, or stein of beer, we say, Salut! But if you’re going to partake, why not do so in style? Because what your drink says about you is way more than, “I like tiny umbrellas” (though, it might say that too).
That doesn’t mean refusing to imbibe anything but top shelf liquor. No, we’re talking about knowing what you like, learning how to ask for it…and figuring out when you’ve hit your limit before you cross it.
Keep it classy with these drinking habits of stylish men:
Have a standby drink
“The Dude” carried a White Russian. Don Draper sipped an Old Fashioned. Homer Simpson drinks Duff. But here’s the thing about having a signature drink in real life: we don’t drink in a vacuum (that would be gross), so there’s no guarantee the establishment you hit up will know how to make a drink just the way you like it.
Meaning? Don’t order sashimi from a restaurant that serves chicken fingers in plastic baskets, and don’t expect to drink a quality gimlet at a cash-only dive bar.
Mark Byrne, a former GQ editor who’s written about spirits for New York Magazine, Bloomberg, and Esquire, also recommends staying away from anything overly fussy unless you’re at a serious cocktail bar. “You don’t want a bartender messing around with some complicated recipe you’re reciting out loud.”
One such hard-to-mess-up drink that makes for a great standby? The Negroni:
- Three ingredients; equal parts
- 1 oz. gin
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. Sweet red Vermouth
- Stir into a glass over ice and serve (garnish optional)
The takeaway: Think less “signature cocktail” and more “trusty ol’ standby”
Know thy environment
When grabbing a drink, take stock of how crowded the bar is, and how swamped the bartender looks. Then, order accordingly. Reading the room is fairly simply, according to Byrne. He shared his a
80 proof foolproof drink order breakdown:
- If the bartender looks like he might have killed a man with a broken bottle: stick with beer
- If the food is really good, go for a classic like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned
- If there are more than three types of bitters on the rail, order something with a ridiculous name off the cocktail menu
The takeaway: Make everyone’s (and your) life easier by ordering by occasion.
The Etiquette of Buying Her a Drink
Of all the gin joints in all the world, she walks into yours. So, do you send a drink over to the lady that caught your eye? The golden age of Hollywood purrs, “Yes, darling” but bar etiquette circa 2016 has changed in more ways than just the No Smoking signs.
Are we flattered when you offer to buy us a drink? Absolutely. But things can go from pleasant to overpowering in a hurry – and bartenders are first-hand witnesses.
I asked Blind Barber’s general manager and bartender Mark Scott what he thinks about men sending women drinks at the bar. As the intermediary, Scott says it can be awkward “because there’s some sort of expectation that you’re allowed to go over and talk to them for the duration of that drink, and it’s a bit aggressive…or presumptuous at the least.”
If you’re already standing next to her as she’s ordering a drink, or if you’ve introduced yourself and are in the throes of conversation when her drink looks low, that’s the perfect time to offer another round.
Here at SG HQ, we assume all our readers have the best of intentions – and manners – but it’s worth the reminder that buying a woman a drink doesn’t purchase her immediate, fawning affection. That’s like giving someone a pencil and feeling offended when they don’t write a sonnet in your honor. It just doesn’t make sense.
The takeaway: Set the stage with conversation first, share a round of cocktails second.
Kick back and kit out your home bar
Much like outfitting your home with the decorating basics, kitting out your own bar is a standard mark of adulthood and just plain ol’ convenient for entertaining. Because sometimes you just don’t want to go out.
Where to start? Team SG’s lifestyle contributor Jen Hunter says, “Instead of filling up your bar with every possible kind of alcohol, focus on the classics: Whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila and maybe rum if you’re feeling fancy. No one needs to make drinks like you’re at a frat party, so skip any liquor that turns your tongue blue.”
When you’re perusing the liquor aisle, reach for bottles eye level and higher (the cheap stuff may save you a few bucks, but it’ll cost you a full day’s hangover).
While your favorite mixologist may have tools and contraptions fit for every possible drink, your home will benefit from keeping it simple.
“A few good quality tools and basic glassware will be a much better investment than filling up your drawers with useless gadgets and your shelves with every size and shape of glass.” – Jen Hunter
But that’s not to say you should stick to mismatched plastic cups or champagne in tumblers. Keep your home bar primed for entertaining with a glasses for wine or champagne, a set of martini glasses, and rock glasses for mixed drinks. Invest in a shaker and strainer to chill and craft your favorite drinks, but skip the fancy stirrers – your regular kitchen utensils will get the job done.
Prep your home bar:
The takeaway: Creating a home bar is all about the basics.
If learning what booze you like is an education, where can we sign up for extra credit? Even if you’re not interested in going deep on the nuances of every single spirit, beer, wine..whatever, it’s good to know the basics. Bourbon v. whiskey? Gin or vodka martini? Start hitting the books. Err, bars.
Byrne says, “Start with local beers, then move on to local spirits. Visit the breweries and distilleries. Taste their wares. It’s the quickest way to refine your palette. The local stuff is almost always better, more flavorful, and more interesting than the mass-produced bottles.” Did we mention that local breweries and tasting rooms make top notch dates? What a boozy win-win.
The takeaway: Refine your palette by learning the local stuff.
Check Your Limits
Self-regulating your alcohol consumption is the classiest thing a guy can do because really, no one wants to see a grown man struggle to string together a sentence.
Byrne is “a big fan of the one-drink-per-hour rule, but my friends mock me for this, so I don’t expect converts. The main way I avoid being ‘that guy’ is by drinking really, really slowly. And by constantly re-upping the water glass. Never order another without downing a glass of water.”
Drinking is a numbers game.
A game where you win when the numbers stay low. Easy as that.
The takeaway: Sip slow and sip with consideration.
Abstaining is Cool, Too
And finally? Don’t forget that not everyone drinks, and that, whatever their reasons are (which you do not need to know): that’s totally fine.
If you offer to buy a woman a drink who doesn’t imbibe? Instead of giving her a hard time, simply order up a club soda with lime, ginger beer, or a fun mocktail and let the fun continue. Megan can drink like a champ and she still loves a good Shirley Temple from time to time. Just go with it.
The takeaway: We’re all in this (bar) together. Extend courtesy to drinkers and non-drinkers alike
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST CLASSY COCKTAIL DRINKING TIPS?
Originally published May 2016 // images: Punch