THE BLOG

Five Pointers to Get More From Your Bar

20/03/2013 18:04 GMT | Updated 20/05/2013 10:12 BST

Ordering in a bar is easy; you chat to your bartender or server, and exchange some money for your goods and services. So why am I writing about it? Well, for one, have any of you felt particularly underwhelmed by a bar experience a friend has raved about? Friends are one of the most reliable sources for new experiences - they know your habits, and (hopefully) you have some things in common with them. This piece is about maximising your chances of having an experience that lives up to this. So below are a few pointers that'll hopefully make your bar time so much happier:

Be nice

I've been flabbergasted by some of the occurrences I've seen in the hospitality world. It seems to harbour a setting where people don't even interact as human beings. And I've seen this from many angles - as a writer, a chef, general dogs body, waiter, bartender, consultant and soon, operator - and I've seen some shocking stuff from both sides: "I don't pay you [less than minimum wage] to eat" to "Christ, no wonder you work in a bar". Just remember you're dealing with a person, and courtesy from both sides makes life, and your drinking experience so much happier. Try to make eye contact with your server at a busy bar, but certainly don't click fingers or wave money (it still happens). Simply put, being nice to people gets you further. Go figure.

Ready for the bus

If you know what you're after, be prepared. It shouldn't come as any shock to you that you'll have to request something, then pay for it. There's some great bartenders that can actually have a better insight into what you're after than you do, but it helps to have an order, and at least your money ready. Also, it sounds crass, but tip. It shows you've appreciated the whole interaction. If the bartender recognises that you've enjoyed this, they'll endeavor to make sure your next experience is even better. That said, a heartfelt thanks really does a lot too.

Know what you don't like

This is actually more useful than knowing what you do like. Not only does it set you up for new experiences, it means you won't get something you don't like. Stick to the absolutes here - I cannot do spice (ultra mild please) - but I'm excited by trying flavours that I've never encountered so I don't want to discount them from the off. Especially as I've had chefs and bartenders work magic with ingredients I've not been fond of.

Similarly, like with a tasting menu, it's great to hand over to a professional and let them take you through something. Giving parameters (and think hard on your mood here, not just flavours) is a great way of getting a drink that reflects the bar, and fits the occasion.

Be sensitive

There's others in the bar, and drinks are time and temperature sensitive - much more so than food. If you tack on a final drink(s) at the end (especially if it's one that is already in the order), it'll degrade the quality of your drinks, and hold up everyone else. Of course, sometimes you forget a drink, no big deal, but being prepared will help you have the best experience. As a side note, orders of four drinks or less I find have the best hit rate - they're much less likely to be hanging around before they hit your lips that way.

Give some feedback

Say if something does, or doesn't work. Don't be unnecessarily mean, just discuss what worked well, or not so well. This gives the ability to address any potential problems, and if you're having another, the opportunity to get it just right. You're also doing a service; knowing whether you've hit the mark is a great development for a bartender's creativity.

Enjoy yourself

Kick back with friends, or chat to your friendly neighbourhood barkeep- and enjoy what a bar is best for. Remember, a good drink is key, but it's just there to help you relax.

A good start is to chat to your bartender, but also you can go armed with some classics to help you out. Here are a few suggestions: for something bright, clean and fruity, try a Clover Club; for something rich and moody maybe a Brooklyn or if you fancy something dry and elegant, a Classic Champagne Cocktail:

Put a brown sugar cube on a plate, and add three or four drops of Angostura bitters. Add to a flute and add 15ml Cognac and top with a good quality Champagne or dry sparkling wine. Spray with a piece of lemon peel over the surface, but don't add it to the drink.