The Fallback – What do you order when the bar sucks?

a glass of bourbon

“Do you squeeze your own juice?” The waiter looks quizzically at you, and you raise your eyebrows just a tad, hoping to eek out an answer. “Um, we have fresh pineapple juice, I think.” FAIL

Not seeing that bright yellow Angostura cap among the bottles of Bacardi and vodka? Standing three deep behind a bunch of college students trying to carry shots of Jager and two fists of Ice House?

Do you continue on your epic quest to “educate” the bartender or just give in and order a Jack and Coke? Personally, the bars where I live are so bad I just don’t go to them, but when I find myself in this situation I’ll order:

  • beer
  • glass of whiskey
  • rum/whiskey and coke

What’s your Fallback?

50 Responses to “The Fallback – What do you order when the bar sucks?”

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50 Comments to “ The Fallback – What do you order when the bar sucks?”
  1. billmNo Gravatar says:

    Gin and tonic. But it’s amazing how many of those are terrible.

  2. RockyNo Gravatar says:

    Gin and Tonic
    Embrace badness for one night

  3. I’ll waver between a Gin & Tonic, Seven & Seven, or a Whiskey and Ginger Ale.

  4. Free BeerNo Gravatar says:

    My fallback is a Tanqueray and Tonic. Sometimes I will order a “Manhattan with bitters” and hope for the best.

    However, if I am sitting at the bar and it is slow and they have some bitters, I might say “I am little particular about my Manhattan. How do you feel about my talking you thru it?” This usually gets a favorable reaction. Especially after tip well for putting up with my quirkiness.

  5. Paul "Rum Balls"No Gravatar says:

    Rum and coke. Usually the bar will have limes around for Coronas, so I ask for a lime wedge that I squeez in myself.

  6. […] Posted February 13, 2009 Filed under: Bars | Rick at Kaiser Penguin wants to know what folks fallback drinks are when you end up at a bar where the bartending skills […]

  7. PaystyleNo Gravatar says:

    One experience I recently had was so hilariously bad, that when I asked the bartender for a Cuba Libre he had a confused look on his face, then replied, “I don’t do too many fancy drinks.” I had to stop from laughing so hard, and asked him if he knew how to make a rum and coke. He replied yes, so I told him to squeeze a lime quarter in there as well, and he’d have the fancy Cuba Libre.

    Until that experience I thought I had a foolproof fallback drink for the crappy bars. After that point I had to update to rum and coke w/a lime squeeze…geeez.

  8. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    Fallbacks include:

    – If they have a decent bourbon or scotch, just ordering that neat or on the rocks.
    – Craft Beers – tap or bottle
    – Gin and soda … long as they have a mid-shelf gin or better, it’s pretty hard to screw that one up. :)

  9. BrennanNo Gravatar says:

    Depends on what the bar has. My favorite ‘fallback’ is Hennessy and Coke, and they can usually accommodate. If I spot Galliano I might get a Harvey Wallbanger, if there’s a decent gold rum maybe that with Coke. Everywhere can make 7&7, Jack and Coke and I’ve only come across one place that couldn’t make a long island (they used some premix crap that tasted awful, then the bartender cut me off after my second drink while continuing to serve my friends the rest of the night, oh and didn’t tell me I was cut off, told a friend and just pretended I wasn’t there.. and this was their favorite club >_<).

  10. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve found that many bars around here have Myers. Myers and Ginger ale with a lime quarter squeeze is actually pretty good. Additionally, I like Jameson and Ginger ale with about three lime quarters squeezed in (which one of the “fancy” restaurants in town calls a “McMurtry” and charges $8 for).

  11. BobNo Gravatar says:

    I’ll fall back to a whiskey and ginger (preferably canadian whiskey because any cheap hole in the wall has atleast one)

  12. MicheleNo Gravatar says:

    We are spoiled by having some great bartenders in our local restaurants. However, when we try somewhere with less talent, I order vodka and cranberry juice.

  13. AliceTNo Gravatar says:

    If they have it, good bourbon or whiskey, neat.

    Sometimes I will order some bizzare affair like a Greatful Dead, or some other ludicrous drink if I’m feeling “adventurous”.

  14. JacflashNo Gravatar says:

    If they’ve got any half-decent rum I might do a Cuba Libre. Failing that, I look for the best whisk(e)y they’ve got and order it on the rocks. A surprising number of really lousy bars have a bottle of Maker’s Mark back there, which makes a more pleasant drink than Seagram’s anything or most of the rotgut-level Scotches. I find it’s best not to challenge the mixologists in such places… I’ve had one too many fluorescent Mai Tais over the years.

  15. Dr. BambooNo Gravatar says:

    If the place looks REALLY dodgy, I’ll probably just get a bottled macro beer.

    If it looks like they can put together a halfway decent mixed drink, I’ll usually go with a gin & tonic, or rum & coke…but I’ll usually specify a call brand if I can see one.

  16. Darcy O'NeilNo Gravatar says:

    Beer is always a good fall-back. But, if I’m in a pissy mood I’ll order something, unique, but not unknown or complicated, and if the bartender gives me attitude, I go to my fall-back and won’t tip.

    Tips are for good service, not just the bare minimum service.

  17. sylvanNo Gravatar says:

    I’ll usually do whiskey rocks or maybe beer. I often find beer too filling these days, so it’s a second choice. I’ll try out their well whiskey and then move up to good brands if it sucks. But almost any whiskey is drinkable when poured over 3 times its volume of ice.

  18. ReeseNo Gravatar says:

    Gin and Tonic – Nearly every bar has a reasonably good gin and tonic, even when bad isn’t too terrible.

  19. AKNo Gravatar says:

    Even the worst bar probably has a bottle of Jack.

  20. MissMeaghanNo Gravatar says:

    I’m usually hopelessly idealistic in bars even where I know I shouldn’t be (most recently at Negril on LaGuardia in NYC that resulted in the worst mojito I’ve ever had and a waste of $12). One a bar has proven itself untrustworthy I stick to gin & tonic or Stella.

  21. MartinNo Gravatar says:

    Myers’s & Tonic with a squeeze of lime is weirdly tasty. G&T if the gin is at least OK. But the tonic has to be bottled- I can live just fine with Canada Dry or Schweppes, but tonic from a gun is always horrible.

    So most often it’s Maker’s rocks. Or Miller High Life (wait, is this the guilty pleasures thread?)

  22. DinahNo Gravatar says:

    Dewar’s on the rocks is perfectly adequate.

  23. Some kind of bourbon on the rocks.

    This brings back memories of business travel before Maker’s penetrated airport bars and fugedabout a Manhattan back then.

  24. j-babeNo Gravatar says:

    I try a whiskey sour first (usually have to tell them to put more whiskey in) and then usually move to a decent/good (depending on what they have) whiskey on the rocks or neat….My problem is that since I’m a short, blond girl that looks half my actual age, bartenders usually make my drinks really weak.

  25. JonNo Gravatar says:

    Bottled beer is usually the easiest way to go. Failing that, it’s incredibly difficult to screw up a vodka-soda. I used to go for a gin and tonic, but cheap, horrible gin is usually way worse than cheap, horrible vodka.

  26. JoeNo Gravatar says:

    1. Beer
    2. Gin & Tonic
    3. Vodka & 7

  27. Actually, what I often for is a drink make with lots of La Tourment Vert absinthe. It’s, like, the bomb! ;-)

    (sorry, couldn’t resist)

  28. CharNo Gravatar says:

    Had this experience at least 3 times in the last week. I NEVER EVER try the mojito again. Was reasonably successful last night with draft beer, G&T, and a white russian.

    But I agree with Rocky – sometimes you just have to embrace the badness!

  29. TiareNo Gravatar says:

    Beer or Gin&Tonic.

  30. RowenNo Gravatar says:

    Eesh. I have to face this very problem tonight: full bar, long specialty cocktail menu, LOUSY drinks. I’m finding I can’t bring myself to face what will surely be an insipid G&T with gunned tonic water. Sadly, I’ll be at a table far from the bar and can’t give directions. Might have to be a Black Label on the rocks. Fit with any food. :^\

  31. pgNo Gravatar says:

    Oh god. It happens here too sometimes.

    I once mistakenly ordered a manhattan at a place I should not have. The bartender (a clueless blonde with big boobs) goes and grabs a bar manual, looks at it for a minute or two, comes back and pours me something involving vodka and apple schnapps. Fail.

    Old fashioneds are the worst. I don’t even try anymore.

    I stick to beer, a g&t, or straight vodka on ice with an olive or two.

  32. ZuckervatiNo Gravatar says:

    Cuba Libre for me. Once a bartender said “we don’t have the stuff to make that”. Another one once told me “we don’t have any of those”. I believe he was referring to a pre-bottled cooler of some kind.

    On a third occasion, the bartender told me to just order a rum and Coke, and grab a lime wedge from the plastic tray on the bar. Said that a Cuba Libre was a premium drink, and would cost another $2.

  33. Vodka martini with lemon twist/no vermouth. It’s difficult to mess it up unless they let it sit on ice way too long while trying to make a lemon twist. In that case pour me a bourbon neat and I’ll be just fine.

  34. Usually beer, esp. if there’s a good microbrew on tap. If I’ll be at the bar for hours and the beer would get too filling, I like to swap off btw beer and scotch & soda, or bourbon & ginger ale.

    BTW. I had never seen yr site on iPhone before now. Nice!

  35. Wayne CurtisNo Gravatar says:

    I scan for Campari while I’m waiting to order, and if I spot it I go with a Negroni — you can even shout directions in crowded bar (“EQUAL PARTS GIN, CAMPARI AND RED VERMOUTH!”) (Note: asking for sweet or Italian vermouth often leads to unnecessary confusion.)

    Failing that:

    Knob Creek on the rocks
    Bottled beer.

    I used to fall back on gin and tonic from time to time, but bad/flat tonic and brown limes are far too common. Same problems afflict the other good fallback mentioned above, ginger ale and rum.

  36. BKNo Gravatar says:

    Crown and soda. About the only thing you can screw up there is too much soda, or some moron thinks that you need a lime wedge!

  37. Jay HepburnNo Gravatar says:

    I usually stick to Gin and Tonics, or maybe a bourbon or rum on the rocks if they stock a decent brand. I always make sure to ask for lots of ice too (and almost without fail get an odd look for this), in order to avoid being given three wet cubes that have melted by the time I sit down. Strangely I find myself visiting non-cocktail bars less and less.

  38. EricNo Gravatar says:

    Scotch! If they have any… Most places will at least have some Chivas 12.
    Good beer.

    Or, if the bar is just that crappy, rum and coke.

    Or, sometimes, I will “embrace the badness” and order me up some Jager shots (two for Rick!)

  39. BunnyhugsNo Gravatar says:

    If the place looks clueless I’ll usually just go for whatever beer most catches my fancy.

    But if the resources on offer are clearly limited yet I still feel ambitious I might ask for a Bunnyhug (if they have Pernod or similar). Obviously I just ask for equal parts Pernod, gin and whiskey. I don’t ask for the drink by name.

    If they have Campari sometimes I ask for that.

    If they have Fernet Branca that can also be nice. I’m now suddenly thinking that Gin, Fernet and coke could be a good mix. Yeah. . . I need help.

  40. BunnyhugsNo Gravatar says:

    Trying the Gin, Fernet and coke (1 oz each of Gin and Fernet, and an oz each of kola tonic and soda standing in for the coke).

    OK. . . Perhaps nobody else needs to try this. It’s a little thin and odd tasting. A dash of bitters improves it slightly, but it remains a bit weird.

  41. Sigh deeply and order, “a Belvedere Martini with a twist, and PLEASE put some vermouth in there!”

  42. ninaNo Gravatar says:

    Bacardi and Coke. I couldnt get a Cuba Libre last weekend so like another commenter, I simply got one of the corona limes and plopped it in my rum and coke.

  43. EmilyNo Gravatar says:

    I’m trying to figure out a situation where I wouldn’t just walk out and go get a decent drink elsewhere. Maybe is some really good music was playing. I think I’d just order a beer.

  44. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    Well, I’ve discovered an important fact in my travels – anything that comes straight out of a bottle (beer, wine, hard cider, etc) CAN’T be messed up by the lame barstaff. So if things are truly dire, that’s my standby. However, if they have any good whiskey, I’ll generally get that on the rocks, for the same reason.

    I remember asking for a sidecar once and being shocked to find they had no lemon juice… THE HORROR!

  45. Laurel C.No Gravatar says:

    since i actually like beer i usually start there or maybe a red beer if all they have is crappy piss water. but if i’m getting a mixed drink my fall back is almost always a whiskey sour. it used to be a bloody mary, but i’ve have some really awful ones and now i only order them at certain places

  46. […] of my recent articles, The Fallback – What do you order when the bar sucks? found its way into their pages. The quote was selected from one of four I sent them. Personally, I […]

  47. BoozeFoxNo Gravatar says:

    Late to the party, but…

    A Rusty Nail is one of my fallbacks if I can see the bottle of Drambuie from wherever I’m sitting. Usually I just tell the waiter “Johnny Walker Black and Drambuie, one-to-one.” If they inquire, I tell ’em what it’s called.

    Otherwise, good beer if it’s to be had (a bonus to living in New England) or a Something-and-Mixer, since most places don’t use actual juices (let alone fresh squeezed) and therefore I just can’t trust their daiquiris (though most of the time I get “we don’t have a blender”, SIGH) or sidecars or margaritas.

  48. JacNo Gravatar says:

    Gin and coke is my standby if I’m having something harder than beer (or if the beer selection sucks). I rarely drink in the outside world, though… My “bar” at home has a *great* bartender, good company and plays music I like.

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