One of the best lessons a fledgling dilettante can learn is how to order appropriately for the drinking establishment he is in. It will save you from countless awkward situations in which you intend to impress friends or worse, dates, and end up looking like a fool. Or maybe you’re a more seasoned pro but could use a few suggestions to help you branch out from your standbys. In either case, here are some tips for figuring what booze to choose based on where you are.

1. If the bar doesn’t have a drink list, take the hint. Trust me, you aren’t impressing anyone by going into a great neighborhood dive and trying to talk a bartender through every step in making a proper Sazerac. Get a cold beer in a bottle and have a good time.

2. If you passed through a phone booth or needed a password to get in, be adventurous. Chances are pretty good that if there are dozens of little bottles filled with tinctures and bitters, these guys can make something special Order something new and original from the list.

3. If the bar has a jukebox filled with Johnny Cash, order whiskey. ’Nuff said.

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Don’t be the guy asking for some obscure Bavarian rauchbier for the sake of bringing up the time you rode your motorcycle through Germany. Everyone hates that guy.

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4. If there are 30 craft beers on tap, get a good local brew. Don’t be the guy who keeps asking for some obscure Bavarian rauchbier you know no one carries for the sake of bringing up the time you rode your motorcycle through Germany. Everyone hates that guy. Beer is best when fresh, so go local.

5. If the bar you’re in has an animal in the name (lion, boar, bear, etc.) get a Guinness and a whiskey. Any bar with the word pub or tavern works too, unless of course the word gastro is involved.

6. If you are standing on sawdust, get a beer in a can. In fact, go all in with the theme and get a Schlitz or a PBR. And if it’s that kind of night, get a shot of whiskey, too.

7. If the bar looks like Boardwalk Empire, order like Boardwalk Empire. Cue the Sazerac guy from rule number one!

8. If you see 200 different tequilas on the back bar, don’t order the same one you’ve been drinking since high school. This is one of the few instances where it’s ok to ask the bartender, “What’s your favorite?” Trust them. They are professionals.

9. If you see fresh fruit being juiced and a wall full of rum, start with a Daiquiri. I know what you’re thinking. “Daiquiris are super sweet slushies moms get when they go on vacation.” But trust me when I say a properly made Daiquiri may be the best way to start a night out.

10. When in doubt, look around. There are bound to be regulars in every bar, so look around, see what they’re drinking, follow their lead. It’s probably what that bar does best.


A former global brand ambassador for Chivas Regal and bar program consultant for award-winning eateries like Fig and Olive and The Buffalo Club, Giovanni Martinez is currently Director of Spirits at Sadie, a New American, regionally inspired Hollywood restaurant.