Bartenders avoid ordering certain drinks for a number of reasons, be it out of respect for busy staff caught in the middle of a rush or fear of being judged for wanting to drink something that might seem basic or uncool, among other reasons. Of course, many bartenders strive to offer a judgment-free environment to guests both inside and outside of the industry, but drink-shaming still happens, and self-consciousness can get the best of all of us once in a while. Regardless of the rationale, there are a select few cocktails that seasoned bar professionals unanimously steer clear of ordering. Read on to find out what a handful of working bartenders had to say about them.
Working behind the bar is not for the faint of heart, and those who do it share a universal understanding of where everyday tasks fall on the enjoyability scale. Making drinks that require a blender isn’t among the top favorites, as it often means more cleanup, and that’s precisely why most off-duty bartenders stay away from ordering frozen drinks. “They’re noisy, and once one goes out to the dining room, everyone wants one,” says industry vet Mary Bee. “We used to hide the blender.”
Florida bartender Conor Canavan points out a doubly unfortunate frozen drink order: a Miami Vice. This cocktail’s two components, half strawberry daiquiri and half piña colada, must be made in two separate blenders before being combined—this isn’t the worst thing if multiple people have ordered it, but to make just one feels like a bit more work than it’s worth. “In my opinion, [it’s] the perfect summertime [or] beachside libation,” Canavan says. “But I know the bartender is cursing me.”
“A dirty vodka martini—bonus points for blue cheese stuffed olives—just feels like a jerk move,” says Austin, Texas bartending expert Paul Tilton. “Especially if I am in an establishment with even a decently respectful beverage program. I feel like I am saying, ‘I see all of this creativity on your menu here, but you know what? I just wanna be basic tonight,'” he adds. “My free pass is usually in an old-school steakhouse-style dining establishment. Dim lighting, wood panels on the walls, white table cloths—yeah, I’m definitely ordering an extra dirty vodka martini for starters before switching to red wine. Don’t forget the extra blue cheese-stuffed olives.”
Amie Ward, a Baltimore, Maryland-based bartender and health coach, says there’s one important category of drinks she avoids from a moral standpoint. “[The] only thing I truly won’t order is something with an offensive name,” she shares, a perfect example of which would be the Irish Car Bomb.
Ward also says she won’t order something from a “brand with problematic practices they haven’t taken accountability for.” For her, general criteria for worthy brands to support include fair labor practices, sustainable farming and production, and social and environmental activism, to name a few factors.
Of the many bartenders that Best Life interviewed about the topic of drinks they’d never order, a large number responded with one of history’s most notoriously boozy classics, the Long Island Iced Tea. It’s certainly possible to make a drinkable (and even good) Long Island Iced Tea riff—the traditional includes vodka, tequila, light rum, triple sec, gin, and a splash of cola—but you’d be hard-pressed to find a bartender who would voluntarily order one unless that were the case.
“It’s just a dumb drink that tastes pretty much only like cola, sour mix, and raw booze. It is somehow less than the sum of its parts,” says Dan Adams, a bartender in Florida. Fellow industry pro Cillian Wintula agrees: “I’ll never order a Long Island because there are so [many] tastier ways to get drunk.”
Almost unanimously, bartenders across the country are staunchly opposed to subjecting a fellow bartender to the relative labor intensity of making a Ramos Gin Fizz. Made up of gin, lemon, lime, cream, egg white, orange blossom water, sugar, and soda, this classic frothy cocktail usually requires around five minutes of shaking in order to achieve the proper texture—plus, egg and cream cleanup is hardly anyone’s favorite. Some bars use shaking machines in order to both expedite the process and save bartenders’ weary shoulders, but Ohio-based bartender Katie Schanz isn’t a fan of that option “In that case, they always end up gross,” she says.
For Tilton, ordering a Ramos Gin Fizz “just feels like a jerk move.” He adds, “Even in bars that are known for them or have one on the menu, I can’t help but feel like that guy.” However, if a bartender offers a Ramos voluntarily, Tilton says he’s usually on board.
Moral of the story? Just read the room and you’ll be golden.