What are you passionate about? Have you ever been asked that question by a bartender when ordering a drink? After a recent outing to Jupiter’s newest premier waterfront restaurant 1000 North, my answer is yes.
Learning to order an alcoholic beverage is tricky. Like food, no two people have identical tastes. You probably had your first drink in college with friends, where it was terribly made with cheap ingredients. Or, maybe it was at home with your family where they told you what you should like and dislike, but you quietly disagreed. From this shaky start, it takes time to test and learn what you genuinely enjoy.
The Testing Phase
Before I get to ordering your drink, I wanted to share my top tips for the testing phase.
Wine and Beer
- Order a flight. I love ordering flights to continue learning about my options and comparing them side-by-side. Of course, there is a time and a place to order a flight. You should be seated at a bar/table, sober (at least somewhat) to pay attention to what you’re drinking, and have a little extra time to enjoy the variety.
- Go directly to the source. Visiting wineries and breweries has been a tremendous help in my testing phase, as the people who work there are experts on what they are serving. Whether you’re on a tour, in a tasting, or sitting at the bar, they can explain what it is that you’re liking or disliking. I have also found that I appreciate what I’m drinking more when I’ve learned/seen where it’s coming from.
- The company it comes from makes a big difference. To back up my previous point, I am slowly becoming more and more loyal to specific wineries and breweries. When I’m not sure what to order from a restaurant wine list, I tend to choose an option from a winery I’m more familiar with or have been to. I may not have drank that exact wine from them before, but if I had something else from them that I enjoyed, I feel more comfortable to order it. There are apps you can download to keep record of this if needed.
- Figure out WHY you like what you like (and vice versus), and what it’s characteristics are. Take the time and effort to really think about what you’re tasting. Is the wine dry, sweet, citrusy, or earthy? What do you think the notes are? Look it up on your phone – are you correct? Is the beer a saison, IPA, or wit? Does it have cinnamon and cloves, or is it fruity or hoppy?
- Try the same bottle in a few different preparations. Depending on the liquor itself of course, try it on the rocks, with soda/tonic, in a mixed cocktail, with sweet/fruity flavors, with spicy flavors. You might realize you like a liquor better when prepared a specific way. For example, tequila shots are awful (haha), but I love margaritas! I never thought I liked whiskey when I had only tried it in a whiskey coke or whiskey sour. Then, I had Jameson in a warm cinnamon apple cider at a NYC holiday party – delicious! These are silly (but true) examples so you get the point. 🙂
- Try different brands within the same liquor category. I didn’t like gin until I was introduced to Hendricks. The difference between Smirnoff and Belvedere is huge.
- Your tastes will change and develop over time. I am under the age of 30 and yet my tastes have changed pretty dramatically since I first started drinking. I notice this with food, too. If you asked me when I was 21 if I would order and enjoy an IPA beer, glass of sherry, or a Mezcal cocktail, I’d think you were crazy. Yet, here we are. The best is yet to come and the options are endless.
It’s Time To Order
I started out this post with the question our bartender David posed to my friend Oscar and I, “what are you passionate about?” After dinner, we decided to grab a drink at the outdoor bar by the water. It was too early to go home! I already had a glass of wine with dinner, and was trying to decide what I was in the mood to order. Instead of asking for their cocktail menu or wine list, I decided to open up to David to reveal what my current mindset was.
I told him what I already had to drink that night, that I was looking for something different to sip on that wasn’t scotch or whiskey, and that I like/typically go for vodka, gin or tequila. He asked me if I like grapefruit, and if I like cinnamon. Since my answer to both was yes, he said, “Okay, it’ll take me a few extra minutes. I’ll be back.” Out of excitement, I asked if I could have a clue as to what he was going to make. “It’s a surprise.” He finally reappears with a coupe glass and cinnamon stick on a small silver tray. I see him pour Belvedere, Saint Germain and Herradura Tequila. Then, he lights a cinnamon stick on fire and covers the glass with it to smoke the cocktail. He releases it, pours my cocktail in, wipes the rim and garnishes with a grapefruit peel. Voila. One of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. He explains that his friend won a competition with this drink that he thought of on the spot. He too has been in many bartending competitions, which is completely fascinating to me. I tell him about my blog, and my journey into gourmet food and beverages.
Oscar watching this whole process go down says, “you should do a blog post about this” and asks David, “what is the best way for someone to order a drink?” The first words out of David’s mouth were “what are you passionate about?” He explained that he wants to know what you like, what you enjoy, what you appreciate, why you’re there, instead of listing out all the things you don’t like. Everyone goes out to eat or drink for a different reason. Some people want the ocean view. Some want something they couldn’t or wouldn’t make at home (me!). By sharing what you’re passionate about, it’s up to the professionalism (hopefully) of the bartender to come up with a recommendation to suit your wants and likes, maybe even surprise you a little bit. Being open is a great trait here, but of course if there is something you’re allergic to or totally against, it’s worth mentioning, so long as it’s not your focus when ordering.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized what great advice this was. To be honest, the way that I approached ordering my drink came natural to me through experience and being an open, curious person. I’ve had the practice of knowing what questions to ask and what is worth sharing from traveling and visiting many speakeasy cocktail bars that tend to have more interesting ingredients and craftsmen/women behind the bar. One of my favorite recent travel experiences was at Needle & Thread in Seattle, where they do not have a menu. Rather, the bartender comes to your table and asks you what you like/are craving. It’s so much fun, and really tests you! Highly recommend.
This tactic has always resulted in extraordinary cocktails for me, and I hope it does for you too. A special thank you to my dear friend Oscar and our fantastic bartender David who inspired this post! Please share your favorite beverage experiences and discoveries in the comments below, I’d love to read them!
*All photos in this post are my own. Photos from my visit to 1000 North are coming soon in a restaurant review.