Making Absolut Vodka: A Trip to Ahus, Sweden
Bombay Sapphire's Most Imaginative Bartender SF Regional Competition Winners

What Cocktail Bars Need More (And Less) Of

I didn't have a blog post written for Alcademics today, so I proposed a question on Facebook:

What are things you'd like to see more of - or less of - in cocktail bars?

Responses are below, starting with my own. 

Camper English: I'd like to see more low-alcohol cocktails. Bring on the sherry and vermouth!

Andrew Friedman: Dude, I just saw some video of NYC bartenders talking about how to get drinks faster in bars, and of what I could stand about it, it was all about how the customer should treat the bartender to get service. Fucking hell. Is there NO ONE in NYC to teach these people that it's not about them!?

OMG! Someone waved at you!? Well, what an affront to your manhood! Must ignore that person. Someone is not a regular!? Well, they must be further down the list then.

Oh. Oh no he di'ent! No he di'ent! He snapped!? Well, shit! You better teach that guy a lesson bartender! And, you're the guy to do it! Oh, lordy.


Anita Crotty: I'd like to see more hooks under the bar for coats, bags, etc. I'm always surprised when I go to a nice-ish place that (still) doesn't have them. You want me to sit on my coat? That's going to look classy...


David J. Montgomery: I'd like to see more drinks that are tasty and made with high-quality ingredients, but aren't so esoteric or complicated that you have no clue how it would actually taste. If I'm going to order a $15 cocktail, I want to be pretty sure I'm going to like it. I barely know what cardamom tastes like -- much less cardamom-infused smoked Earl Grey tea bourbon. Give me a middle ground.


Tony Devencenzi: More bartenders that genuinely smile as they work

 Dave Stolte: More fun, less attitude.

Bruce Tomlinson: More long drinks that are low-alcohol


Linda Engbarth Weissert: Less newsboy caps. Gag.

Robert Haynes-Peterson: Dropping the whole anti-attitude attitude thing. "Ohhh, all bars need to be laid back and not be all pretentious and stuff." The movement's developing its own backhanded pretention.

Bars can be friendly and still have rules and mustaches. Bars can be douchey and not have rules or mustaches.

 Katie Loeb: Agree with Andrew. More bartenders that are HOSPITABLE. If someone orders a vodka and soda at my bar, I'm not offended. I rejoice. That person just saved me time I can spend with a customer that genuinely needs my attention, is paying the rent, and isn't tying me up needlessly. I don't have to drink or even like what they've ordered. Just have to serve it with a smile.


Iain McCallum: Less liquid nitrogen !!

Amy Sherman: Less crappy ice, especially when I'm paying more than $10 for a drink.

Rich Heider II: Camper can we add sake with sherry and vermouth for lower alcohol cocktails. I try to keep at least 1 on my menus at all times. Also, as far as some of the pretentiousness and lack of hospitality Sean Kenyon, Willy Shine and Colin Asare-appiah had good threads recently. I would also be ok with getting rid of the word mixologist.

 Roberto Sequeira: AMEN Amy!


Cooper Cheatham: Less cucumber please!!


Dave Yan: grenadine...MORE grenadine!! 


Silamith Weir: More focused cocktail lists, less Russian novel-esque tomes. I want a drink not a project.

 Nicola Riske: I agree with lower-alcohol cocktails. Would also like to see more mocktails. It's nice to balance out a tasty cocktail with something flavorful and non-alcoholic.

Also, to add to what Anita said about bar hooks, I'd love to see more outlets under bars. Although we want to encourage the art of conversation over cell phone usage, it's now a fact of our lives. When Jackson Cannon designed The Hawthorne, he showed me how he was installing additional charging stations under the bar ('they're the new bar hooks') to encourage people to come in, relax, have a cocktail and catch up on work. I hate being that person who asks a bartender if they can charge my phone (although I usually carry my own charger - most people do not). I'd rather have the responsibility in my own hands at the bar than bother the bartender with that personal kind of request. It distracts them and makes me feel awkward.


Louise O'Brien: Agree with lower alcohol cocktails. Also all bars should have hooks for coats and WiFi for patrons - everyone is on a smart phone these days, and you want them Tweeting/Instagramming their experience right?


Francine Cohen: Aperitif cocktails, culinary driven creations when appropriate, genuine hospitality, lower prices, bar snacks, hooks or shelves for pocketbooks/packages (the bar stools at SoBou in New Orleans have a built in shelf for holding things like that - genius!)


Xania Woodman: More bars going smoke-free.

Camper English: Silamith I'm of the opposite position: I love long cocktail lists, dislike super short ones (unless they change very often) and hate cocktail bars that do the no-list thing. Though to be fair, a 'house favorites' page at the front of a long menu is a beautiful thing.

Silamith Weir: No list doesn't work for me but I don't like being handed a binder. 15-20 drinks is about all I am looking for, and I don't mind a few seasonal specials. I think by and large long lists are off-putting to (non-industry) customers who default to ordering vodka soda's.

 Ashley Miller: Less Amaros...the trend is overplayed 

 Joshua Augustin: Less pretentiousness. Period. Whatever the guest needs (within reason) is handled. Cell phone charging, off menu requests, anything the guest requires, provide it. If you can't provide it, accommodate the best you can and think of a way to accommodate in the future. I've gone as far as running across the street to get movie tickets for a guest so they wouldn't have to stand in line. Don't let the guest bully you, but make sure they are taken care of. Cater to their ego, not yours.

Brian P Gavin: More Flair. I'm totally serious.

Sam Meyer: seconding hooks. And hatracks, too! I wear a hat -- and they've definitely come back, especially among cocktailians -- but was raised right, meaning I'm not gonna wear it indoors. I hate having to prop it on my knee, am not going to put it on the bar, and there's often no good place for it.

Grover Sanschagrin: More tequila cocktails! And please, don't make ugly faces when a customer asks for a Tequila Sazerac.

Jens Kerger: Flights! Especially drinks flights. Also: really well prepared Sazeracs, which most of the time are f*cked up due to the lack if a good Absinthe.

Jennifer Essex: I second hooks and wifi.

Lauren Eastman: I'd like to see some passionate input from mixologists on what I should order and not get that "ugh, I created all of these curated concoctions for $20 bucks and now you are ASKING ME to explain it to you" look. Lower alch, less tude, more fun (in short)

Hope Scamehorn Philbrick: More local influences. Less tattoos and way less of those things that stretch ear lobes into a circle.

Paul Harrington: Approachable bartenders.

Willy Shine: Hospitality first cocktails second

Damon Dyer: More menus that are written in plain and accessible language rather than obscure cocktail short-hand. Your bartender friends may know what it means when the menu says "Sotol, Bonal, Luxardo, Dolin, served David Embury style", but your customers probably don't. And they're not going to buy one because of it.


What do you think? I'd love to hear what you think cocktail bars could use more or less of. 



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Andy McColgan

More egg whites, Sugar not gum, home made sours 'bar mix' good clean proper cocktails instead of artificial tart gunk.

Martin Doudoroff

Less music, less noise. A public house should seldom peak above 80db.


"Sotol, Bonal, Luxardo, Dolin, served David Embury style" - hahahahaha

I was just talking to Jason about this at 320. I'd like to see more bars listing a few classics and not just originals. Obviously you can order a Manhattan or a Daiquiri at just about any bar, but sometimes the customer needs that added inspiration to think of it, and a lot of those classics are freaking easy for your bartender to throw out at high speed.

Not to mention that neophytes are less likely to think about ordering classics (we saw a 90% drop in Manhattan orders when we took it off of the menu) and introducing people to those drinks makes it easier to expand into those more esoteric originals.


Personally I'd like to see less of the bartender tasting my cocktails (albeit with a finger covered straw). Only once did a bartender mix again and that was only because his colleague pointed out he'd used the wrong ingredient.


Oh and I'd also like to see better glasses. Some bars i've been in deliver your cocktails in crappy glassware.

Chris Elford

The idea is to make sure you haven't forgotten any ingredients, yes, but also to make sure the temperature and dilution are where you need them to be--especially if the drink is being served up. Straw-tasting as a habit is a great sure-fire way to make sure the booze-soup you're sending out is perfect for the guest. I know it looks weird, but it is with your pleasure in mind that your bartender is doing this...

Brittany Chardin

More drink accuracy and/or giving credit where credit is due:to drinks and their originators. If one puts a Crusta on their list, it should actually be a Crusta, not a totally unrelated drink. Heck, almost all cocktails are derivative of something else, I get that, but I have seen many drinks named after something they are not. Understanding what makes a flip a flip,or a Mule a Mule is just as important as knowing how to put your personal and inspired spin on one.

Erick Castro


Jared Mort

I'd like to see bars less afraid of batching complicated house cocktails. Mix in a large format to the ml and provide a consistent, quicker cocktail. There's no shame in doing quality volume.


A house made ferment is a really refreshing alternative for the low alcohol content beverage. Empanadas and turnovers are easy to serve finger foods that are relatively simple to make and using seasonal ingredients will create an easy change of menu.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)