Like any other service-based professional, bartenders are in the business of satisfying their customers without complaint or displeasure. In fact, considering bartenders make their money largely through tips, those alcohol-serving, cocktail-making experts may have more incentive to provide a pleasant experience than most. But behind their cheerful smile, a bartender is liable to judge a customer depending on the order, and may even detest a customer’s very presence for requesting an unnecessarily complex beverage.
Now, assuming they’ve got the necessary equipment and accoutrements, a bartender will serve whatever you order — the same way a chef will cook a $50 piece of steak to well-done (and beyond) if a customer insists. But that doesn’t mean bartenders aren’t desperate to avoid customers who, say, order a tropical drink at a hole-in-the-wall dive bar, or feel comfortable ordering a complicated concoction when a bartender’s clearly in the weeds. Frankly, unless you’re interested in making a bartender’s life more difficult when you go out drinking or earn their ire with an embarrassing request? There are certain drinks you should avoid ordering.
There’s no shortage of cocktails that make a bartender roll their eyes in frustration, and as we’re wont to do, we assembled a list of those very same selections. Whether a drink’s aggravating to make due to a lack of ingredients, time, or the fact the cocktail itself is objectively (subjectively) gross, here are the drinks bartenders are begging you to stop ordering.
Whiskey sours (particularly with top-shelf whiskey)
The whiskey sour isn’t just the worst drink to mix with Crown Royal — it may be the absolute worst cocktail in the history of humanity. Of course, while we’re hyperbolizing our dislike of whiskey sours for emphasis, we’re hardly alone in our relative hatred of the sickly-sweet drink. In fact, as long-time bartender Tommy Stanley told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2017, the drink is "usually drunk by rookies" — making it the type of cocktail bartenders often look down upon as a result.
Now, clearly, bartenders aren’t begging customers to stop ordering whiskey sours because the drink is arduous to prepare. After all, the cocktail is often nothing more than a combination of whiskey and sour mix (or whiskey, simple syrup, and lemon juice). But therein lies the issue. Because if a person is ordering a whiskey sour — particularly one made with an expensive, high-quality whiskey — it’s a sign that person may be unfamiliar with other (and, quite frankly, better-tasting) cocktails.
Of course, a bartender will always make you a whiskey sour — even one made with a $1600 bottle of Macallan single malt scotch (via Liquor and Wine). But considering the vast number of whiskey-based drinks to choose from, you’d be better served by ordering something a bartender is excited to prepare — and you can be proud to sip.
Unless you’ve been personally tasked with muddling an item — as in gently crushing a fruit or herb to use in a cocktail (via MasterClass) — you may not realize how enormously irritating the process can be. But seeing as the need to muddle fresh mint leaves is the main culprit behind bartenders’ hatred of mojitos (via Matador Network), understanding how time-consuming muddling is helps explain why bartenders might beg you to stop ordering the mint-centric drink.
In fact, if a bartender is too strapped for time (or just doesn’t feel like making a mojito), they may tell a patron the bar’s run out of fresh mint to avoid preparing the cocktail. Then again, this may be more of an urban legend than a real-life practice. After all, as professional bartender Sean McGuire told Good Food in 2015, he’d never actually witnessed a bartender blatantly lie to a customer regarding the availability of fresh mint.
Still, McGuire was quick to state he "can believe" such an event has occurred, given "many bartenders … hate making" mojitos. On that note, if you’re looking to keep a bartender from hating you as well, wait to have a mojito when you’re making it at home.
Some drinks are simply embarrassing to order, and no cocktail may be more likely to draw a raised eyebrow or two than the appletini. Frankly, even if you’re not ordering an appletini that’s easy on the ‘tini, the odds are high your bartender will be displeased if you order the tooth-rottingly sweet, unnaturally-colored (so-called) martini (via Matador Network).
Actually, as beverage director for Punch Bowl Social, Patrick Williams, told Thrillist in 2015, the biggest bone many bartenders have to pick with the appletini is the fact it’s "not a real martini." In that sense, since the apple flavor overwhelms the liquor in an appletini, bartenders may prefer a customer who orders a martini where you can "taste the spirits," according to Williams.
Obviously, you should never say never … but at the same time? We can confidently say most bartenders prefer you never ask for an appletini in their presence. You’re almost certain to be served the fruity (faux) martini if you order one, of course. But anyone eager to earn a bartender’s respect will want to stop ordering this Sour Apple Pucker-like cocktail — now and in the future.
In 2023, any person who doesn’t love The Dude (Jeff Bridges) and "The Big Lebowski" sets off our alarm bells. In that vein, there’s nothing especially awful about a person wanting to mimic El Duderino (for anyone not into the whole brevity thing), and his favorite beverage: the White Russian. But milk and cream aren’t exactly known for staying fresh over long periods of time, so a bartender may prefer a customer avoids ordering this drink to reduce the risk they’ll end up sick.
In fact, the biggest reason you should never order a White Russian is there’s no guarantee the milk or cream will be fresh — and no way to completely avoid the chance you’ll ingest spoiled dairy in the process. Additionally, according to a comment on Reddit, many bartenders may be irritated by the prospect of retaining "fresh milk (or) cream every week" when a White Russian is ordered so infrequently.
Since the profit margins for restaurants are often razor-thin, any sunk cost on rarely (or never) used ingredients can take a toll. So if you’re unsure how often a bar is slinging White Russians, do your bartender (and your immune system) a solid, and order something else.
Bloody Marys (especially after brunch)
Other than the mimosa, it’s hard to imagine an alcoholic beverage that better embodies the spirit of brunch like a Bloody Mary. Sure, the idea of a vodka-and-V8 mixture isn’t exactly appetizing to everyone (this writer included). But it’s crystal clear the drink is widely popular among late morning, early afternoon drinkers. Of course, its status as maybe the quintessential brunch cocktail is precisely why bartenders tend to abhor anyone who orders one after brunch hours. In fact, according to a Reddit thread, after a certain time, the Bloody Mary should be renamed the "bartender’s nightmare."
Now, beyond the logistical challenges found in making a cocktail outside of the expected time frame, a Bloody Mary tends to be fairly diverse in how it’s prepared by a bartender — and in how it’s preferred by the customer. After all, as one professional bartender noted on a different Reddit thread, some customers want "cold tomato soup" with little to no other additional flavors present, while others prefer a cocktail akin to "vodka-flavored hot sauce."
Obviously, if it’s near midnight and you simply must order a Bloody Mary, you’re free to do so. But if you want to ensure you’re happy with your cocktail (and your bartender is happy with you), go with something else after 2 p.m.
Sugar-heavy cocktails are unlikely to top any bartender’s list of favorite concoctions, and the lemon drop is no exception. Now, it’s certainly possible to pull off a decent version of this cocktail (named for its taste, which is similar to lemon drop candies, according to Trattoria Il Panino). But the fact it’s essentially a sweet, boozy lemonade diminishes many bartenders’ enthusiasm for the cocktail — and illustrates, in part, why they wish you’d stop ordering it.
As beverage director at Punch Bowl Social Patrick Williams told Thrillist in 2015, many bartenders disdain lemon drops because it’s the preferred beverage of the social drinker "who doesn’t get out much." In other words, the drink is sweet enough to go down easy for the uninitiated but far too saccharine to be considered worthwhile to a more evolved palate. More than that, though, according to Williams, is that many customers are under "the assumption that every bar can make" a lemon drop, regardless of whether it’s listed on the menu.
Of course, while it’s fair to presume a professional bartender is capable of crafting any cocktail imaginable, the reality is that not every bar is equipped with what’s required to make many of those drinks. So unless you’re confident the bar in question has what’s available, don’t order a lemon drop — your bartender will thank you.
For the life of us, we’ll never understand the appeal of a dirty martini. Maybe it’s the fact we can’t quite grasp the culinary allure of olives, and, consequently, don’t see how that flavor (combined with gin or vodka) translates into a delicious beverage. Evidently, we’re not alone in that point of view, though, as some bartenders feel a customer ordering a dirty martini would be better served drinking straight "olive juice" (via VinePair).
According to Bartender Atlas, the No. 1 problem bartenders likely have with dirty martinis is the inclusion of olive brine alongside the main liquor and vermouth. After all, it’s virtually impossible for the liquor to shine through when the accompanying mixer completely overwhelms the rest of the ingredients — as is the case with olive brine in a dirty martini.
Now, if you’re a bonafide super-fan of all things olives, that may be precisely why you enjoy dirty martinis in the first place. And, to be sure, there’s nothing wrong with a person who greatly enjoys that flavor profile. But if you’re hoping to stay on your bartender’s good side, stick with an order that highlights the alcohol, rather than masking it.
Frozen drinks (particularly when it’s busy)
We certainly understand the appeal of a nice frozen cocktail, particularly when the thermostat creeps up during the spring and summer. Whether it’s a frozen margarita with salt on the rim or a strawberry daiquiri garnished with fresh fruit, there’s a lot to love about an icy, booze-filled beverage when the sun — and your body — is blazing. Of course, if you’re craving a frozen drink, but the bartender barely has time to take your drink order? Do them a favor, and skip any frozen or blended choices.
The main issue with frozen drinks, as one bartender wrote on Reddit, is how "tedious and time consuming" they are to prepare. After all, it’s not just the preparation part that takes up precious time, but the need to clean a blender between beverages as well. Now, will a bartender make you a frozen drink, even if the bar is stacked two or three customers deep? Absolutely (assuming the bar has the tools to do so, that is).
But there are certain times you should simply avoid ordering a frozen cocktail, no matter how eager you are to consume one. So unless the bar is slow, and your bartender clearly has the time and resources available to them, heed these thankless professionals’ calls, and don’t order a frozen drink.
Look, we here at Mashed like piña coladas, though we’re less fond of getting caught in the rain (because who wants to be wet?). But just because we enjoy the classic pop song — written and performed by a man who may or may not have gone to school in Albuquerque, New Mexico — doesn’t mean bartenders are enthused when you order a piña colada. In fact, many bartenders (like those who work in non-tropical locales) would likely love nothing more than to never hear a piña colada ordered again.
For one thing (like a number of other drinks we’ve included on this list), a bartender may take issue with a piña colada because it’s far from simple to prepare. After all, as an expert from the American Bartenders School told The Independent in 2017, making a piña colada can be a "pain in the butt" given the number of steps involved.
Furthermore, unless a bar is known to have fresh coconut and pineapple on hand, it’s not worth your time and money to order a piña colada, either. In fact, as suggested by a Beverage and Science Technology graduate from Michigan State University on Quora, the only appropriate time to order and drink a piña colada may be "on a beach … out of a coconut."
Long Island iced teas
If you trace the evolution of the average person’s alcohol-drinking journey, there’s a strong chance that early on, they prioritized getting drunk fast, cheap, and easy. In that sense, the general appeal of a Long Island iced tea is easy to ascertain: it’ll get you hammered in no time while deceiving your taste buds in the process. Of course, unless you’re out for your first legal drink, and the bar is slow as molasses, many bartenders would prefer you order just about anything but a Long Island iced tea.
Frankly, bartenders mainly hate making the drink because of how labor-intensive it is to prepare. With an ingredient list featuring five different alcohols (and cola), a Long Island iced tea isn’t exactly akin to filling a glass with whatever beer is on tap. Additionally, bartenders may wish you’d stop ordering Long Island iced teas because, well … they simply aren’t very palatable. After all, the cocktail "was invented in Prohibition times to disguise the taste of alcohol," as professional bartender Aaron Clark told Good Food in 2014. In other words, it’s not a beverage meant for a fun, casual night out — it’s designed for stealth drinking.
Maybe you’re unconcerned with how sophisticated you appear to a bartender, or with wasting their valuable time. But if you’re eager to obtain a bartender’s approval, steer clear of ordering a Long Island iced tea.
Some cocktails are reviled by bartenders because they look down on the drink itself, while others create unnecessary headaches by requiring a ton of labor — particularly during high-traffic times. Of course, when the ingredients themselves are simply too difficult to keep handy, it doesn’t help matters, either. And no drink may better represent this frustration than the espresso martini — because how many bars have ready-made espresso available?
Now, while the general lack of hot, fresh espresso behind a bar plays an undeniable hand in bartenders’ displeasure with preparing these cocktails, many professionals wish customers realized how difficult the actual preparation process was. After all, as professional bartender Ella Downs told Grub Street in 2021, "the heat of espresso … makes the shake more intense," increasing the likelihood a shaker may burst open during preparation.
Additionally, as one bartender commented on Reddit, "the cocktail sticks to the ice in a weird way" — meaning it makes the final pour more challenging (and time-consuming) than preferred.
Dealer’s choice, or asking the bartender to surprise you without guidance
There’s a fairly definitive (and obvious) lack of consensus when it comes to individual tastes and likes. Frankly, even supposedly universally-beloved items have their detractors, and there will always be a person ready to declare po-ta-to when you say potato. Of course, given the unique differences found in each individual’s personal preferences, it’s no wonder bartenders often dislike when a customer orders a "dealer’s choice" — or asks a bartender to surprise them with a drink.
Now, to be fair, not every bartender takes issue with a "surprise me" drink order. In fact, as a number of bartenders noted on Reddit, if there’s time to discuss a customer’s specific preferences (and the customer is willing to engage and assist the bartender), asking a bartender to creatively craft you a cocktail may not make them hate you. But, as one professional bartender commented on Quora, whether someone is annoyed by such a drink order "depends on how busy" they are at any given moment. And if a bar is slammed, they’re unlikely to afford the mental bandwidth required to concoct a special (and surprising) beverage.
So unless a bar’s menu specifically notes a "dealer’s choice" option is available (via VinePair), don’t be that person. Order a specific drink from your bartender — not a surprise.