08/24/2012 05:36 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

8 Rules For Ordering Drinks At Bars

Melissa Finkelstein

(Credit: Melissa Finkelstein)

By Bridget Moloney Bon Appétit, Bon Appétit

This story originally appeared on Bon Appétit: 8 Rules for Ordering Drinks at Bars

Knowing how to behave in various situations is a hallmark of maturity. There are certain things that fly when you're 21 that most of us wouldn't dream of doing now. It's all about being a good citizen, in every context. When it comes to a night out on the town, this doesn't mean you can't order two shots of Jager, it just means you should know how and when it's appropriate to do so -- and how your order affects others. To get some tips on appropriate behavior the next time you find yourself craving a drink, we consulted Jim Meehan, star bartender, businessman and author of our favorite cocktail guide. Here are his rules for happy -- and grown-up -- drinking.

1. Survey the Territory: This is also known as the "Don't order a Pimm's Cup at a dive bar" rule. Take a look at your surroundings, the bartender, and the menu and adjust your expectations accordingly. "If you're at The Hog Pit, don't order a Martinez," says Meehan, "and if you're at PDT, don't ask for a Bud Light." This suggestion falls somewhere between "'When in Rome' and just being a sentient being," he says.

2. Know What's in Your Drink of Choice: If you've decided you're only drinking Sazeracs from here on out, no problem, go for it! But be able to tell whoever is mixing the drink what's in it. Smartphones are terrific, but having to Google for ingredients at a crowded bar is less so.

3. Consider the Timing: Although Meehan assures us he "doesn't judge" an order, he does make the point that "every cocktail has a time, a place, and a purpose." That said, sometimes you might crave an after dinner Bloody Mary -- and that's ok. Keep in mind, though, that your order may color how those around you (especially dates) see you. That pre-appetizer round of White Russians means you don't consider heavy cream before a meal a bad idea. Or you really love the Coen Brothers (which could have been your point).

4. Befriend the Bartender: "You're in it together" says Meehan. Be aware of the ebb and flow of business. This allows you to time your order in a way that makes it easier on everyone. Also, being a nice customer makes everything easier, don't you think? Help the mixologist help you. If that means holding off on the six Mojitos order until the slammed bartender can catch up, then so be it.

5. If You Ask for a Surprise, Drink It: Deferring to the bartender's whim can be a great way to try something new -- and depending on the context, an opportunity to learn you really never needed to have a Blue Hawaii. But you know what this unsuspecting blogger did when the Collins glass full of blue Curacao arrived? She drank it. Or at least most of it. Because, as Meehan points out, "you could have ordered something you knew you liked." So you don't have to love it, but if you asked for a surprise, don't send it back.

6. Ask for Help: Remember: Jim Meehan and his bartender brethren aren't judging you (see Rule No. 3). Saying, "Sorry, I don't know the difference between malty and hoppy" and having a helpful craft beer pourer instruct you is far better than ordering something and thinking it tastes unpleasantly like a teething biscuit (malt is responsible for sweetness in beer). There are no stupid questions -- especially when asked politely.

7. When Ordering off a Special Cocktail Menu, Do Just That: If a house cocktail lists four ingredients and tequila is one and you really like everything BUT tequila, consider a different choice. "The spirit in a specialty cocktail was chosen for a reason," says Meehan.

8. Order What You Want, Just Don't Over-Complicate the Process: That's really the crux of all this, isn't it? We're all adults here (in the great public house of our imaginations), take a look around, use your noodle and order up. Cheers.

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