How to Make a Cocktail For Someone Who Doesn’t Know What They Want

home bartender. photo by matt and tish

Now that I’ve spent a few years as a home bartender, I’ve picked up some tricks on how to make drinks for people who aren’t quite sure what type of cocktail they like.

Whether a new drinker (just turned 21), or simply an intimidated bar drinker, I’ve found that the majority of people that I make drinks for haven’t tried enough cocktails in their life to know exactly what they like, so here are 5 questions I always ask people before I make them a drink:

  1. What flavors do you like – especially citrus, even foods, etc? If they love oranges, make an Orange Blossom Special or Screwdriver. Or avoid the Cucumber Martini if they hate cucumber.
  2. Do you have a liquor preference? Often, people will know enough to say “I hate gin,” or “I love gin,” (both of which I hear pretty regularly). If they like rum, make them a tiki drink. I once heard, “I’m allergic to juniper,” which as well all know, is a curse worse than death, because gin is awesome.
  3. How sweet do you like your cocktails? This one is huge, because even if they say the like Margaritas, for instance, but don’t like sweet drinks, you can just ease up on the Triple Sec a bit. If they love sweet and love vodka (see #2), then I’ll make them a simple 2 oz vodka + 1 1/2 oz liqueur cocktail like this one.
  4. What are some cocktails you already like? Here’s a specific one I do a lot: when people tell me they love Gins and Tonics, I tell them “let me make you the best G&T you’ve ever had,” and I get out the Jack Rudy Tonic syrup. Making upgraded versions of drinks they already love is an awesome route.
  5. Do you like it? At a commercial bar, this is nearly impossible, but one of the biggest advantages of a home bar is that it’s a lot easier to say you don’t like something. I always ask people if they like the drink I made, and I let them know it’s ok if they don’t, I’ll gladly pour it out (or maybe drink it myself) and make them something else.

 Special thanks to Matt&Tish for the photo.

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