Bar or table?
Perched by the bar allows you to drink in the whole experience even before you take a sip. From this vantage point you can watch the bar staff doing their stuff and get a feel of the venue. At a table you get a different view. Different but not necessarily wrong. Seated comfortably you get more of a feel for the service and of course it might suit a more relaxed mood.
Call your brand
House, call or top? Bars all have their house spirits. Unlike house wines these are rarely a cop-out on quality and should be up to the job as a working ingredient. Having said that there is an ever-increasing array of spirits out there. Try several and see which ones you like. Really, if you like a Mojito and you find yourself drawn to drinking more than one try a different rum. In no time you’ll find yourself ‘calling’ your brand.
One final word: ‘Top.’ There are more and more premium, top shelf spirits available. Some are truly things of beauty, others are more about fancy bottles and hype. But if it’s a special occasion or pay day, do indulge now and again.
Ordering a cocktail is like ordering from a menu or wine list. It should be enjoyable but it can be annoyingly intimidating. It shouldn’t be. Does the drink come straight up or on the rocks? Do they use fresh fruit or concentrate? Ask questions. Good bartenders and waiting staff will be happy to help.
Savour the moment
When your drink arrives just take a moment. How does it look? Inhale deep. Then take a sip. We’re not saying get all precious about it. And if you really love your drink, tell the bartender who mixed it. We all like a little praise now and then.
Chat to your bartender
After checking out the menu ask for recommendations. A good bartender will ask your likes and dislikes and take it from there. Watch what they do. Space permitting we like to see the drink mixed in front of us (as taught by the great Harry MacElhone in Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails back in 1919) – it’s theatre at its very best.
The customer really is always right
Cocktails are wonderful at any time of day. A Mimosa to kick off brunch perhaps? But the cocktail really comes into its own in the evening. For maximum enjoyment there are a few things worth remembering. Pace yourself: you’re drinking spirits here, so sip and savour. Slip in a glass of water between each cocktail to slow yourself down. And look out for a good bar with good snacks – you can only eat so many nuts. As for the drinks themselves, think of them like the courses in a meal. Start light, working through to more complex drinks and end up with something sweeter.
The Cocktail Lovers say
If you’re feeling particularly energetic, try switching venues, you’ll find it prolongs the evening nicely…
This week we’re loving
The Tanqueray Gin Palace set up to celebrate Charles Tanqueray’s birthday. Forget the fusty gin palaces of old, this one has sophisticated urban attitude with elegant gin cocktails and live acoustic music to match the mood. Actor Idris Elba was at the launch on Tuesday, along with award-winning bartenders Erik Lorincz from The American Bar at The Savoy and Tristan Stephenson from Fluid Movement who were stirring things up on the drinks front. There’s only one day to enjoy it though – the lavish pop-up closes today 28 March. Get there if you can. 13 Floral Street, WC2H.