Article By Jason Rogers

Dt’s a familiar scene, you walk in and you suddenly feel a rush of doubt. You’re nervous and you feel your next decision will determine the course of everything. You stand in a sea of people and wait; finally you lock eyes with your target. You approach and open your mouth to speak with confidence only instead out comes, “Um can I have like something with vodka?” You feel the intense glare of the bartender, daggers that pierce your soul. You have just had the pleasure of improperly ordering a drink at a bar. Don’t worry though you are not alone.

With the resurgence of bar culture, it can seem daunting if you are new or just not a frequent bar visitor, to know what you want and how to order it at the bar. But to the untrained eye there is a method to the madness of a bar. You can conquer the Goliath that is the bar with a little insider knowledge.

First things first, when you go to a bar you always need a go-to drink. Most times bars are busy and although a bartender would love to help experiment with a crazy cocktail idea, they just don’t have the time. Come prepared with a simple mixer combo to save you and the bartender time. These drinks include; rum and coke, gin and tonic, tequila and orange juice, whiskey and sprite, vodka and soda or vodka and orange juice, or any number of one-ingredient drinks. In a busy bar you will be able to grab a drink without waiting 20 minutes and it gives you time to plan your serious drink order.

Now while you sip on your go-to drink, you can see if the bar has a menu. If you are trying to figure out what to order there are a few rules of thumb. If the bar has signature cocktails, those are the drinks they have a lot of experience making and are less likely to be messed up. If you can’t pick you can ask a bartender for a suggestion but depending on how busy the bar is you can get a really great suggestion or just the quickest drink to make. If you are still unsure try asking someone next to you at the bar what they like, it doubles as a great ice breaker.

So, you have a menu, with no signatures but you see some familiar drinks you’ve heard of from movies. But what are you actually going to get if you order one? Well, there is actually a secret code hidden in the names of many cocktails. That slippery fuzzy naval isn’t just a trashy name invented by a frat bro—it’s bartender lingo. Here are some common cocktail phrases/names to decode your drink:


Bars can always seem intimidating, but they do have order. Even on a crowded Saturday night in your local dive, there is a system at work. You don’t have to be afraid or lost on the side lines at a new bar. Now that you’ve decoded the drink menu, the only question left is: what do I drink next?

Jason Rogers is a mixologist extraordinaire living in Xi’an.