Why You Shouldn't Go Off-Menu When Ordering Drinks At A Bar

When it comes to ordering food in any type of eatery, you'll find that in nearly all cases, there is some sort of menu to tell you of your food options, whether it comes on paper, laminated plastic, a chalkboard, or in the form of a QR code that you have to scan to read on your phone. With bars, however, it's often a different story. Your corner dive bar may give you the hairy eyeball if you even think to ask about a menu, while other establishments such as Milwaukee's venerable Bryant's (one of the nation's best bars, btw) may pride themselves on coming up with concoctions custom-tailored for each patron's preferences.

Still, there are certain types of bars that do have menus prominently displayed, and these range from chain restaurants touting happy hour specials such as Applebee's infamous Dollaritas to more upscale cocktail lounges eager to show off their artisanal creations. In this case, though, is it advisable to stick to the menu, or are the bartenders and/or serving staff secretly going to judge you for not having a go-to drink order, such as James Bond's famous shaken-not-stirred martini? 

According to Joseph Boroski, the mastermind behind the "Ask the Bartender" podcast, the former is true. As he explains to Mashed, it's in your best interest to limit your orders to the drinks the bar is advertising.

Why it's best to stick with the menu

J.Boroski cocktail bar owner Joseph Boroski spoke with Mashed about bars and booze (two of our favorite subjects). "It is almost always cheaper ... to order from the menu rather than something off-menu," he says. That's no small consideration if you're drinking somewhere like New York City where Expatistan estimates the average cost of a cocktail to be around $16. He does note, however, that there are certain exceptions to this guideline, one such example being "when specific spirits are listed on the menu at a lower rate."

What Boroski advises is to ask your server or bartender what the cocktail specials may be, particularly if you don't see a menu. (Unless, as we've already mentioned, you're drinking at a dive bar or at Bryant's, in which case, don't.) Not only might you score a cheaper deal, but you're also being a mensch. As he points out, "If it is a barwoman/barman that put together the menu, you may find that the easier-to-make or quicker producing drinks are the ones at a lower price point," and they'll probably appreciate your asking for something that's not going to be a huge headache for them to put together.