DAVE FERNIE OF POUR VOUS
ON THE DOS AND DONTS TO ORDERING A DRINK AT A CRAFT COCKTAIL BAR
Back when dives made their mark by serving up rudimentary beverages like Jack and Coke, 7 and Seven or Vodka Tonic, landing on a libation was no more difficult a decision than Don Draper selecting a suit (grey... or dark grey?). But now that the unsung bartender has been curbed by the esteemed mixologist and cocktails seem to be larded with obscure tinctures and homemade bitters, we're noticing a not so subtle anxiety overtake us as we saddle up to the bar top. But thanks to DAVE FERNIE, head bartender at POUR VOUS -the latest Parisian inspired drinking den from the boys at HARVARD AND STONE- we shall stare the gaze of a lost puppy no longer. Check out his Dos and Don’ts to selecting, ordering and getting on the right side of your bar man’s friend or foe list.
1. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CONTEXT
Turns out, there’s plenty to figure out about what you should order to drink before you even make your way to a menu. Apply a little of that good ol’ deductive reasoning and think about where you are at. Consider the name of the bar, the vibe of the space and the bottles of booze covering their shelves. “If you walk into a place called LA DESCARGA, enter through an armoir, passed a latin band and up to a bar that’s stacked with aged rums, it would probably be in your best interest to not order a vodka tonic.” You wouldn’t go to the Chao Fung Dynasty, sit down in front of a full wall dragon mural and order a burger, would you? Trust the theme.
2. SOAK THE COCKTAIL MENU FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
And when most of us finally do encounter a menu at a craft cocktail bar we get flustered at the first sight of the word aperitif. While Fernie certainly agrees that some lists can be quite daunting, there’s actually a simple way to navigate your way to a drink that you’ll most likely enjoy, “figure out what type of mood you’re in by asking this simple question: What sounds better, a Margarita or a Manhattan?” Obviously he’s not suggesting that these are the only two worthwhile drinks at the bar, but they represent the two main groupings of the common craft cocktail. On the one hand you’ve got light, refreshing and citrusy, and the other you’ve got slow sipping, stirred and boozy.
Once you’ve made that decision, you’ve weeded out half of the menu. “As a rule of thumb, any cocktail with citrus is probably going to be shaken and lighter,” he says, “and if you don’t recognize most of the ingredients in the description, it’s probably going to be stirred and boozy.” After you’ve made this decision, decide what spirit you’re in the mood for and that should be enough information to approach the bench... the bartender will happily guide you the rest of the way.
3. SPECIAL INSTRUCTION - NO BACKSEAT BARTENDING
Part of the joy of the craft cocktail movement is that you don’t have to babysit your bartender as he makes his way through your drink. In fact, you just shouldn’t.
THE SUGAR CONUNDRUM:
“One of the most painful things to hear is a person tell you that they don’t want anything sweet.” The truth is, these days, cocktails are built around balance. What most people are actually worried about is not a fear of a sweet drink, it’s a fear of an unbalanced one. That said, if you just don’t want the extra calories keep in mind that the more citrus that is present in a cocktail, the more sweetener that’s required to balance the falvor profile. So if you’re ordering a Mojito w/o the sugar (rum, mint, lime and... sugar), chances are you’re in for a pretty terrible experience.
SPIRIT AND BRAND SWAPS:
Maybe you’ve got a thing for Jameson because you think you’re some sort of hipster rebel, fine, but don’t try to tell the bartenders what brand of booze to use in their Specialty Cocktails. Sure, sometimes gin can be swapped for vodka, but these people have spent a lot of time (often months) ensuring that all of the components of a cocktail work harmoniously, “Not all gins are created equal...subbing a London dry gin like Beefeater for something on the botanical-heavy end such as Aviation can easily change the whole profile of the cocktail.”
MAKE THAT EXTRA COLD:
The simple principle is: the longer you shake, the more water that's going to enter the beverage, “"ya, if you've got no qualms dropping $80 on a round of 6 Patron shots that are half water... go for it."
4. GETTING THE BARTENDER'S ATTENTION
Before we move forward, let's get one thing straight -They are not trying to ignore you. They want to get you your drink as much as you do. At the same time we’ve got to realize that they’re not going to be whipping out dual soda guns and haphazardly free pouring Captain Mo. Craft cocktails just take more time to make. Expect to wait anywhere from 4-8 minutes for your drink... trust us, it's worth it.
5. BARTENDER'S CHOICE
“The bespoke cocktail thing is an interesting phenomenon, I think people often get the impression that it's just a cocktail buffet and they can just pick and choose random ingredients at will.” Problem is, despite what we may believe, they can’t just muddle and shake any randomly selected amalgamation of ingredients to make a great drink, there is an art to this.
Bartenders Choice is more about a conversation that you have with your bar man; tell them what spirit you prefer and what mood you are in, they’ll take it from there. The other caveat is that if you're going to put the responsibility in their hands, you have to be aware of the possibility that you might not like the drink -so sending a cocktail back after you've given the power over to the bartender is usually a no no.
6. ORDERING OFF MENU- A TIME AND A PLACE
“Keep in mind that we've put hours -and sometimes months- into crafting these drinks so we definitely appreciate it if you'd try one of ours before reverting to your typical go-to.” If you do order off menu, stick to the classics like an Old Fashioned, Gin Fizz or a Daiquiri and stay away from stuff like the Adios Mutherfucker or a Sex on the Beach. “Remember, ideally, the reason you're going out is to try new things, so if you're just resting on your laurels than i'd really prompt you to experiment more, but if you truly just have a hankering for a Manhattan, of course we'll make one for you.”
Photo Credit: Rainbeau Tharp