Your Guide to Whining About Your Beverage

Hate something? Say something!

My ears have logged tons of complaints lately about the mediocrity of drinks around town, to which I've responded, "Well, did you complain?" Believe me, I've slugged enough slapdash cocktails to know the answer. A large chunk of you are not speaking up about drinks you've reluctantly choked down. Today's cocktail moment deals with the etiquette of the complaint. Tasty trumps correctly made: Just as a salad dressing depends on the right proportions of savory and sour to taste good, many cocktails depend on precise measurements for their flavors to come together. Take the negroni, with equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It's a simple enough drink to make, but if the bartender isn't minding the pours, you've got a bittersweet mess. There's no excuse for sloppy preparation. Yet a cocktail's likability is still a matter of personal taste. If you have a penchant for a certain preparation—say, an extra dash of Campari—make like James Bond and be specific when ordering; your drink will get extra attention. I can't promise the bartender will like you, but you'll be happier for it. Work out who's accountable: Unlike ordering wine by the glass, it's impossible to taste a cocktail before ordering it. Ask if you're unfamiliar with an ingredient, and a good bartender will pour you a little taste to help you decide. If you've looked at the list of ingredients in a particular drink and thought you might like it but don't, say exactly that. The bartender owes you a do-over, and if this happens enough, the bar knows to do something about the cocktail or to serve it with a wee disclaimer. If the bartender made the suggestion, then it is absolutely necessary for him to exchange the beverage should you be so disinclined to drink it. However, if you decided to order the Gammel Dansk on a whim because you liked the bottle, then it's caveat imbibor and please to enjoy your new chest hairs. Take the high road: Mind you, this is as close as I ever get to passive-aggressive. Anyone who has ever been to therapy knows that when addressing your issues with someone, it's best to use personal language, like "I think" or "I feel." Such is the way in a bar or restaurant. Take the judgmental and adversarial out of the equation. No bartender can object to the following phrase: "This just wasn't what I remembered. May I have something else, please?" Speak truth to power: What you're drinking must be good because the place is swank and the drink made it on the menu, right? Aww, how naive. I find insecurity to be the reason many people dread complaining. A customer fears she somehow isn't "getting" the drink, or will be judged for not liking it. As both a bartender and patron, I've witnessed silent disappointment time and time again, and I've never understood it. Only you know when you don't like something, and nobody can argue with you about it. Why would you dress up, go out, and pay money to bear false bliss? From the bar's point of view, you owe them the chance to make you happy. Before you go getting all clever on Yelp or trashing a place to 20 different friends, speak up. If you don't exercise your pie hole, you endure mediocrity for nothing and possibly let a great cocktail pass you by.

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