1. We want you to get drunk. Ever notice how mixed drinks are served with a wider straw by default, and always served in a standard rocks glass that only holds six to eight fluid ounces? These are classic tricks of the trade designed to get you to drink more quickly—and open your wallet more often. So always ask for a tall glass and opt for the thin straw to slow down your consumption a bit.
2. Vodka’s vodka. Don’t let a bartender upsell you on top-shelf liquor when it’s not necessary—particularly when it comes to vodka. Mid-range and high-end product don’t differ greatly in flavour, says Diana Roberts of the Bartending School of Ontario. With a brand like Grey Goose, what you’re really paying for is the fancy bottle. But regardless of your choice of poison, always skip the expensive stuff when it comes to mixed drinks. It’s only when sipping something straight up (say, a gin martini) or neat (like a single malt whisky) that the quality really kicks in.
3. The garnishes are gross. Don’t assume that lime wedge adorning your drink was cleaned properly, handled with the requisite toothpick that bartenders (and servers) are supposed to use, or that it hasn’t been sitting in a tray for days. Seriously, avoid dunking that thing in your drink.
4. You can bring our best booze home. If you try something at a bar that you really enjoyed but never see at liquor stores, ask your bartender to hook you up with the tavern’s private supplier. “We love sending support to our liquor suppliers,” says Nick Kennedy, co-owner of Toronto cocktail bar Civil Liberties. “We buy it on license but you can always buy it off-license.”
5. We’ll work with your budget. If cash flow is an issue, some bars will let you order by how much you want to pay, according to Kennedy. Just say something like, “Can I get an old-fashioned for $10?” A good bartender will whip up whatever that’s worth.