Food & Drink

These Are The Drinks Bartenders Really Order When They're Not On The Job

When in doubt, ask the experts.
04/24/2014 07:00am ET

When you're at a bar, do you have a go-to drink? Do you always start with a beer or go straight to a shot? Maybe you're a cocktail-lover -- do you always gravitate to a reliable favorite or are you always looking for something new?

Finding your match in a drink is important. A go-to drink is a trusty companion, an easy conversation starter, a comforting refreshment and a cue to unwind.

If choosing a favorite drink is lost on you, fear not -- just look to the experts. We've rounded up 17 go-to drinks from some awesome bartenders, so that you can take a professional's lead. Because who would know better what to order at a bar than a bartender?

When these bartenders aren't behind their own bars, they're drinking lots of daiquiris and martinis. They'll also reach for an Old Fashioned, a Sidecar or a Michelada. The favorite, however, seems to be a Negroni -- so if all else fails, remember that cocktail.

When in doubt, do as the bartenders do and order these drinks.

A Martini
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Martinis were a popular choice among the bartenders we asked. Here's one advocate: Bartender: Sean Sullivan Bar: Forthcoming Straight Law bar in Boston Go-to drink: A dry martini
A Greenpoint
Bartender: Abraham Hawkins Bar:Dutch Kills in Long Island City, NY Go-to drinks: A Greenpoint (Manhattan variation) on the rocks, and daiquiris
Gin & Tonic
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Bartender: Laura Lashley Bar:The Breslin in NYC Go-to drinks: Fifty-fifty gin martini with a twist or a nice tall Gin & Tonic
Michelada
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Bartender: Sam Anderson Bar:Salvation Taco in NYC Go-to drink: Michelada
Rosé
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Bartender: Brett MacDonald Bar:Dutch Kills in Long Island City, NY Go-to drinks: Rosé MacDonald also goes for rum and cokes, hard cider, or shots of Pama or Fernet.
Whiskey
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Bartender: Ajax Kentish Bar:Navy in NYC Go-to drinks: Negroni or just straight whiskey
Lime Daiquiri
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Daiquiris were also a popular choice among the bartenders we asked. Bartender: Thomas Waugh, Major Food Group (Torrisi, Parm, Carbone, ZZ's Clam Shack and the forthcoming Dirty French) Go-to drink: A classic lime daiquiri "Just a clean, young or white rum (Cana Brava has been my rum of choice for a daiquiri lately), fresh lime juice, and sugar. Very simple, light, tart, refreshing, and easy to drink about 8 of them." In light of the recent lime shortage, Waugh says "drinking drinks with heavy doses of lime juice makes me feel like I'm doing something bad. Like I'm really living on the edge. Not-so cheap thrills." Bartender: Natalie Czech Bar:Huertas in NYC Go-to drink: While Czech loves a shot and a beer (see below) a daiquiri is her go-to cocktail: "I love that its a simple drink, three ingredients, but takes on its own personality from bar to bar. Its always over-proof and garnished with a disco ball when I drop in on the boys at Golden Cadillac, Jess at Cienfuegos always makes me one with an aged rum, and its always fun to judge a "Daiquiri Off" at Pouring Ribbons."
A shot and a beer
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Bartneder: Natalie Czech Bar:Huertas in NYC Go-to drink: A shot and a beer "I'm sure most bartenders agree, after a long shift slinging cocktails nothing is more satisfying than a shot and a beer. I can roll into any dive bar and get a pilsner and an neat pour of Old Overholt to take the edge off. However, if I plan on visiting friend's establishments around the neighborhood and I want to grab a cocktail my go-to is a Daiquiri."
A sidecar
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Bartender: Chad Walsh Bar:The Dutch in NYC (Beverage Manager) Go-to drinks: A Sidecar or a Wet Martini
An old fashioned
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Bartender: Josh Nadel Beverage Director for NoHo Hospitality GroupGo-to drinks: Old Fashioned: "real brandy-soaked cherry, no maraschino BS," or a Sazerac: "6yr / Whistle Pig 10yr / Van Winkle 13yr Rye all preferred."
Manzanilla
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Bartender: Will Thompson Bar:Drink in Boston and the forthcoming NYC bar The Roof At Park South Go-to drink: A bottle of manzanilla -- a type of sherry made exclusively from a coastal Spanish town called Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Iced water with lemon & a touch of maple syrup
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Bartender: Jan Warren Bar:Dutch Kills in Long Island City, NY Go-to drinks: Iced lemon water with a touch of maple syrup. "I'm a teetotaler in my private life..."
Lambrusco
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Bartender:John McCarthyBar:Bathtub Gin in NYC Go-to drink: Lambrusco "Honestly, I'm Southern, so I like everything cold, and I like to unwind with some red wine at dinner. And who doesn't like bubbles? Put 'em all together, and you have Lambrusco, which I drink on the regular. If I happen to have a shot of aged Dominican rum (like Brugal 1888) to go with it, that's all good too."
An aviation
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Bartender: Amy Trioano Bar:Locanda Verde in NYC (Beverage Manager) Go-to drinks: Aviation, Negroni or a Mezcal
A Manhattan
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Bartender: Tiffany Short Bar:The Library & Joe's Pub at The Public in NYC (Head Bartender) Go-to drinks: A Rye Manhattan or a 50/50 Gin Martini
Guinness
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Bartender: Jack McGarry Bar:The Dead Rabbit in NYC (Partner, The Best Bar In The World) Go-to: Guinness and also Redbreast 12yo
A Negroni
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The negroni was by far the most popular cocktail from the bartenders we polled. Here are three strong advocates for this slightly bitter, very refreshing cocktail. Bartender: Adam Fortuna Bar:Artusi/Spinasse in Seattle, WA Go-to drink: Negroni "Nothing beats a Negroni on the rocks." Bartender: Roland Meyer Bar:CookshopGo-to drinks: Negroni "If I'm going out to dinner to a restaurant with a well stocked bar I almost always start out with a Negroni. I tend to judge a place based on their Negroni (right after I check out the bathrooms)... Besides the drink tasting fantastic, not being a complicated order, and a great aperitif, it's strong enough to end a rough day and start a great night. Otherwise when I'm stumbling from place to place I need my Jameson-rocks." Bartender: Laura Maniec Bar:Corkbuzz (Master Sommelier) Go-to drinks: A Negroni -- or a slight variation "After a long night at work, I like drinking a Negroni because it wakes my palate up. It's somewhat sweet/bitter balance makes it easy to sip on and you can make variations on it depending on your mood. Substitute rum for gin, leave off the gin and just use the sweet vermouth and Campari, use different types of vermouth like carpano Antica or white vermouth for a totally different drink"
And if you can't decide... have two!
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Bartender: Nathan O'neill Bar:Milk & Honey in London Go-to drinks: Gin Martini or a Negroni O'neill loves the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of the gin martini -- a two ingredient drink -- and the garnish, be it an olive or lemon twist, that "offers a simple yet very subtle change to the balance of the overall drink." He like a negroni "using gin, Campari and changing sweet vermouth for Punt E Mes. With its bold flavors, I find the beautiful aroma set from spraying grapefruit oils just lifts the drink and balances the bitterness perfectly. This is one for after a long day."

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