College Life, Food & Drinks, Lifestyle

Hey Zillennial, New To The Bar? Here’s How To Order Drinks

Now that you’re 21, you want to go to the bar with your friends. Fun! This is going to be awesome. But what you might be a little nervous about is how to order drinks at the bar. While you can go up and keep ordering a classic drink forever and ever, there are so many awesome choices for your to try! It can be super overwhelming at first, but I’m here to walk you through our guide on how to order drinks at the bar like an absolute expert!


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First of all, what’s a tab? When you get to a bar and go to pay for your drinks, the bartender will ask you if you want a closed or open tab. An open tab means that the bartender will keep your card and will add drinks to your tab throughout the night. This means, that you’ll go up and order multiple times and tell them your last name so they can keep track of your orders. If you’re only planning on purchasing one drink, you’ll want a closed tab. A closed tab is similar to buying something at a store or a restaurant. You’ll order your drinks at once and then check out, paying and signing your receipt immediately. So, when it comes to picking what type of tab you want, you’ll want to think about how long you’ll be staying at the bar and how much drinking you’ll be doing. Will you be there all night waiting for your friends to go on for karaoke, or are you bar hopping and will be leaving after a drink? Make your decision accordingly.

Drink Names

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What’s a whiskey neat? What’s a vodka sour? What’s a gin and tonic? What’s on the rocks? These are all excellent questions, so let’s go over all of the bar lingoes you may have never heard of before. 

Cran: Ex: Vodka cran. To mix cranberry juice into your fave alcohol, ask for “cran.” This is most commonly ordered with vodka.

Dry: Ex: Dry martini. Dry refers to how much Vermouth is added to a drink. If you order a dry martini, there will be less vermouth than usual, and extra dry martini has only a drop or two. 

Fizz: Ex: Gin fizz. When you say a drink will be a “fizz,” it means that a sour and a carbonated beverage will be added to the alcohol, such as seltzer or soda water. Sometimes, fizzes come with egg white, so you may want to inquire about this step.

Frozen: Ex: Frozen margarita. This means that your drink will be blended with ice so it will be slushy and not over ice. Bars don’t often have frozen drinks if they don’t have blenders, so be sure they do before ordering this. This is most common at restaurants. 

Neat: Ex: Whiskey neat. A “neat” drink means that it is poured into the glass straight from the bottle, with no ice or any other ingredients added. 

On The Rocks: Ex: Margarita on the rocks. This means your drink will be poured over ice!

Redbull: Ex; Vodka Redbull. This is pretty self-explanatory but it is interesting to note that you can order a drink with Redbull in it!

Soda: Ex: Gin soda. Adding soda to a drink adds carbonation and not much flavor. 

Sour: Ex: Vodka sour. When it comes to cocktails (and not beers), a sour cocktail has alcohol, an acidic element like lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener.

Straight up/Up: Ex: Up/Straight Up Martini. A straight-up or up cocktail is a chilled beverage with no ice.

Sunrise: Ex: Tequila sunrise. Ordering a sunrise means that you’re ordering a drink with orange juice and grenadine mixed in.

Tonic: Ex: Gin and tonic. Adding tonic to a drink adds carbonation but also a bit of a bitter flavor. Tonic water has a distinct taste that soda water doesn’t have.

Water: Ex: Whiskey and water. While this is another explanatory one, it is important to note that you can order water within a drink, like you’re watering down your choice of alcohol. 

Virgin: Ex: Virgin mimosa. Adding the word “virgin” to the beginning of the drink means that it will not contain any alcohol.

Starter Drinks

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Ok, now you’re ready to go to the bar! Do you have no idea where to start? Well, I have some recommendations for some easy starter drinks that you might like! These drinks are super easy to order, are self-explanatory (especially with our handy definitions above) and can help you find what flavors you like best!

Rum and Coke

Moscow Mule

Vodka Soda

Tequila Sunrise

Mai Tai



Pina Colada

Other Notes

Here are a few other notes I thought I would mention. First of all, it can seem super intimidating to even get a drink at the bar. There’s nobody who is going to come to wait on you, you’ll have to stride up to the bar and get the bartender’s attention. This is especially true if the bar is busy. Get in a line, get to the front and get their attention (politely). Second, whether you sit at the bar or not is a situational decision. If the bar is packed, you definitely do not want to sit right in the way. If you’re at a really casual bar, sit at the bar if you want to! Third, if you need water, some bars have water stations around, so look for those first before you go order one at the bar. And lastly, you can order other things at the bar like a soda or a coffee, don’t feel stupid for wanting just a coke.

I seriously hope this guide helped you so you know exactly how to order drinks at the bar. Let us know in the comments if you have any other tips or tricks.

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