15 Drinks That Are a Waste of Your Money at the Bar
When you head to the bar with friends, you probably already know what you want to order. But did you know you should never order certain drinks at a bar? Sure, you likely were aware that some popular cocktails should be off-limits if you’re watching your weight. But you should avoid spending your hard-earned dollars on other cocktails, too.
Check out the drinks that will give you the worst value for your money, whether you visit an upscale cocktail bar in the cool part of town or just kick back at the dive bar a few blocks from your place.
Thrillist spoke to bartenders about the cocktails they wish “would die a swift death.” One of the worst offenders? The mimosa, thanks to the poor quality of the ingredients most bars use to make them. Usually, the orange juice “sucks.” And the sparkling wine “is just whatever the bar is trying to get rid of.” One bartender even posited that the mimosa “is just an excuse for people who have never had the opportunity to try good sparkling wine to drink Champagne.”
Next: You’re basically drinking saltwater with this drink.
2. Dirty vodka martini
Plain (often cheap) vodka with the leftover juice from a jar — what a weird concept. But somehow it caught on and became a near-classic cocktail order. One bartender told Thrillist, “It’s inherently flavorless and awkward and no attempt to make it better has ever really stood out. You can make your own brine, you can add various bitters, tinctures, liqueurs, and so on… but they all kind of suck.” If you must make it, do it at home.
Next: Don’t trust the “house” with this drink.
3. House wine
Cheap house wine leads to a terrible hangover. Why the headache? Many people can’t handle a lot of sulfites, which is a preservative added to wine to keep it fresh, according to PureWow. Although sulfites stop oxidization, keeping wine fresh, it can kill your productivity the next day. Stick with a nicer, cleaner liquor you can sip on.
Next: The drink bartenders wish you wouldn’t order every winter
4. Moscow mule
Another drink Thrillist learned some bartenders hate? The Moscow mule. One told the website, “The Moscow mule is a drink that needs to die. The vodka does nothing to enhance the ginger beer other than add alcohol. A great cocktail is about a spirit and its blending components becoming more than the sum of its parts,” something that won’t happen with this drink.
Next: The cocktail that makes it obvious you just want to get hammered
5. Long Island iced tea
Serious Eats also consulted bartenders on the worst drinks in the book. One that didn’t surprise us? The Long Island iced tea. A bartender said, “Nothing good has ever come after ordering one of those.” Another said, “It seems like every time someone asked me for one of those, about half an hour later something terrible happened.”
Customers who want to get hammered like that this drink includes so many kinds of alcohol. (It uses triple sec, tequila, gin, vodka, and rum.) But a bartender tells Thrillist, “It’s a lot of booze, but usually the lower-shelf stuff — the well products. It gets thrown into the glass with not a lot of care or effort.”
Next: The drink no bartender wants to make on a busy night
A mojito sounds innocent. But when you order one, you’re unlikely to get the best drink the bar has to offer. One bartender tells Serious Eats, “I would really love if I never had to make mojito again. It’s time-consuming, and there so many different versions of it that it’s lost its originality.”
Another bartender explains to that he will usually “let them order the first one but when they come back for another, make a suggestion of something better and expand their palate.” Plus, PureWow learned most bars don’t use top-notch ingredients to mix up a mojito, instead relying on “out-of-season mint” and “crummy limes.”
Next: The cocktail that tells your bartender you’re stuck in the ’90s
As one bartender reports for Nylon, the only people who still walk into a bar and order a cosmopolitan “have watched too many episodes of Sex and the City and haven’t moved past 1999.” A little bit of nostalgia usually doesn’t hurt. But did you know when you order a cosmopolitan, you’re really just wasting your money?
“It’s basically an expensive vodka/cranberry martini that, no matter how many different ways you make it, just doesn’t taste that good.” A good alternative? A French 75, which includes vodka, gin, lemon, and Prosecco.
Next: The drink no bartender wants to make once brunch is over
8. Bloody Mary
A Bloody Mary might be your go-to drink, even when you’re not at Sunday brunch. But bartenders want you to stop. One tells Serious Eats, “I just don’t think anyone has business drinking those when it’s not in the weekend or in the morning. Bloody Marys should only see the light of day!” Nylon agrees, explaining, “Drinking a Bloody Mary at any other time than brunch should be considered a crime. No proper bar has all the fixings to properly dress a well-made Mary at all times of the day, and you’ll send your poor bartender scrambling to dig up their horseradish.”
Next: The super-sweet drink no bartender wants to serve you
If you want to enjoy a pricey cocktail, steer clear of the appletini. One bartender admitted to Serious Eats, “I think it is the most disgusting drink and honestly don’t understand why people continue to order it.”
Another is more pragmatic, explaining, “It may have had its place in the club scene in the early 2000s, but it’s run its course. Super sweet and brightly colored is always a bad sign.” And a third bartender suggests, “If you like apples, let’s go to Applejack (a truly American product without all the chemicals and sugar) or a Calvados.”
Next: The super basic cocktail you should just make at home
10. Rum and Coke
When you spend money to drink at a bar, you shouldn’t waste your hard-earned dollars on a drink you could easily mix up at home. The rum and Coke is one of the worst offenders. And, for the record, Nylon reports bartenders hate it when you order it as a “Cuba Libre” just to “sound intelligent and fancy.” The magazine reads, “In the age of fancy drinks, you could do way better than an expensive rum and Coke with a lime.” The same goes for a Jack and Coke.
Next: The drink that tells your bartender you don’t know what you’re doing
11. Amaretto sour
Thrillist learned the amaretto sour “is the drink where if someone orders it, we ask for their ID one more time.” That’s because the drink often consists of just amaretto and sour mix. That makes it a “safe” drink for people who don’t like the taste of strong liquors or beginning drinkers trying to get their bearings. But you’ll waste your money if you order an amaretto sour because the drink rarely tastes good. One bartender tells Thrillist, “It’s too cloyingly sweet, and is not a balanced drink.”
Next: The tiki drink almost no bar will make correctly
12. Mai tai
Some cocktails taste great when made correctly but seriously offend your taste buds when they aren’t made by the book. A bartender tells Serious Eats the mai tai is one of these. “The drink that is made in a lot of places that they call a mai tai, with a bunch of junk in it. It is not a mai tai, and I hope it goes away.” As one of the most famous tiki drinks, it’s traditionally attributed to Trader Vic’s. But you won’t encounter a true mai tai at your local bar.
Next: The cocktail you should never order once summer ends
We know this one will be controversial. But don’t take it personally, margarita fans. Everybody loves a good margarita. The problem: You can only count on a good margarita during the summer. Nylon explains that in the winter, “Most bars ditch the proper ingredients, and you basically end up with tequila and OJ. Do yourself a favor, and make a more weather-appropriate choice.”
Next: The college drink every bartender judges
14. Red Bull and vodka
Another drink your bartender probably thinks is an affront to good taste? The Red Bull and vodka. Seriously, the bartender serving one to you secretly thinks you need to grow up and pick another drink. One bartender tells Serious Eats he hates the “Red Bull and Vodka. Especially when it’s Grey Goose. I’ve been over that stuff for a long time.” Try a cocktail that’s actually made to taste good. Your taste buds will thank you.
Next: The drink that makes you look immature
15. Bomb drinks
Bomb drinks, like the boilermaker, involve dropping a shot into a beer. Few bartenders want to serve them to you — in part because the people who order them seem intent on getting wasted. But if you’re going to spend money at a bar like an adult, you should pick a more grown-up drink.
One bartender tells Serious Eats, “As a rule, I won’t make them — but I’m growing tired of explaining why. When you crack the glass or chip your tooth don’t come crying to me. Learn to drink like an adult!” Have some dignity, and stop ordering Jager bombs and Irish car bombs.
Next: The drink that’s often a wild card — in a bad way
16. Frozen drinks
PureWow learned most bartenders steer clear of frozen drinks — at least those served at other people’s bars. The reason why? “Those machines are rarely cleaned (yuck), and because bartenders keep adding mix and spirits to what’s already being churned, the ratios get thrown off.” The upshot? “By the time you’re ordering that blue raspberry margarita, who knows what is actually being swirled around in there.”
Next: The cocktail that might have you drinking expired milk
17. Milk-based drinks
Another category of drinks PureWow learned you should avoid? Any kind of milk-based cocktail. The site explains, “Bartenders loathe milk-based drinks for a few reasons. Top of the list is that most bars rarely use milk, so their supply is short, nonexistent or — worse — expired.” Want to cut your chances of drinking milk past its prime? Then, PureWow recommends you “save that White Russian for a cozy night in.”
Next: What you should order at the bar
What you should drink
The Huffington Post asked bartenders what they order when they’re not on the clock. Although responses varied, some popular picks included an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan, a Negroni, and a straightforward, high-quality Gin and Tonic. What do these cocktails (generally) have in common? They’re trustworthy and well-balanced.
Additional reporting by Ali Harrison.