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What Not to Do in a Bar

If you've ever stood in line at a busy bar on a Friday night, you know how important bar etiquette is. Play your cards right, and you'll get refills quickly and maybe even a buyback or two. Next time you're in your favorite watering hole, remember these tips and get the most out of your big night out.

Know Your Order

On a busy night, don't order until you know exactly what you want. When there are five people behind you waiting to get a simple beer, they don't want to hear you ask, "What's in a margarita, again?" or "What kind of bourbons do you have?" when the answers are on your smartphone or the wall behind the bartender.

Keep your order simple and fast, and you'll reduce confusion and lost time. If it's a quiet night, strike up a conversation with your bartender and ask away - but be respectful of his or her time, and be understanding when another patron approaches with a drink order.

Know Your Definitions

If you're new to spirits, then it's important to sling your terminology properly. "Straight up" or "up" means a cocktail that's shaken or stirred over ice and then strained into the glass. For example, a martini or margarita. "Neat" is a single liquor served without shaking, stirring or chilling. Sometimes, "straight" and "neat" are used interchangeably. It's how many people order a whiskey drink.

"On the rocks" means served over ice, and "with a twist" means served with a citrus rind. If you want a chilled drink without ice watering down the product, ask the bartender if whiskey stones are available. Cold whiskey stones chill the drink without diluting the liquor.

Know Your Liquors

Aging is the process by which vintners and distillers mellow their product. Wine, whiskey, tequila and rum are commonly aged in small oak wooden barrels that infuse tannins into the product. As time passes, harshness dissipates and the wood's natural flavor blends with the spirit to create a mellower, more complex product.

If you're planning to order a mixed drink - especially one with juice, such as a margarita - don't ask the bartender to use a premium aged spirit. The intense mixer flavors will mask the quality of the spirit. An exception to this rule of thumb is if you choose to add a "floater" to your mixed drink. A floater is a shot of neat spirit added to the top of a prepared cocktail.

In general, the longer a spirit or wine is aged, the smoother and higher quality it will be. It will also be more expensive, so make sure you know what you're getting into price-wise before you loudly order a glass or bottle of the "best whiskey in the house."

Know Your Limits

Want to try something new? Great! But before you accidentally order something you might hate - and that might embarrass you on your first date with your hot new friend - know your limits. Ask the bartender what the house cocktail is, then choose based on the ingredients. If you can't stomach tequila or whiskey just isn't your thing, opt for a tried-and-true favorite you know you'll enjoy and figure out what to drink later.

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