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Old 02-25-2019, 09:14 PM
 
Location: Crook County, Illinois
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In the past---and by that, I mean for several years after turning 21---I used to enjoy trying mixed drinks in bars. Mostly just to experience what's out there. But over time, I got kind of jaded with it. Outside of old standbys, like a Moscow Mule or a Dark and Stormy, I find that most mixed drinks taste really weak and watered down. They taste like fruit juice at best, or plain water at worst, as opposed to the liquor in them. Which makes them a really bad value for the money, with many costing $10 or more. The worst offenders are temporary bar setups at singles' parties; their mixed drinks are pretty much just fruit juice with ice. The only places where I can actually taste the liquor in mixed drinks are on a cruise ship, at venues with a young lively crowd, or in bars where I'm a regular.

Sure, I may occasionally get something that fits the theme just for fun, even if I know it's weak, like a Sea Breeze in a tiki bar, an Irish Car Bomb at a St. Patrick's Day bar crawl, or a weird umbrella drink on a cruise. But by and large, I now stick to beer or shots. There's no way those can be watered down, unless the bartender is really unethical.

So, are mixed drinks made weak intentionally, to keep people from overdrinking, to increase profits while using less liquor, or both? Or are normal mixed drinks supposed to taste that way?
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Old 02-25-2019, 09:22 PM
 
Location: Middle America
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Mostly, yes. It's primarily a profits issue.

There are a few old school cocktail bars in this city that pour a stiff drink, but you pay out the nose.

We tend to do cocktails at home.
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Old 02-26-2019, 12:44 AM
 
Location: San Antonio/Houston
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Bartenders ripping you off - from pouring less than the full amount of liquor you were charged for to watering down drinks and even secretly giving you a cheaper brand than you ordered. While most bartenders are honest and don't employ these tricks, there is a small minority that do.
They probably sense that you are an easy target.

It can come down to what and how you order. If they notice that you have trouble telling the difference between top-shelf vodka and the cheap stuff, some bartenders might try to charge you for the Grey Goose you wanted, but pour you a glass of something more like Nikolai.

It's so much easier to cheat on mix drinks than on neat ones.
Diluted liquor, cheap substitute, crushed ice - that's how to make fast money on gullible customers.
The only thing the bartender can't tamper with in a bar, is bottled beer.

Know your stuff and pay attention to what they are doing. And be a great tipper. From my experiences mixed drinks poured by a familiar, generously tipped bartender have never been weak.

BTW: Moscow mule is a drink that needs to die. The vodka does nothing to enhance the ginger beer other than add alcohol.
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Old 02-26-2019, 04:34 AM
 
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My wife and I have recently gotten into cocktails (by recently, I mean the past 2~3 years) and tend to try someplace new everytime we go out (so, 4 or 5 times a year). While we haven't Really noticed much in the way of weak drinks, those we have encountered have all been from lower-tier establishments. Given the number of times we go out, we tend to research our planned outings to death and are rarely disappointed.



The best drinks I've had, have all been from places that were less than hopping. From a hotel bar in NYC where my wife and I were the only 2 there (they comped 2 of the 4 drinks, and chatted up the very bored barman for over an hour), to a sorta dive-ey looking "bar, restaurant, convenience store" at a wide-spot in the road in the middle of New Mexico... who had a lot more business than the NYC bar.



But, like TabulaRasa, 90% of our cocktails are assembled and consumed within our own home. For us, the desired experience is the drink itself, not the atmosphere of where it's being served (quite frankly, that's usually a negative thing anyway). Having been doing this at home, I think that most cocktails seem "watered down" because the size of glass used is too big for the drink being made and the bartender compensates with ice/juice/soda/etc. Even with vintage glass that's physically smaller, one drink (say a Margarita, which is common in our house) looks like just barely a splash ~ we have to double most established recipes to get the volume expected while retaining the right ratios of everything.
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Old 02-26-2019, 05:21 AM
 
Location: Crook County, Illinois
3,493 posts, read 1,596,603 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elnina View Post
Bartenders ripping you off - from pouring less than the full amount of liquor you were charged for to watering down drinks and even secretly giving you a cheaper brand than you ordered. While most bartenders are honest and don't employ these tricks, there is a small minority that do.
They probably sense that you are an easy target.

It can come down to what and how you order. If they notice that you have trouble telling the difference between top-shelf vodka and the cheap stuff, some bartenders might try to charge you for the Grey Goose you wanted, but pour you a glass of something more like Nikolai.
When drinking in a bar, I rarely care for the liquor brand. In fact, I usually say "house" or "standard" when specifying one. So being charged for a Grey Goose and getting a Skol is a non-issue. It's the watered-down drinks that irk me. Hey, it's annoying to order a rum and Coke, and only taste the Coke.

Although, speaking of easy target, that could have been it: I was still a baby-faced 20-something, which made me fair game, I guess. Today, I might get good mixed drinks, for all I know. But once bitten, twice shy. I now drink those at home or at someone's house party. Very rarely, I get them in a bar, and only with a really good special.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian_M View Post
Having been doing this at home, I think that most cocktails seem "watered down" because the size of glass used is too big for the drink being made and the bartender compensates with ice/juice/soda/etc.
That's another good explanation. Makes me think I should have asked for smaller glasses. But in my experience, even drinks in short (lowball) glasses sometimes tasted weak, although it was less frequent than for drinks in tall (highball) glasses.

Last edited by MillennialUrbanist; 02-26-2019 at 05:36 AM..
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Old 02-26-2019, 05:57 AM
 
Location: Coastal Georgia
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I learned a lot about bar science by watching Bar Rescue. A good bartender knows how to measure accurately, and balance the other ingredients so the customer will be able to buy more than one drink without becoming too drunk.

I also learned that there are a lot of bartenders who don’t know what they’re doing. I stick to Manhattans and martinis, but they even manage to screw those up sometimes.
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Old 02-27-2019, 10:07 AM
 
Location: Mars City
5,091 posts, read 2,139,636 times
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I've noticed a difference in regionality. Places that are lame socially and culturally nearly always have weak drinks. Places that are fun and dynamic tend to have strong drinks.

I bet the weak drinks you experience are where you are located.
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Old 02-27-2019, 11:55 AM
 
Location: Crook County, Illinois
3,493 posts, read 1,596,603 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thoreau424 View Post
I bet the weak drinks you experience are where you are located.
That's a good point. Now that I look back, weak drinks always came from glitzy, snooty, fancy bars/clubs. The ones with a $20 cover, $7 Miller Lites, laser lights that hurt your eyes, surly bouncers, and arrogant women on the dance floor. Conversely, plain, divey joints generally had good drinks (and a friendlier crowd too). But by the time I learned that, I got jaded about mixed drinks from bars.
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Old 03-03-2019, 10:03 PM
 
Location: Texas
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They seem strong here in Austin but you pay a lot for the strong, good liquors.
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Old 03-05-2019, 01:45 AM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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The thing I've noticed is that it's more the case for lower-end establishments compared to upper end ones. Upper end restaurants and bars tend to serve strong drinks.
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