For most of us, the exposure to alcohol education came hard and fast during your high school and university days - which mostly involved cheap beer and liquors. The majority of people never went through a formal introduction to the different types of alcoholic beverages, what's in them, and how to order them.
Without a strong knowledge about all the drinks that could be had, ordering a drink at the local pub can be somewhat embarrassing if you don’t know how it’s done. Imagine ordering a martini and the bartender asking you “how would you like it?”, and innocently you reply “Shaken?”, just as James Bond did. Unfortunately, it isn’t a thing and the bartender was probably referring to whether you’d like it with gin or vodka.
So here’s how to order a drink at a local pub in Australia without the embarrassment.
If you’re unsure, just ask
You shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. You may feel like it’s dumb, but trust us when we say that you will feel more silly when you get it wrong because you were afraid to ask.
In the example above, a simple “what do you mean?” when asked how you’d like your martini would have saved the further awkwardness. Good bartenders will be more than happy to share their expertise with you, or otherwise, will at the very least hand you a menu so you can learn the basics of what’s being served.
Avoid using these questions
There are just some questions you shouldn’t ask. Here’s a list for example:
When ordering wine, don’t expect your glass to be full. So don’t ask the bartender “Why isn’t my glass full?”
Asking a bartender “What’s good here?” is basically setting you up for a comeback of “Everything”. A more accurate alternative would be to ask what their most popular drink is or what they’d recommend you.
Asking what’s cheap can be a tad embarrassing. Knowing how expensive drinks can be, you would be better off rephrasing the question as “do you guys have any specials available?”
If you’re ordering wine, price can often be a big concern. You could always hold up the menu and point to the price and ask for the sommelier to find a bottle similar to this one. They should pick up on the signal and recommend wine in that price range. If they don’t get it, it also doesn’t hurt to ask for wines within a price range.
Learn the lingo
Knowing some bar lingo will help you get far in a local Aussie pub. When asked if you’d like your drink “on the rocks” or “neat”, knowing the meaning will give you the advantage of ordering like a pro.
Here are some common lingo used in bars and pubs:
On the rocks - this means with ice
Neat - at room temperature without ice. Some may refer to this as “straight up” too. The term “neat” is commonly used in whiskey drinking.
Dirty - this means more olive juice in your martini, thus making it a dirty martini. The more olive juice you ask for, the dirtier your martini becomes.
Well drink - this tells the bartender there isn’t a preference in brand, and to give you the cheapest option
Schooner - these are glass sizes that serve 450mls of drink
Pot - these are glass sizes that serve 285mls of drink
Do your research beforehand
If you know where you’re going beforehand, it can pay off to check out the drinks menu online in advance to know what you’re getting into, pricing, and what your fancies are. Websites like Vinepair, Beer Advocate, and Wine Folly are all good places to get a better understanding of the different kinds of spirits, beer, and wine.
Stick to the basics
If in doubt, just stick to the basics. With so many options that can be overwhelming, it can always pay off to go with what you know.
Here are some basic drinks that can’t go wrong:
Ciders - these are fermented with yeast like beer and are made of fruit, just like wine. Ciders are great for the sweet tooth who doesn’t generally like the taste of beer or wine. Popular cider options include Strongbow and 5 Seeds, and most bars will likely have them in stock. If you like cider but find it a tad sweet, ask for a snakebite, which is a mix of cider and beer.
IPAs - also known as Indian pale ales, these have a more hoppy taste and can taste intense and bitter. Popular brands include 4 Pines and White Rabbit.
Wheat beer - an easier drink to get down, wheat beer doesn’t have the strong beer taste most beers are known for. Popular Aussie brands include Feral and Matilda Bay.
Merlot - one of the most popular red wines, Merlot is an easy drink to drink. It’s juicy flavours come in a combination of chocolate and cherries. When ordering Merlot in Australia, you can’t ever go wrong with a brand from Barossa Valley.
Cabernet Sauvignon - if you’d like to impress a wine snob, don’t order Merlot, as they’ll think it’s too basic. Instead, go for a Cabernet which is more aggressive in flavour. Just like the Merlot, you can’t go wrong with a Cabernet Sauvignon from Barossa Valley.
Whiskey soda, gin and tonic - these are pretty standard drinks of liquor and fizzy. If you prefer the taste of another liquor, just swap it out like a bourbon soda or vodka soda. It’s as simple as that.
Martini - traditional martinis are made with gin, but these days bartenders may ask how you’d like it, implying if you’d prefer vodka instead. They may also ask if you want it dry, which just means less vermouth making the martini more bitter. Want more vermouth? Ask for it wet. They may also ask if you’d like it shaken or stirred, where the former is done in a cocktail shaker and the latter is literally just stirred, resulting in a smoother drink.
Where to go for a drink in Mount Isa?
If you’d like to be shown the ropes of good quality drinks, head to the Isa Hotel to be impressed. Exceptional customer service means you won’t be embarrassed to ask the experts questions about the drinks being offered. It also means that whatever your folly, your drink is still going to taste amazing!
With a dedicated cocktail lounge, you can explore all the different flavours of cocktails (and amazing food) at the Isa Hotel.