Memorizing Drinks

Look.  This isn’t rocket science nor is it a dissertation at Dartmouth grad school on the finer points of global economics.  Anyone can memorize a couple of hundred popular drinks. It’s not difficult but a result of repetitious training of some kind including flash cards and/or making the drinks in practice over and over again.  It will sink in eventually.

Many, many years ago, I had the pleasure of initially training at some school at what was then a very seedy 8th Ave around the Port Authority bus terminal.  If you read my Training article, you’ll understand why I strongly believe you should get some formal bartending training.  Inany case, in class puffing on a cancer stick whilst teaching us a mock bar (yesyou could still smoke in an office building back then), was long scraggly haired Skeletor-faced Mikey ( I think – it was a long time ago).  He was the sort of teacher you’d dream of but rarely encounter; someone who “kept it real” and knew what to convey from the book and what writing was bullshit.  He taught you what you really needed to know based on decades of bartending in and around the City. 

Among many other invaluable practical tips, was one of memorization by association.  Nearly everynight I work with a colleague or service bartender, one of them will roll up onset and ask something like “what’s in a B52, Mai-Tai, or Harvey Wallbanger?”  Every spot has its regular drinks more orless but you will occasionally be challenged to unpopular or obscure drinkrequests.  You need to know yourbusiness. You’re a professional.  Thelast thing you want is to spit out an idiotic series of “um… um… umm.. ah…. I’llbe right back” then run off to your craptastic Mr. Boston “bible” or sit theregoogling the request on your iPhone. 

Flash cards work very, very will if you’re committed.  The easiest trick to remember drinks, just like many otherthings in life that need to be memorized, is by association.  Those trick classes and demonstrations yourimpressive motivational speakers and slick salesman perform asking 50 people’snames then rattling them all off 1 hour later without fail are performed byassociation.  So, without further ado,here are some real world examples – you can easily make up your own:

  • B-52: Kills Bad Guys: Kaluha, Baileys, Grand Mariner (in that order).  If this is straight up, it must be floated.  Don’t get lazy.  It defeats expectations especially on this drink.
  • Mai-Tai: Rum Sour To Go.  Rum, Sour Mix, Triple Sec, Orgeat (almond) syrup, Grenadine, O.J. Write it across a piece of paper and the following ingredients vertically corresponding to the letters of each word.  Again for the complacent set, shake it.  Anything with juice, sour mix in particular, must be shaken.
  • Anything up against the wall: Think the tallest bottle at the bar – always Galliano
  • With a bang: Means add vodka.  In other words, they want to get their buzz on a whole lot faster.  
  • Long Island Iced Tea: Keep the first 5 bottles of your well the same – always and you’ll have zero problems memorizing this one: vodka, rum, gin, tequila, triple sec.  I’ll go into specifics of this drink and alternate versions later.  However, add .5oz of each liquor above, .5oz of sour mix, shake and top with .5 – 1oz of cola.
  • Slippery Nipple: Sambuca and Baileys in that order (floated).  “S” for Sambuca.
  • Buttery Nipple: Butterscotch Schnapps (somewhat obviously) and Baileys in order again floated.
  • Mudslide: Just remember what it looks like – a mess or mudslide off a cliff: .5 – 1oz of the following: vodka, Kahlua, Baileys.  Pour the Baileys in last and slightly stir with a sip straw or stirrer.  Do not shake.  It’s supposed to look all marbled.  
  • Cosmopolitan: Care for some TLC: citron vodka, triple sec, lime juice, cranberry juice
  • Metropolitan: KTLC.  I have no idea why this works but I initially memorized it as a radio station call sign: Absolut Kurrant, triple sec, lime juice and cranberry juice.
  • Godfather: Shoots Assholes: Scotch + Amaretto.
  • Godmother: Visits Assholes in the hospital: Vodka + Amaretto.
  • French Connection: brandy or Cognac and Amaretto.  Think about the neighboring countries where Cognac and Amaretto originate from. This cocktail has an alternative recipe of brandy or Cognac and Grand Marinier.
  • Blowjob: Kahlua, Baileys floated and topped with whipped cream.  Obvious, no?
  • Bay Breeze: Vodka, pineapple juice, cranberry juice.  Pineapples grow in the bay, get it?
  • Sea Breeze: Vodka, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice.  Grapefruits do not grow in the bay.  They may but who really cares.  Just use the tip to commit it to the nether regions of your noggin.
  • Malibu Bay Breeze: half Malibu, half vodka, pineapple juice, cranberry juice.
  • Alabama Slammer: Makes you look like an A.S.S. – Amaretto, Sloe Gin, Southern Comfort + O.J.
  • Red Devil: Kamikaze + Alabama Slammer
  • Orgasm: Usually had on you B.a.C.K. – Baileys, Kahlua, Cream

I committed the following drinks to memory simply associating them together with one or two changes differentiating them:

  • Sex on the Beach: Vodka, Peach Schnapps (.3/4oz of each), cranberry juice and orange juice.
  • Woo Woo: leave out the orange juice from the Sex on the Beach.
  • Hairy Navel: leave out the cranberry juice from the Sex on the Beach.
  • Fuzzy Navel: leave out the vodka and cranberry juice from the Sex on the Beach leaving only Peach Schnapps and orange juice.  
There are numerous other examples of association with no right or wrong necessarily.  Make up your own.  Do what works for you. 

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