If you’ve ordered a drink in the past decade you’ve probably noticed: Bartending has entered a golden age. And while there’s still room in our hearts for the kind of surly, whiskey-slinging bruisers that have tended dive bars for generations, we’re happy to see the art of mixing and serving drinks get its due.
Just as bartenders have evolved to become more knowledgeable and engaged with their craft, so too have bar patrons. We can sip cocktails compounded with bitters dispensed from eyedroppers and spindly Japanese trident barspoons. We can choose our pour of whiskey from massive lists of international brown spirits deep cuts. We can order beer brewed with moon dust or microbes from Etruscan tombs. And we can chat up our bartender with the kind of rigorous curiosity usually reserved for lecture halls.
But not every bar—nor every barkeep—can keep up. Pay attention and you might spot a few surefire signs: If your bartender mixes a classic daiquiri with bottled sour mix, or shakes a Manhattan (a drink that should invariably be stirred) it’s an indication you ought to stick to the basics. We talked to a few cocktail industry vets to suss out other harbingers of doom behind the bar.