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Not what you thought you ordered. What to do?

You're having dinner in a restaurant and you order a specific cocktail. The server brings it to your table and it's obvious that the bartender has interpreted the recipe differently from what you were expecting. The ingredients might even be correct, but mixed in an odd way that no other bartender has served it.

What do you do? Send it back? Drink it even though you're unhappy with it? Do you take the time to give your server the recipe every time you order it so there is no misunderstanding?

PS. I'm still looking for the St Germain cocktail that was recommended on this board. I've been to 3 very nice, fine dining establishments in my state. Not only do they not serve it; they've not heard of it.

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  1. I would send it back and ask them whether they can remake it (with more of ingredient X or less of ingredient Y, etc). However i've found that even when you give them the recipe, they often ignore the proportions and just pour indiscriminately instead of measuring, so they tend to overpour the cheaper, more common components of the drink and underpour the more obscure components, messing up the balance.

    1. I typically just don't order another one. Where are you located by the way?

      1. Are you talking about A St. Germain cocktail? Or THE ST. Germain Cocktail? To be honest. I've never seen The St. Germain Cocktail on any cocktail menu. It is the signature cocktail created for St. Germain. But that doesn't mean it has general acceptance with mixologists, or is even any good.

        The recipe for The St. Germain Cocktail is:

        2 oz sparkling or dry white wine
        2-1/2 oz st. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
        2 oz sparkling water

        Stir all ingredients in a tall, ice filled Collins glass, mixing completely.

        3 Replies
          1. re: Icantread

            More often than not I will just drink it and order something else next go round. In the case of what happened to my friend last night, (ordered a Grey Goose martini but was given a Grey Goose Pear flavored martini....ack, tasted like bananas) I would have to send it back as it was undrinkable!

          2. re: JMF

            ooops, I meant 1-1/2 oz St Germain

          3. Last time this happened to me I sent it back and got a beer. Reason being that they were so far off the mark and the drink was disgusting. The place in question was in Toronto and had a cocktail menu. I ordered a Between the Sheets, listed as one of their signature cocktails. What I got was something neon green and fizzy served on the rocks in a pint glass. As soon as it showed up I told the waitress this wasn't what I'd ordered, and she said that this is how they make the drink. I tried a small test sip to make sure it wasn't some amazing modification of the original. It wasn't, so back it went. Nothing wrong with doing that, in my opinion. If there are more or less established ways of making a drink and some bartender decides to riff, it's their problem if I don't accept it.

            Another time I was at a restaurant in Seattle called Sazerac and of course wanted to try a Sazerac there... I didn't send the drink back that time, but was so annoyed by the experience that I posted about it on Chow a bit later...


            1 Reply
            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              If it's way off the mark and you're at a nice restaurant send it back when the waitress asks how everything is. After that order something simple like a beer or wine like davis_sq_pro suggests. A restaurant with good service is going to wnat you to be happy and will be happy to replace your drink.

              With that being said, if the bartender doesn't know how to make the drink or has never heard of it and you ask that they still make it - I think you're stuck with it. Go with something they're known for or good at mixing.

            2. Help the bartender who may never has heard of any such concoction, if unable, get something easy. Never assume that every bartender has heard of everything, especially if it is new or unique to a resto or bar. Most tenders want to learn new things, most of us are nice guys/girls

              1. I have done both -- sent it back or kept it -- depending on how palatable the end result was. In the last year I've ordered a Manhattan in at least three places that instead simply served me Bourbon straight up in a cocktail glass. (Also known as a "Martini glass.") No Vermouth, let alone bitters. One of the places was an old fashioned steak house in Los Angeles where I would have assumed the bartender would have known better. I sent it back, telling the waiter that it didn't have any vermouth in it. You guessed it, it came back about half vermouth and tepid at that. (Clearly the bartender just poured a quick shot of vermouth in). Blecch. I sent that back and had a glass of wine instead.

                Another place did it to me twice -- a chain, but a nice one, Houston's. Big bar crowd, prime cocktail hour, and again, no vermouth, just Bourbon. I sent it back both times and it then came back properly made from scratch. Other times I've been to the same place at the same time and had no problem.

                More recently, I had it happen at a major barbeque chain, but just kept the chilled straight shots of Makers Mark in a cocktail glass that they brought me when I'd ordered a Manhattan. My expectations were low anyway, the price was cheap and the bourbon fine.

                Worse ever miscue was when I ordered a Negroni at a fairly good Italian place and received Sprite mixed with Campari. Not bad, maybe even a fair summer spritzer, but not a Negroni. I didn't send it back though. But I switched to wine the next round.

                8 Replies
                1. re: BHAppeal

                  I think most bartenders think of a Manhattan as a "whiskey Martini" and treat it the way they would the typical dry Martini: tiny dash of vermouth, way too much base spirit, no bitters.

                  This reminds me of a recent video I saw online somewhere, where the instructor/bartender said that a Mint Julep can be considered nothing more than a whiskey Mojito. Umm, OK... Don't make me a Mojito OR a Mint Julep, please...

                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                    Exactly my experience as well, re the "whiskey martini". Usually what I'll do if the first one comes out that way is tell them that I want about 30% sweet vermouth and a few dashes of bitters. They don't always have bitters, and sometimes I still get dry vermouth, but it's better. It's also amazing how many odd looks I get when I say that. "I thought you wanted a manhattan?"

                    1. re: jgg13

                      Maybe you can do something else if they don't have bitters. For example, I'm in the habit of adding a dash of Benedictine to my Manhattans (which turns them into a Trader Vic drink called The Preakness). The Benedictine is pretty spicy on its own and might work as a stand in for the bitters if they happen to have some... But of course, if they don't have bitters they probably won't have that either.

                      By the way, if you're a Manhattan fan I highly recommend trying the Benedictine--just a tiny amount, maybe 1/4 oz. It performs some kind of cocktail alchemy and turns a fantastic drink into an absolutely perfect one... Tread with caution if you don't want to drink two or three!

                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        I've been a B&B fan for a while (particularly when made by hand w/ Benedictine and a nice Brandy!) but had never thought about adding it to a Manhattan. I went to Drink here in Boston (I'm assuming from your name that you're a local here, perhaps not) and had their signature drink, the "fort point" which was a riff on the rye manhattan, including benedictine - and that was great. Also was introduced to the vieux carre cocktail which was another winner w/ benedictine.

                        As you say though, if a place doesn't have bitters, they're unlikely to have benedictine (although I *have* seen places that have B&B, but that's not the same)

                        1. re: davis_sq_pro

                          good drink, surprising. more subtle change than i expected, but does seem to add something that wasn't there.

                          1. re: aventinus

                            with one more ingredient (Amer Picon or the equivalent), it would be a Creole cocktail, a great drink http://underhill-lounge.flannestad.co...

                        2. re: jgg13

                          It's kind of weird, as frequently, when I order a dry manhattan( sometimes ordered up with an olive) I get one made with sweet vermouth, just a little less, and one time when the waitress showed up with one clearly made with sweet vermouth, there nestled next to my requested olive sat a maraschino cherry. Needless to say, I sent that one back. I have taken to specifying the recipe when I order. Even if it makes me appear unduly particular, it sames everyone time and annoyance.I also ask ahead whether they have any rye to make it with, and alter my request if the answer is no.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            It's fully that you have had that experience, since frequently when I used to order a dry Manhattan(which I like made with 4:1 rye to dry vermouth, and no bitters unless they have some orange bitters and then a drip, stirred and served up)served up with a twist, or sometimes with an olive, I'd get a regular Manhattan, only with a little less sweet vermouth. Once I even got it served with the requested olive and a maraschino cherry sitiing there in the glass next to the olive. Now I risk the chance of being thought snooty or pedantic and ask the server to relay the recipe to the bartender, after first asking if they have any rye. If they do, I usually can rely on the fact that the bartender will have a clue. It's just one of those observed associations that if a place will bother to stock rye, they'll likely have a bartender that knows his or her way.

                      2. I also would send it back and order a beer!!! I've been a bartender off and on for 25 years(I'm OLD) and still get so irritated that some bars/bartenders don't/won't realize that drinks have specific recipes. They have to for continuites sake...If you want to add S&S to a vodka tonic with lime then @#$%#@ call it something else!!!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: denisie

                          Finally, a server last week who knew about St ~ Germain and who could explain why I've been unable to find it.

                          She said they do not yet have a distributor for it in our state. Her restaurant will stock it as soon as it becomes available. In the mean time, she says I can order it online (expensive) or buy it in New York.

                          1. re: HickTownBarnaby

                            The St. Germain website lists 15 US States (and Wash DC) where it is available for sale: AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, MA, MD, NC, NJ, NV, NY, OR, PA, RI, TX.

                            Enter the website and look under the "Dialogues" heading for "Where to buy" info, and it lists retailers/distributers in each state.

                            1. re: HickTownBarnaby

                              If you can get your hands on some, go for it. It's a great buy. I've tried making a number of cocktails on the St.-Germain website. All have been big hits.

                            2. re: denisie

                              it annoys me that seemingly upscale bars won't have, e.g., angostura bitters. a bottle that will make a zillion drinks costs $6. why can't these places take the de minimis effort needed to make decent cocktails? apparently most people don't care so long as they can get their vodka of choice in some drink whose components they don't know, but i'm sure more than 1% care.

                            3. One time a bartender duo in a rather elegant place informed me, contemptuously, when i complained that they had given me a glass of icy bourbon, that a manhattan doesn't have vermouth, and why didn't i ask for bourbon with vermouth? i swear to god--they just shook up some bourbon and ice and strained it, and then had the nerve to belittle me.

                              I just make my own cocktails these days.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: aventinus

                                As a manhattan drinker, I suffer with you all. I had another horrible all-bar-bourbon manhattan last night. It's one thing when it's in a dump and you expect the worst, but in a real restaurant or bar it's unforgiveable -- and lately $10-15. Simple training is just out the window. The problem with a drink like a manhattan or a martini is that they're just so perfect at cocktail hour and it's hard to order something else even if you know it's going to be horrible.