When you go to a great bar, you know what to order. Whether it's a vintage Champagne, locally brewed beer, or the joint's signature molecular gastronomy cocktail, you know you're getting a great drink of some sort.
But what about when you aren't at a destination bar? When you're just looking for a drink before a concert, when you're on the road and looking for anywhere to rest your weary feet, or when you need to whet your whistle in a dodgy part of town? That's where the rest of the bars come in. Not just the dive bars — the questionable bars; the ones that pop up in touristy locations; the ones that look really old or like they try too hard. You know the type.
What do food and drink people order when they find themselves in these locales? Here's what we found out.
1. Katie Walsh, Food Writer
"Beer — I'll always go for draught first. Usually a Dos is a good bet. In Texas you can't go wrong with a Shiner. If it's bottles and cans only, only dark glass or a can. I think green and clear bottles are prone to go "skunky," as my pops says, from sitting in the warehouse too long. Outside of that I look for local breweries."
2. Jenn Laughlin, Peas and Crayons
"I default to the humble Screwdriver. Vitamin C FTW!"
Today for #kitchnhappyhour @withfoodandlove created this little beauty. Care to drink with us? The Sparkling Salty Dog Serves: 1 1 ounce gin or vodka 2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice 2 ounces club soda coarse sea salt ice Rim a cocktail glass with salt, and fill it with ice. Pour in your preferred spirit, and top with grapefruit juice and club soda. Stir, and serve!
3. Cat Bowen, Reader Eater
"Vodka tonic or salty dog. Both are hard to screw up."
4. Leiti Hsu, Journy Founder
"Boilermaker (shot of whiskey with a beer as a chaser) does wonders."
5. Hank Shaw, Cookbook Author and Food Writer
"Maker's Mark with one ice cube. Or Schlitz. Or both."
6. Melissa Kravitz, Food Writer
"Shirley Temple with vodka."
7. Yvo Sin, Feisty Foodie
"If the place at least has bitters, they can always whip up a bitters soda."
8. Layla Khoury-Hanold, Food Writer
"My safety is a vodka tonic. That drink isn't that tasty to begin with anyway so I'm never disappointed, but most bars, even the bad ones, at least have fresh limes. Ask for your vodka of choice (steer clear of well) and ask for extra limes to help cut the bitterness of whatever tonic they're working with (you may get soda from a soda gun anyway)."
9. Sarah Polite, NYC Foodie Finder
"My go-to favorite drink is a gin and tonic. There is always normally a decent gin at bars no matter the dive."
10. Julia Cearley, Mixologist and Bar Program Creator
"Never anything with a mixer or garnish, as nothing in a dive is bound to be fresh. I don't imagine their bartenders are showing up early to prep fresh herbs or juices. But their pours are rarely stingy. So, depending on their selection, I'lI usually go for a scotch neat or a vodka on the rocks."
11. Tara De Lis, Tastemade
12. Geraldine Campbell, Managing Editor for Kitchn
"Rye on the rocks. Almost any bar has a decent whiskey selection, and I prefer rye whiskey (over, say, bourbon)."
What's your favorite safety drink to order at a not-so-great bar? Let us know in the comments!