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Put these tipples to the test and find out how your go-to bars fair

How do you know if a bar is serving great cocktails? For those of us who are not savvy and able to navigate between the nuances of the many spectacular cocktails featured on bar menus, we often stick to what we know. To learn and best equip ourselves for future happy hour sessions, Tatler wanted to find out what industry experts like these stellar bartenders order for themselves when heading to new bars and getting the lay of the land. What do they look for in new cities, or how do they vet new kids on the block in their own neighbourhoods? 

We speak to four mixologists to learn what their benchmark is to determine if a bar is worth its salt. Find out what they had to say, here: 

1. Kalel Demetrio

Co-founder of Agimat and Destileria Barako

What drink do you order when visiting new bars to judge the establishment and why that drink?

Normally, whenever I travel or try out a new bar I always order some classic cocktail such as a negroni, old fashioned, or whisky sour just to check how they execute and respect the classics.

I like gin though and so my favourite is a negroni, which is a simple recipe. If you can't execute it well then there is an 80 per cent chance that the bar might not be serious when it comes to cocktails.

I also like to try [a bar's] signature drink, if they have one. I also [check what] tools [the bar has], and [like observing] how bartenders present themselves.

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2. Kate Osmillo

Bar manager at Oto and owner of Pinny & Co 

Visit her Instagram, here

What drink do you order when visiting new bars to judge the establishment and why that drink?

I'm a big fan of the classic cocktails. Each time I visit a new bar, the first drink I always order is a negroni–a classic cocktail made with three ingredients: gin, bitter liqueur and sweet vermouth. It is served in a glass with a large chunk of ice and garnished with orange peel. This is the standard by which I judge a bar as creating this cocktail is a hit or miss proposition for a bartender.

Either you under-or over-stir it, which results in an extremely powerful or over-diluted cocktail. But if the bartender is skilled, it will be perfectly stirred. I've served hundreds of negronis in my time as a bartender. It really takes time and effort to get good at it, just like anything else. When I make a cocktail, the first thing I do is taste it, but not in the customer’s glass (of course, haha!). 

The daiquiri is my second choice if I'm not in the mood for a boozy cocktail. It's a refreshing classic drink with three ingredients: rum, lime, and sugar. The cocktail is shaken and served in a coupe or nick-and-nora glass. This drink is well-balanced, as you can taste the base, sweetness, and tartness all at once. Of course, it must be well shaken for dilution and it must be chilled enough to be served without ice.

(A pet peeve of mine is when you use a second-day old lime…you will definitely get a bitter aftertaste.)

For me, knowing and nailing the classics is critical in this profession. Always begin with the basics and everything will be achieved flawlessly. That is why for my second round, I’d order the bar's signature cocktail, to see what else they have to offer. [This will help me] judge their creativity, as well as the technique and process applied.

I love visiting bars and have had the opportunity to travel to seven countries because of my profession. New bars always provide me with new experiences and knowledge that I may utilise, share, or incorporate into the creation of another cocktail for others to enjoy.

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3. Aaron Goodall

Program development manager for Don Papa Rum and brand ambassador of Santa Ana Gin

Visit his Instagram, here 

What drink do you order when visiting new bars to judge the establishment and why that drink?

Personally, if I’m sitting up at the bar, I love starting with a classic daiquiri–just rum, lime and sugar shaken with ice. It’s definitely a pretty straightforward order but should get the bartender talking to you. Usually, they’ll ask about your preference for the rum, and this can be a great conversation starter or a way to explore new rums you might not have tried before. 

The daiquiri is a cocktail that also allows you to see how the bartender or bar system works; whether they use syrup for the sugar element, or go that traditional route of muddling in sugar crystals with the lime juice... plus being a straightforward cocktail, it shouldn’t take too long to make! As I try more and more daiquiris at different bars I see and taste how each is different, whilst still having a great classic sour cocktail.

If you’re a fan of sour and tart cocktails, see if your bartender can make you a Hemingway daiquiri; cherry liqueur replaces the sugar, and pink grapefruit juice adds an extra tart dimension. Definitely, a cocktail living up to the famed author’s name!

See also: These are the Best Philippine-Made Chocolate Brands

4. Rian Asiddao

Brand ambassador at Diageo and owner of Bar by East

Visit his Instagram, here.

What drink do you order when visiting new bars to judge the establishment and why that drink?

[I would] definitely some classic cocktails such as a negroni, a highball, or a whisky sour. All bars have different styles in creating cocktails but a classic should be at least almost the same in taste [no matter where you are]. It should just boil down to the spirit brands, vessel, bar tools, garnish, and even ice that they are using.

So why these cocktails?

Negroni is a standard, with equal parts of three ingredients plus dilution from stirring it with ice. With this cocktail, we can see how the bartender showcases the balance of flavours and dilution. I also check where they place their opened vermouths (it should be in the chillers).

A highball is another simple template and it’s all about a good proportion. A recommended ratio is one. part spirit, to three parts mixer. With this cocktail, the bartender can highlight his skills in pouring and mixing with a proper ratio, take note that this cocktail is meant to be light, long, and refreshing.

With a whisky sour the bartender would be able to showcase some techniques like shaking. The output that we want is a cocktail that is still balanced, bold, and flavourful. Shaking a cocktail makes it bright and vibrant. I also want to see and taste [its components] in the serve.

Lastly, not a cocktail but something that is very important for me is water. When the bartender gives water upon sitting at the bar, it gives me a feeling that he/she will take good care of me as I drink in their bar.


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