Mike Stankovich of Longfellow in Cincinnati (Credit: Catie Viox)
When Ladles owner Sarah Nicholas and her husband frequented their favorite bar in New York, the bartender would serve her a Hugo spritz, and a lager for Evan. It seemed to fit their personalities. Sarah is a trained chef, and elderflower liqueur appeals to a sophisticated palate. Her husband Evan is an FBI agent and sports fan, and just loves a good beer.
It begs the question: Are bartenders sizing us up based on what we order? I knew just who to ask. Mike Stankovich may look like a hipster bartender at one of those reclaimed wood and Edison lights-type establishments, but make no mistake. He is a tastemaker and cultural juggernaut. Just ask the New York Times, GQ, Boston Herald, and the countless news outlets that have paid their respects. He's also been my friend for over 25 years. Stankovich now owns Longfellow, a neighborhood bar in Cincinnati with a devoted following.
"It's not what the customers order. It's how they order a drink," he insists. "I like it when someone comes in, and knows how they like their cocktails made. Some bartenders may be offended that someone likes it prepared a bit differently, but I respect that." Some pet peeves include leading a drink order with the mixer, followed by a generic liquor request. "Sometimes people will come in and ask for a Coke and whiskey. We have many kinds of whiskey, so it's best to lead with the liquor."
When I asked him to name certain drinks and the types of people who order them, he demurred. After 25 years, he's decidedly less snarky and judgmental as the guy I met as a teen. Not to mention he has a business to run. "I'll name three cocktails people order that tend to make me think highly of them," he offered. "The Negroni, gin and tonic, and a Manhattan." Why? "They're straightforward and classic."
Below are a few outtakes from bartenders who have no hesitation sharing their opinion on what you order, and what it says about you:
- Old Fashioned: You've been streaming Mad Men (various sources)
- Vodka Martinis: Highly successful, highly functional alcoholics.” - David Bumba, Yuzu, Lakewood, OH
- Whiskey Sour: “I may or may not be 21.” - Kayla Quigley, Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar, Boston, MA
- White Russian: “Respectable by my standards.” - Jane Danger, Mother of Pearl, New York, NY
- Long Island Iced Tea: “We didn’t have your first two requests of Fireball and Goldschläger.” - Brandy Feit, Headwaters, Portland, OR
- Mojito: “You're probably a cool cat looking for something refreshing. Just please don't crush it faster than I can make it; these things take time.” - Ted Vong, TAG Restaurant, Denver, CO
- Cosmopolitan: “Where's the rest of the bachelorette party!?” — Justin Nelson, Plan Check Kitchen + Bar, Los Angeles, CA
- “Moscow Mule: "You have a subscription to both Better Homes & Gardens and Sunset. You have strong opinions on how lime wedges should be cut.” — Drew Record, Mister Jiu's, San Fransisco, CA