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Ask A Bartender: What's the Strangest Drink You've Ever Encountered?

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Dan Carlson of Saul in Brooklyn [Photo: Brent Herrig]

Modern mixology spans all kinds of cocktails, from the most classic to the most avant-garde. But some drinks push past "interesting" and go straight to "bizarre." We asked bartenders across the country: What's the strangest drink you've ever encountered? Here's what they had to say.

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Richard Smith of Azu in Ojai

"We once had a guy come in and asked me to mix Jägermeister with olive oil, vinegar, and habanero hot sauce." — Richard Smith (Azu)

"I was at Cocktail Kingdom and [General Manager] Ethan [Kahn] gave me some stuff made from horse penis. It's either that, or Pepsi Clear." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

"A Smoking Jacket, at 1886 in South Pasadena, done with orange ash [as well as pot still Irish whiskey, 1886 tobacco bitters, and maplewood smoke]... It's deep, funky and yummy. I drank two." — Daniel Farr (The Eveleigh)

"It's got to be the blended white Zinfandel I made for a guest at my first bar gig. I remember this tall blonde walking up to the bar and I was thinking, "Oh she's probably going to order a Vodka Martini or something"... Hell no, she blew my mind with 'I'll take a blended white Zinfandel with whipped cream please.' Boom!" — Brian Means (Fifth Floor)

"Anything made from substances like bubble gum or salted caramel vodka, things like that. This whole trend is completely absurd to me, and, yes, I have tried them out of carnal curiosity. Drinks made with these completely baffle me." — Nikki Sunseri (Dominick's/ Little Dom's)

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Eddie Araugjo of The Terrace Bar in Chicago

"I had a guest request a drink with Southern Comfort, Green Creme de Menthe, and blue flame. The guest drank it with a straw really quickly before the straw melted in the fire. It was really dangerous and I won't make it again." — Eddie Araugjo (The Terrace Bar)

"There are as many regrettable concoctions as there are different tastes. But I've always been perplexed and disgusted by the Boilermaker. The whiskey's natural home is 4" to the left of your pint." —Dan Bronson, The Strand Smokehouse

"The strangest drink I've ever encountered was a 1 Liter Helles Chili Lager called "Burning Hell" at the Salm Brau brewery in Vienna, Austria. It was strange because it was crazy hot and out of balance... and it was strange because two random Australian gentleman bought it for me in Austria. That was a weird night." — Garrett Sweet (Perennial Virant)

"Basically any drink on the perverse part of the drink menu at Play, in the Museum of Sex in NYC. My friend Jim Kerns did some insane things. Some included: mushroom infused cachaca, popcorn infused white whiskey, duck fat-washed cognac. Crazy stuff but the drinks work really well together." — Jeremy Strawn (Bo's)

"I had a guest at my bar once ask me to shake Fruit Loop vodka, grenadine, and lime juice, to be topped with sparkling wine. It tasted bizarre but she loved it." — Allen Burton (A.G. Kitchen)

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Brandon Lockman of Red Star Tavern in Portland

"A guest once asked me for a dirty vodka martini—with onion brine instead of olive." — Brandon Lockman (Red Star Tavern)

"At Tales of the Cocktail a few years back I had a drink that was equal parts Rittenhouse rye, Cynar, Bonal, and grapefruit juice; it tasted like a full-bodied, heady red wine. The crew at Cure is always on top of their game, pushing boundaries." — Dan Carlson (Saul at the Brooklyn Museum)

"I'll never forget the first time I had a Trinidad Sour [with 1 1/2 ounces of Angostura Bitters]. I remembered reading about the recipe and being very perplexed by the large amount of Angostura used in the drink. Aside from the distinct and amazing flavor, the dark, cloudy scarlet look of the drink is unforgettable." — Beau du Bois (The Corner Door)

"Two come to mind. They were both designed to taste like quintessential American food; pancakes and syrup and PB&J. The pancake-flavored cocktail was on a brunch menu, and it clearly didn't stand out to me, as I only recall the name and not much else. The PB&J flavored cocktail was made of muddled blackberries, unsalted fresh nut butter, aged rum, honey water and crushed peanuts on the rim.  They nailed it, it tasted like a liquid PB&J, but definitely not like Mom used to make." — Nick Tarsi (Kachina Southwestern Grill)

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Christopher Longoria of 1760 in San Francisco

"A drink that infused mezcal with Kurobuta pork; chocolate and bacon bits were ingredients as well—talk about hard to swallow. I ordered it out of sheer curiosity and it certainly killed the cat." — Christopher Longoria (1760)

"I don't remember the name, but it definitely had squid ink in it..." — Jeremy Lake (Crossroads)

"An apple martini, because it will just never die. And every time you make a great substitute with real ingredients people still don't like it because they want the artificial colorings and flavors. I don't get it." — Paul Sanguinetti (Patina Restaurant Group)

"A friend of mine in college used to love sitting at the bar where his friends worked and make up drinks. His most long-lasting, and disgusting, was the Tankreydo, which consisted of crappy gin (most likely Banker's Club), Woodchuck Cider, and wheat beer from Boulevard Brewing Company. The wheat beer, admittedly, is delicious, but this concoction will definitely leave you wishing you'd just had a glass of water." — Zachary Svoboda (Ela)

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Chino Lee of Departure in Portland

"Well gin and Coke—no ice. I have no qualms with well gin, nor Coca-Cola. Just not together at room temperature." — Chino Lee (Departure Restaurant)

"I had a cocktail made with liquor infused with tarantulas when I was in Milan. The liquor itself was strangely sweet..." —Mike Ryan (Sable)

"I once sat next to someone who ordered a Fernet and Cream...that was certainly the strangest drink. I would also imagine not a very good one. To each their own, I guess." — Roger Bailey (Filini Bar and Restaurant)

Jen Queen of Saltbox in San Diego

"I drank something at El Dorado called a Hipster Tit. This peculiar concoction involved peach schnapps and cottage cheese. Yes, it was awful...it had peach schnapps and cottage cheese in it!" — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

"I would have to say an "Adios Mother****r" is always an interesting order, because everyone seems to have a different recipe for it, even though it is really a blue Long Island Iced Tea. I think people just like to say the name for shock value." — Kelsye Downs (LAVO)

"I think that the strangest drink I ever encountered was actually one I made: it had Luxardo Bitter, rum, Falernum, condensed milk, lime, and fire served in a coconut shell. It was surprisingly tasty, but looked like Pepto." — Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)

"I don't think the "strangest" doesn't necessarily mean bad. At Midnight Cowboy (my favorite place to drink in Austin, TX) they have, "The Joe Buck" which is a cocktail with mustard, corn whiskey and ginger beer. It's amazing and strange at the same time. Kinda like a first kiss." — Jeret Pena (The Brooklynite SA)

What's the strangest drink you've ever encountered? We want to hear about it!

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