Want to Know How Good a Bar Is? Order This One Tricky Drink
A bartender prepares a cocktail in Bolivia (Photographer: Marcelo Perez del Carpio/Bloomberg)

Want to Know How Good a Bar Is? Order This One Tricky Drink


(Bloomberg) -- At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we’re doing it right. So we’re talking to globetrotters in all our luxury fields—food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate—to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.

Charlotte Voisey is director of brand advocacy for William Grant & Sons, the family-owned Scottish distillery that counts brands such as Hendrick’s and Balvenie in its portfolio. A former bar manager, she travels across the U.S. promoting the portfolio, whether on television or doling out cocktails from behind the bar.  She’s also chairperson of this year’s Spirited Awards, the cocktail world’s answer to the Oscars, which will be given out during the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival beginning this week in New Orleans.

Voisey flies 150,000 miles every year, traveling almost exclusively on OneWorld carriers, particularly American Airlines and British Airways.

You can test the caliber of any bar (or bartender) by ordering this one drink.

Want to Know How Good a Bar Is? Order This One Tricky Drink

The first drink in a bar new to you should always be a daiquiri. Order one if you want to test the bartender. It’s one of those drinks that a great bartender makes flawlessly and correctly. It’s your unwritten handshake, marking you as an insider—you’ll never look or sound stupid ordering a classic daiquiri. Of course, if the bartender says the blender is broken, there’s your answer: You’re definitely in the wrong place. But if he or she makes you a drink the classic way—it should always be hand-shaken [in a shaker with ice, not blended]—you can see instantly how good the person is. Daiquiris are a fine balance of three ingredients, and getting the blend right is very hard. If it’s too sweet, for example, you know the bartender has a heavy hand with sugar, so you should ask him or her to go light on sugar for your next drink. If you want to know how a classic daiquiri should taste, as a baseline I recommend Mace, the NoMad Bar, or BlackTail, all in New York.

Bring this one easy ingredient,  and you’ll be able to make a killer cocktail almost anywhere.

Want to Know How Good a Bar Is? Order This One Tricky Drink

The biggest obstacle to making drinks on the go is what you can and can’t bring with you. Airport security officials confiscated a muddler from me once because they thought it looked like a baseball bat.  Liquids are difficult, and knives are very difficult. You can’t ask to borrow one on a plane because the airlines don’t have [sharp] ones, either. The secret is in being prepared. Before I go, I cut half a dozen lemons in half and throw them in a ziplock bag to take with me so I can whip out my citrus press or, if I don’t have one, just use my hands. You can either squeeze the lemons into a glass of water for a vibrant wake-up drink, or you can pretty much make any classic cocktail. Get some sugar from the flight attendant, then add gin—you have a gimlet on the rocks. Tequila? It’s a margarita. You can make a sidecar with cognac, lemon, and sugar. You can even make a French 75 if you’re lucky enough to get some Champagne.

The secret to keeping jet lag at bay is the same as the one for keeping the doctor away.

On long-haul flights, hydration, of course, is key. But you can’t just sit and drink water all the time or you’ll forever need to use the bathroom, which isn’t always convenient or comfortable. A friend of mine from New Zealand always jokes that anywhere is a 10-hour flight from there—long-haul flying is something he does a lot. He told me to take apples when I travel to stay hydrated. About 80 percent water, apples are a shortcut—an easy-to-pack, easy-to-eat, superhydrating snack option for travel. When I fly overnight, I pack two: one to eat when I get on the plane and the other when I wake up (breakfast in economy isn’t very exciting). An apple makes me feel a bit more perky. Just remember to toss any extras out before going through customs, because most international borders don’t allow [fresh] fruit across.

The best bar in Atlanta? Try the airport.

Want to Know How Good a Bar Is? Order This One Tricky Drink

For years there were no great airport bars. They were like dive bars where you went knowing you’d have a bad experience. But then along came One Flew South, in Terminal E at ATL. All of a sudden, you could step inside and completely forget you were in an airport. Probably the most famous cocktail bar in Atlanta, it’s one of the best bars in the world, too. After the Tales festival in New Orleans, lots of bartenders will book their flights home via Atlanta, and you’ll be able to see everyone there. Often, I’ll book a 2-hour layover there, instead of a 45-minute connection, so I can have a cocktail. One Flew South is a bartender’s mecca. Now there are others like it, such as Root Down in the Southwest Airlines terminal at the Denver airport. Originally a cocktail bar in Denver, it got the opportunity to bid on a concession at the airport. I never fly Southwest, but when I fly through Denver, I always think, Do I have time to get over there?

Distilleries are the perfect source for bragworthy souvenirs.

If you visit a distillery on your travels, there are often special bottlings sold only there. As well as being badges of adventure for your shelf back home, they’re likely to be true expressions of the distillery. A lot of great products don’t ever make it to market—not because they’re not good enough, but because they might be experiments or a trial. On a mission to research nutmeg in Grenada, I went to Westerhall Estate. Westerhall has a long history in Grenada, and the distillery was recently renovated and began making rum again. I bought rum that was amazing, but it’s sold only there—nowhere else. 

Keep this gadget at hand, and you’ll never need to eat junk food on the road again.

I always pack a Nutribullet. It’s compact enough to go in my carry-on, but these days I use it more to make juices and smoothies in my hotel room. It keeps me alive in those parts [of the world] yet to embrace healthy living. I just remember to grab fresh fruit at the airport when I land and I’m good to go. I learned to bring one after doing lots of events in the middle of a field, for example, or at a festival. You don’t always have a big professional kitchen to rely on.

This one city in the South is a surprise cocktail haven.

Want to Know How Good a Bar Is? Order This One Tricky Drink

It was only recently, I think, that the cocktail scene in Charleston, S.C., has come into its own—I go there a lot. Half of what we do as bartenders is service, hospitality, the way you treat people, and the city excels at that. All it needed was a little bit more understanding of drinks and techniques. Proof is arguably my favorite bar on the planet. There’s also the Belmont and Leon’s, with a frozen gin and tonic.

Cocktail snobs should opt to fly just these two airlines.

Want to Know How Good a Bar Is? Order This One Tricky Drink

If you like cocktails, the two airlines you need to fly are Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines. Virgin has a partnership in its Clubhouses through which JFK and London Heathrow airports, among others, feature a series of pop-ups from the world’s best bars. The drinks lists feature custom cocktails from the likes of The Broken Shaker or the Connaught Bar in London. There’s also a program using virtual reality: You can sit down, put on a virtual reality mask, and order your drink from the bartender at the Savoy, which is insane and fun. By the time the video is finished, there’s the cocktail you’ve ordered—not made at the Savoy, of course, but delicious. A couple of years ago, I  flew back to New York on New Year’s Eve after spending Christmas in London. Celebration was on everyone’s mind.  Flying Virgin Atlantic, the best part of being upgraded that day was not the flat bed or pajama set, but a seat at the bar where two of the world’s best bartenders, Monica Berg and Alex Kratena, were pulling a guest shift.  Their cocktails were definitely the best above 10,000 feet you’re ever likely to have. American Airlines hired Pam Wiznitzer, a great bartender from New York, to train its bartenders and to write a cocktail menu for the airline. It will be offered first in the airport lounge, but then, I think, it could be an opportunity to offer the drinks in flight, too. So if you want a good cocktail on the ground, your best bet is American’s lounge for first-class travelers.

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