Image courtesy of @queen_chartreuse

Hey Leah! Do you appreciate when a customer requests you make them “anything you want”?

—Clint, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Hi Clint,

In a cocktail bar? Sure. Personally I love the opportunity to make a bespoke drink. It allows me to flex my creative muscles, keep my mind sharp, and give you a memorable experience. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this. You may think you’re doing the bartender a favor when you say “make whatever you want!” But dude, I don’t know you or what you like, and I will need a little more information.

• What spirit would you like as the base?
• Would you like something refreshing or spirit-forward?
• Is there anything you don’t like or are allergic to?

Great! Now I have all the info I need to make a cocktail perfectly tailored to you. That being said, pick your moment. If the bar is five deep and I’m slammed with service tickets, maybe just order one of the many fabulous options on the menu, or go for a classic. You’ll get your drink a lot faster.

Leah Pupkin has been a craft cocktail bartender and consultant for the past ten years. She has worked in countless bars and curated cocktail programs all over New York and Australia. She now resides in Los Angeles, where she is currently the bar manager at Stone Street Coffee Co. & Bathtub Gin. Leah produces sponsored content for various liquor brands and runs a blog featuring movie reviews accompanied by craft cocktail pairings when not behind the bar. You can find the blog at and follow all her work on Instagram @thebardirector.