People put a lot of thought into the drinks they order at a bar—whether it's because they want to present a certain image to their friends, cultivate a certain mystique, or just get the most booze for their buck. There are other pitfalls to watch for, though. Some drinks are sneaky diet busters; others make it easier for unscrupulous bartenders to take financial advantage. Some dive bar options can even be downright dangerous.
If you want a fun night out but don’t want it to burn a hole in your wallet—or pack on extra pounds—here are the drinks you should absolutely stay away from.
Mojitos may seem like a harmless, sophisticated, refreshing beverage order, but the drink could be carrying bacteria from spoiled mint leaves. The problem, says Adam Levy, writer of the popular blog The Alcohol Professor, is that bars don't serve too many mojitos—so it’s rare they keep fresh mint on deck. Fresh mint only lasts about a week, so chances are your $4 mojito special isn’t serving the freshest quality garnish.
2. White Russians
There's another spoilage issue here. Cocktails like White Russians are made with cream or milk—ingredients that don’t keep very long, and something that bars often forget to restock. New York City bartender and comedian Timothy Dunn says since bars don’t use dairy products too often, chances are the cream’s expired—and could even be close to turning sour. Ick!
3. Frozen Drinks
Frozen drinks may be a summertime staple, but they also pack on the calories. The drinks tend to be filled with sugar juices and mixers, and served in huge glasses—typically larger than an average serving size, says Keri Gans, the author of The Small Change Diet.
If you need one to perfect your beach photo for Instagram, fine—but make it an occasional treat.
4. Draft Beers in a Dirty Bar
Should you order draft beer at a bar? Dunn shares the secret way he makes the call: Check the bar's bathrooms. His logic: Bars that don’t clean their bathrooms regularly may not be maintaining their keg lines either—and it’s best to avoid drinking contaminated beer at all costs, he warns.
5. A Bloody Mary
Long known as a hangover cure, the Bloody Mary—or, for that matter, any other drink that uses Tabasco sauce—could actually be harmful for your health. Even many experienced bartenders may not know how to use Tabasco in drinks, Levy explains. And a heavy touch could add too much spice, which could overwhelm some people's digestive systems.
“It could really be a harmful drink,” he says.
6. Red Bull and ... Well, Pretty Much Any Booze
Another set of health hazards attend any drink mixed with Red Bull. The sweet, fizzy energy drink may mask both the taste of liquor and the feeling of being drunk—making it easier for you to overindulge.
“Alcohol is a depressant and caffeine is a stimulant,” Pittsburgh-based dietitian Lesli Bonci said. “The caffeine negates the inebriation effect of alcohol, and people end up drinking far more than they should.”
7. Long Island Iced Teas
Avoiding this tornado of half a dozen different liquors and colas may seem like a no-brainer to anyone out of college, but another reminder to stay away couldn’t hurt. The lethal combination contains well above the suggested alcohol quantity that anyone should consumer per hour, says Bonci. Plus, while the recipes vary depending on the bar, some could have as many as 780 calories, explains Jenna Braddock, dietitian and blogger at Make Health Easy.
There's also a third risk, points out Alcohol Professor's Levy: “You look like an idiot drinking it over [age] 25.”
8. Gin & Tonic
Even this commonly ordered drink can carry a surprising amount of calories. Blame the mixer: Although people often think tonic’s a healthy choice—it looks like water, after all—the fizzy drink actually has about 124 calories per serving from sugar, bartender Dunn notes.
He suggests a good workaround: Get your liquor with soda water, and then ask for a splash of tonic for the tart taste.
These may be fun to bring out for a birthday or bachelorette party, but they’re also sneaky ways for bars to charge you more for less alcohol. “Shot glasses are made to look like an optical illusion,” Dunn explains.
The weight or height of a fancy glass may give you the impression you’re getting a lot of liquid, but many bars use shot glasses that hold less volume than the standard 2 ounces. Dunn suggests you order straight liquor "neat"—it's the same drink, but you’ll probably getting more of it.
10. Any Drink That Comes With Cheap (or Free) Bar Food
Alcohol itself serves up plenty of empty calories. But if you pair it with bar food like mozzarella sticks or tortilla chips, you’ll quickly wind up consuming a huge amount of calories with little to no nutritional benefit.
Being tipsy lowers your sense of inhibition, Bonci warns, meaning you’re more likely to say "what the hey!" and order that plate of nachos that the waitress is offering. The temptation intensifies if the bar offers happy hour deals or free food on the table.