Drunken Disasters and Culinary Masters

A college girl's guide to the best bars in a seaside retreat

What Makes a Great Bar

I wanted to dedicate this post to things I thought everyone should know before we begin our adventure so that we are all on the same page.  I’ll take the time to explain what makes the perfect mixed drink, perfect bar food, and what overall makes for a great bar, etc!

First let’s start with the perfect cocktail recipe.  There is a secret to making the perfect libation.

  • If the drink is too sweet do not count on many people ordering a second.
  • On the other hand, when the bartender thinks they are helping out the customer by making the drink incredibly strong a second one is going to be ordered way later than normal.  No one wants to choke down a Cosmopolitan.
  • The perfect cocktail has three parts to it.  The liquor, the sweet and the sour.  Of course we can play around with these things but that is the basic cocktail.

Our perfect mixed drinks at the Wharf in Wildwood. Photo by Ashley Hoff

We cannot discuss the perfect mixed drink ratio without discussing the ever important debate: Draft vs Bottle. I am personally a draft girl.  Even more so than a draft girl, I am a big fan of craft beers.  Of course if I’m at a college bar I’ll get the bottled brew to be safer.  There are pros and cons to both options available.

  • There are many beers only available in one or the other.  I do think draft beers offer a fresher taste than their bottled cousins.
  • It may be expensive to have a successful draft system but I think the investment is worth it.  However the maintenance is less time-consuming for the bar that has bottled beers over draft.

There are so many great and negative things about each system, it comes  down to personal preference.  Just because I prefer one to the other does not mean I won’t be getting both.  If my bottle beer is great and my draft is just plain gross and vice versa I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

Bar food is another important issue here.  We’ve all been a little tipsy and decided food was a great idea at 1:30 am.

  • If we’re lucky the bar we are at keeps its kitchen open until the bar closes (I promise to those bars who do not keep their kitchens open it is a wise investment).
  • While we may be slightly intoxicated the food should still be good and fast.  The ideal time for a bar food order is 12 minutes (having worked in many restaurants with full bars).  Anything longer than 15 minutes and the kitchen is pushing it, unless of course you ordered red meat well done or have a large party with you.

When we order bar food we are certainly not expecting some presentation of off of the FoodNetwork but we do have some reasonable expectations for a pretty decent meal.  I’ll be on the hunt for the best bar food around.

Finally what makes an excellent bar overall. My standards are not impossible to meet I assure you.  Mike J. Neff and I seem to have some similar ideas about bars.  I go to a lot of different bars for different reasons much like I avoid some bars for certain things.

  •   It is important who goes to the bars and why do they go to this bar.  Is it a locals bar or a touristy one?  How did it become that type of bar? Does the owner really love their bar?  I can tell you that I always see the Carney’s at their bar in Cape May every time I go out.  The entire family is involved.  If they don’t love their business then they sure do fake it well.
  • Also I check out the atmosphere of the bar.  There are plenty of good dive bars and numerous posh bars, I like them both for similar reasons.  It’s the atmosphere that one is looking for on a particular night.  What type of people does the atmosphere attract? All things I consider important.
  • I finally check out how effective is everything.  Am I getting the whole package here?  Last summer when Coconut Cove opened up it had it all.  The view, the rum buckets, the music, the works.  While I haven’t been back since last summer I’m sure it’s still got it going on.  I want my bar to have more than a bar in it.  Mix it up with different nights, have a few bands come every weekend, have awesome games like the Hudson House in LBI and make sure above all else that your bartenders are kick ass.

Thanks for sticking through this entirely too long post if you got all the way to the end.  I appreciate you sticking it out through this one.

Please feel free to leave me some feedback.  I look forward to hearing from you 🙂


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