8 Things You Should Never Order at a Dive Bar

AI generated image of a flaming shot, beer, and cocktail with a prohibited symbol over them

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AI generated image of a flaming shot, beer, and cocktail with a prohibited symbol over them
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Don't Be That Guy

Look, we love dive bars. They're rough around the edges, full of potentially cranky regulars, and they feel like a warm hug (from someone who hasn't showered in a couple days, but that's OK — we've all been there, buddy). 

But when you're in a dive, there are some things that you just shouldn't order, lest it taste terrible or the bartender yell at you — or worse, pull the passive aggressive move of silently ignoring you and your group until you leave. Here's what you should save for that fancy bar down the street.

Draft beer pour in a glass from the crane. Waiter pours beer in a pub.
Artem Zakharov/istockphoto

1. Tap Beer

Draft systems need to be cleaned regularly, otherwise all kinds of scum builds up in the lines. That leads to skunky beer, full of bits of unidentified junk and fruit flies. Do you think the bartender can answer when the lines were last cleaned? You can give it a shot, but you're probably better off just sticking with canned and bottled beer.


2. Frozen Drinks

Unless you actually see one of those spinning frozen drink dispensers behind the bar (in which case, it's probably not a dive), don't order a frozen margarita or pina colada. Chances are there's no blender either, and even if there was, you're likely to get a dirty look from the bartender or the regulars once that 40-year-old blender starts drowning out the NASCAR race on TV.

Frozen pizza

3. Complicated Food

If the dive bar has food — and that's a big if — don't order anything more complicated than a frozen pizza. The bartender will gladly stick one of those in the little pizza oven for you. 

But even if there are frozen, deep fried goodies like onion rings and jalapeno poppers available, don't order any unless you can see that the fryer is already on. Heating that baby up for a single order of cheese curds is a real pain.

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Jeppson's Malort yelp photo
Sean C. / Yelp

4. "Surprise Me"

You may think you're doing your bartender a favor by telling them "surprise me" when they ask what you're drinking, but it can really backfire in a dive bar. Besides a quick eyeroll from them, you'll probably just get something that the bar has been trying to get rid of for a long time, like an old keg, some weird beer the distributer dropped off, or a shot of something heinous like Malort. It doesn't help the bartender when you end up unhappy.

Related: Cheap Beers That Are a Source of Hometown Pride

Virgin Mojito

5. Mojitos

Don't order any cocktail that requires a fresh ingredient. The biggest offender of this is the mojito, which isn't a mojito without fresh mint. Sure, the bar will probably have limes, but mint only lasts a couple days in the fridge before going bad. Cocktails like old fashioneds that usually come with an orange are out the window, too.

Related: History in a Glass: Fascinating Legends Behind 20 Famous Cocktails

Dusty wine bottles 1

6. Wine

This is a dive bar, not a wine bar. It's safe to assume that any dive will not get many wine drinkers. That means you shouldn't be drinking wine, either. If they have a bottle of wine behind the bar, how long has it been open? If they don't have a bottle, they might have those little individual serving wines or Boone's Farm, both of which are just sad.

Related: How to Spot a Good, Cheap Bottle of Wine

Burning cocktails

7. Flaming Drinks

You may think it'd make a great video for Instagram, but flaming drinks are super dangerous. Chances are, the bartender at a dive doesn't have much experience (let along training) with them. So unless you want to accidentally burn down the bar, don't order anything on fire. 

People hands toasting multicolored fancy drinks - Young friends having fun together drinking cocktails at happy hour - Social gathering party time concept on warm vivid filter

8. Anything With More Than 4 Ingredients

Complicated cocktail orders are not going to be appreciated at a dive bar. They're more work, they might not have all the ingredients, the bartender might not know the recipe, and you may end up with a really bad rendition of the drink. When you want a cocktail at a dive, stick with basics like a gin and tonic or rum and Coke. Shots, of course, are also acceptable.