Sunday, 4 May 2008

Glass half full...

One of the continuous things that niggles me about modern life is the approach to soft drinks in pubs and bars. As both a non-drinker and a diet coke addict, the provision of non-alcoholic drinks in social establishments is something I encounter pretty much constantly, and my complaint usually boils down to the size of the drink served.

Usually nowadays you can get a pint of diet coke in a pub, thankfully, as I have been told in the past that the pub in question "doesn't serve" or "isn't allowed" to serve soft drinks in pints. In bars and clubs it's a different story, though, usually it'll be a half pint, but sometimes it's just a plastic cup, or cocktail-sized glass, and often for the same price of (or even more than) a pint in a pub. Clearly it's up to the particular establishment to determine how it wants to sell its drinks, but to have such limited options on size seems to be deliberately obtuse. I'll sometimes resort to drinking water in places like that, if it becomes too expensive and fiddly to keep getting tiny one-gulp glasses of coke.

The second way that the size of the drink can be restricted is with the level of ice included. I'm not totally anti-ice, by any means. In the summer, a few blocks of ice in a drink can be very nice (though no substitute for the drink itself being cold), but the way that ice is used in drinking establishments at the moment, all year round, seems to be as a deliberate method of restricting the amount of liquid served.

It's rare that you'll be asked whether you want ice or not, and you usually have to be pretty quick, clear and forceful about making your preference clear if you don't want any. Usually, if you don't state a preference, you'll get the glass filled to the top with ice, and then the gaps filled in with coke. Is there anyone, anywhere in the history of drinking who considers this a satisfactory way to serve a drink? At the very most, a glass should be filled 1/3 full of ice, and even then only in the summer. Filling the whole thing and then adding the drink cuts the amount of liquid served down to between 3/4 and 1/4 of the available glass-space. In any other situation the drink would be replaced (imagine being served a beer that was 1/2 head), but in this case, you actively have to insist to get the drink you order.

In some places, they will serve without ice if asked, but will leave a gap at the top of the glass to ensure that you're not getting any extra by doing this. The gap left varies, but can be up to an inch. I rarely argue about it, but it does seem ludicrously tight of a pub to deliberately withhold from topping up a drink that's being served just to save the tiny amount of money that it might cost (and at the risk of future sales too).

My main problem with these situations is that there seems to be very little thought from the bar staff. When I order a pint of diet coke, it's because I like the taste. If I wanted to quench my thirst, I'd get a glass of water. There's really no logical reason for filling the glass up with ice first without asking, but they do it anyway, without really thinking about the customer experience they're providing. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's worked behind a bar (*ahem* Bambi), but it really does seem negligent for people to deliberately give you as little as possible of the drink you want.

And there is a special circle of hell reserved for bartenders who serve regular coke when diet coke was ordered...

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