Achieving the status of gentleman or lady relies largely upon the ways in which we carry and present ourselves - from how we wield please and thank you to our dress, use of knife and fork, and, of course, to the what, when, and how we drink.
The key to ordering a signature drink is to order your own signature, not someone else's.
So, how do you find your special libation?
#1 Drink what you like.
Every spirit has a flavor (yes, even Vodka), so the first step is to find the spirit you enjoy the most and become best friends.
Hit the town with it, explore the highs and lows. Sip the most well-conceived examples you can find, along with the most popular. Identify where the similarities lie and how they are different.
Pick a few favorite brands at different price points, as there's always a chance the bar - or friend - pouring won't stock your number one bottle.
#2 How do you like to drink?
Do you favor a quick, strong shot or something fizzy and longer-lasting? Something dry or tart to whet the appetite prior to a meal, or a digestif to settle the stomach and counter overindulgence?
If one drink is your limit and you like to nurse it, opt for a long drink such as a Tom Collins. Too sweet? A vermouth drink such as a Martini or Manhattan may be your poison, provided you can handle something with a bit more kick. Or, maybe just one type of glass feels more natural in the hand than another. Like cars and haircuts, one size drink does not fit all.
#3 Mind your surroundings and order appropriately.
If you only hold court at retro speakeasies, your chances of regularly conjuring an Oaxacan Old Fashioned are pretty strong. Not so much at Applebee's. Ordering a fancy drink with fancy ingredients at a coffee shop or dive bar is a road that leads only to repeated disappointment and, possibly, dismissal.
#4 Keep it simple.
The best signature drinks are classics with a small twist. Take Bond's Martini. He takes it shaken over stirred, the latter method being preferred by most aficionados. But Bond wasn't meant to be a connoisseur; he was a killer who liked things his way. Besides, his "wrong" martini order is what makes it so memorable.
Start with a drink the bartender knows how to make - one that's reasonably simple to assemble, such as a Negroni (you don't want your new best friend behind the bar to dread your every order) and mix it up a bit. Instead of a regular Manhattan, how about a perfect Manhattan with a dash of curaçao?
#5 Own it.
Whatever your signature drink, know it inside and out. Be able to politely provide the recipe if the bartender asks. And, should he or she look disagreeable or befuddled, opt for a shot. Know which substitutions work and which won't. Most of all, order confidently and respectfully. After all, it's more than just a drink; it's your signature.