From Serious Eats, a notable New York City barkeep explains what’s up:
Once, I was working the bar on a Friday night when a gentleman walked in, briefly scanned my cocktail list, and asked for a Grey Goose with soda.
I have nothing against the vodka soda. When I’m three deep at the bar, a round of highballs can be a life-preserver. Your Manhattan will take three minutes, at a minimum. Your vodka soda will take thirty seconds. Cocktails might be what keeps people coming in the doors, but highballs fund those doors staying open in the first place.
That said, vodka-soda drinkers are like jilted lovers; they’ve often had brief relationships with other spirits in the past, and walked away feeling scarred and skittish. Reluctant to open old wounds, they have trained their palates to crave neutrality. The phrase I hear most often is, “I don’t want to taste the alcohol.” In effect, they want the punch but not the flavor.
The worst part is, the guy ended up being on a first date. The girl ordered a bourbon, neat. Read on to see how it all ends up.