I've discovered that, when I approach a bar of uncertain virtue and a bartender of untried skill, I tend to follow a certain pattern of behavior.
I begin, as I often do, by asking if they have rye behind the bar. If they do, I am very encouraged, and probably go on to order a rye-based cocktail—a Sazerac, if the bartender recognizes the name, or a Manhattan if he/she doesn't.
If there is no rye behind the bar, I am discouraged and realize I am faced with a second-class establishment. (The call of "no rye" usually causes me to quickly scan how many different bottles of vodka are in stock and angrily wonder if one of these couldn't be sacrificed so that some rye could find a place on the shelf.)
For some reason, knowing there is no rye behind the bar causes me to loose faith in the bartender's ability to mix drinks with bourbon or scotch. Don't ask me why I think this. I just do. I guess I just think a bartender's skills in mixing brown-liquor drinks should be built on rye before he moves on to scotch or bourbon libations. And so, I shift to gin. I try to keep it simple, to better ensure I will get a good drink, and since Martinis can be muddied up an innumerable ways (vodka is used instead of gin; the drink is made "dirty" without it being requested), I opt for a Gibson. No one ever asks for a dirty Gibson or a chocolate Gibson. If the needed onions are on hand, I'm in luck.
And this is why, when I'm not in a swank cocktail emporium, you'll tend to see me with a Gibson in my hand.