A large part of this week's episode is devoted to describing the varied effects that different boozes have on the characters
A significant portion of How I Met Your Mother is filmed at the neighborhood basement bar MacLaren's, with static shots of the group sitting and drinking at their regular booth. Sometimes it's beer, sometimes wine, sometimes whiskey, but it's always something, and in most scenes, the audience is denied any context that would point to what time of day it is. The consistency and volume of their drinking is neither judged nor praised—it's just a fact of life and social interaction for these friends. Coming off of a long history of Central Perks, Monks, Cheers, and Peach Pits as the clichéd gathering spots for television friends, MacLaren's not only fits the tone of the show and its characters perfectly, it seems more relatable, too.
In "The Perfect Cocktail" the problems that the characters have endured in Season 6 culminate in a showdown: Ted v. Zoey and Barney v. Marshall. The tipping point comes when Marshall decides to take revenge at GNB for being poor sports about his exit from the company by teaming up with Zoey to save the Arcadian. This alliance particularly enrages Barney, who not only helped Marshall get his job, but who is also leading the project to build the new GNB headquarters thereby ensuring the destruction of the Arcadian. When the feud spirals out of control and gets the friends banned from MacLaren's, Lily and Robin devise an alcohol-fueled night to help Marshall and Barney reconcile. But it's not simple enough to just get them drunk. The HIMYM staff knows that not all alcohol is created equal.
A large part of the episode is devoted to describing the varied effects that different boozes have on the characters. Between the quick cuts to illustrative flashbacks of Robin getting weird on absinthe, Ted beat-boxing on Bourbon, Barney reaching "sad clarity" with red wine, Lily lusting after Robin on martinis, Marshall provoking fights with his own reflection on gin, and the final execution of the evening, "The Perfect Cocktail" maintains a fast-paced energy, broken only by the predictably dull Zoey and Ted B-story.
And yet, frustratingly, nothing is resolved. Ted and Zoey reconcile temporarily when Ted takes her side about the Arcadian, and Barney and Marshall black out, thereby negating any progress that they made while drunk. Though both setbacks are intended to be a comedic closing to "The Perfect Cocktail," with only two episodes left in the season, we can expect another round of war before things get better for the friends making what was a mostly enjoyable episode feel like the weaker half of a two-parter.