Ah, the bar.
For hundreds of years, the bars that line our cities and the pubs that forgather across our countryside have been the evening meeting point. Whether that be the town taverns flooded with miners or the inner city bars of London that hosted royalty, these drinking holes have always been the go-to place to unwind, drink and be merry.
Over the centuries, the unwritten rules of bar etiquette, consisting of respect, manliness and nobility have been passed down to our fathers and our father’s fathers.
We’ve all seen the men in the bar who attract the wrong sort of attention. That’s not you. At least, it won’t be once you’ve read this…
Acknowledge your environment
The first step when heading for a drink is deciding which bar(s) you shall grace with your presence.
It’s always a good idea to have a couple of drinking holes to choose from. The individual who decides the venue should/will naturally slip into the role of the host for the night. To ensure your party is pleased with your selection, offer a couple of options and head to the bar that receives the majority vote (you then have the other(s) as a backup).
Ensure your choice of drink reflects the style of establishment in which you find yourself. If you’re in a sophisticated whiskey joint, then please, no fruity cocktails or rows of shots. You’ll look like a 15-year-old kid who got too drunk at his parent’s party. Save that for the clubs or cheaper bars where anything goes.
Talking of cheaper bars…
If you head into somewhere crowded with a busy bar, don’t order an Old Fashioned that’ll take the barkeep 10 minutes to make. He’ll hate you for it and will make you wait when he next sees your mug bouncing around behind the beer pumps. Order a beer and have your cash ready.
This brings me on to the next rule.
Know your order
Know what you want before you engage with the bar staff. One of the most frustrating things for bartenders and bar-goers alike is the hesitant drinks order. You know the one; “Yeah, I’ll have…erm…ah, I dunno. What’s good here? (Shouts) Matt, what did you want again?” Not only is that infuriating for the guys behind the bar but it doesn’t sit well with those around you.
It helps to always have a safety drink in your repertoire. Grab yourself something to wash down the taste of a hard week at work and relax whilst you think about what you really want.
The more information you can give the bartender at the first point of contact, the better. You don’t want to open up a question and answer routine. If you step up and order, a “dry Hopewell’s gin martini, not too dry, though, and put a dash of orange bitters in there if you have them. Straight up. No garnish” you’re making a great impression whilst enabling the bartender to crack on with your drinks and get to the end result much quicker.
Try these bar-speak terms next time you order:
- On the rocks – with ice in a rocks glass
- Up -a chilled drink poured into a glass without ice
- Neat – poured into a glass without ice, served at room temperature
- Chaser – a small amount of liquid to accompany a strong drink or shot
This isn’t the prohibition; leave your hip flask at home. Whipping that out of your inside pocket and taking swigs throughout the night not only makes you look cheap, but it makes you look like a raccoon stuffing his face in the corner. Not an attractive look.
If you want to get drunk faster, switch it up a little. Order doubles, Sink shots or drink before you leave the house.
Consider the seating plan
No more than two at the bar. When there’s just you and your buddy catching up over a few drinks, sure, grabbing a seat at the bar is the perfect place to settle in for the evening. However, when more turn up, occupy a booth or a table. Not only does this offer more privacy/intimacy, but have you ever tried to maintain a good flow of communication with three people sat in a line? Doesn’t work; there’s always someone craning their neck to be a part of the conversation.
Try and avoid rearranging the furniture. It’s set up that way so the staff can work the room effectively. By messing with their set up, you’re messing with their ability to complete their work. If there’s going to be a big crowd of you, try reserving a table in advance so they can accommodate you properly.
The rules to buying rounds
When you’re out with your pals, deciding to buy rounds is usually the best practice. Not only does it ensure a positive atmosphere but it’s quick and easy to order and keeps everyone engaged in the conversation. However, there is round-buying etiquette to follow:
Discuss this practice before heading to the bar. If someone can’t join in, then that’s cool. It’s bad manners to buy a round at a bar without consent as it may leave someone in a situation they don’t want to find themselves in.
When buying rounds, bar etiquette dictates that all men will pick up what is put down. Don’t worry, we all have that one friend who enjoys getting you messed up.
Remember what you buy is your choice. If you decide to order a round of top shelf liquor, that’s on you. Don’t be upset if your buddy only picks up a round of beers – that might be all he can afford.
Know how to treat women at the bar
A lot of reasons guys head out to bars is to meet women. There’s no shame in that. Although, there is shame in how some guys decide to handle seeing a pretty woman stood or sat waiting to order. I’m not going to delve into successful pickup techniques or the dos and don’ts of bar flirting. What I will do, however, is highlight some key rules bar etiquette when it comes to buying a drink for a woman who’s caught your eye.
Always ask permission to buy a woman a drink.
When you send the bartender over with a drink, the message you’re sending is, “See that creepy dude on the other side of the bar? He doesn’t have the balls to come talk to you so he’s sent me to give you this $9 cocktail instead…” On the other hand, until you go up and talk to the girl, you know nothing about her! She could be waiting for her partner to arrive or may not even drink alcohol (if you can’t tell already). Either way, none will work to your advantage.
If they don’t want to talk to you then they don’t want to talk to you. Move on.
Pretty self-explanatory, really. Fair enough, you’ve managed to gather some dutch courage and approached someone you’re attracted to. If they don’t show interest, that’s life. Don’t ruin their night because you can’t handle rejection.
You don’t have to pay for all of her drinks…
This is the 21st Century – although it is gentlemanly and good practise to offer to buy the first drink, insisting on paying the woman’s drinks can be pretty poor etiquette. It may seem like you’re doing the right thing but you may make her feel uncomfortable as they may question if you think you’re ‘owed’ something.
Bear in mind, however, that you should be willing to pay for the drink you so kindly offered to purchase. Most women tend to avoid something expensive or extravagant, but be prepared if she does pick something top shelf.
Put your phone away
There’s nothing more disappointing that meeting up for a drink and spending the evening glued to your phone screen. Live in the moment; you’re with your buddies on a Friday evening. Enjoy yourself!
Try this: Everybody puts their phones in the middle of the table. The first person to grab theirs picks up an extra round of drinks/shots (considering you’re in an appropriate place to do so).
Take care of the bar staff and they’ll take care of you
When it comes down to it, the bar staff are the MVPs of your evening. Ensuring that you behave like a polite, considerate customer will make put you in good stead with the team.
Tip well on your first drink. This will get the bartender’s attention for all the right reasons and they will treat you well throughout the night. Tipping well at a regular spot is also a good investment.
Please and thank yous are still as important as they were 100 years ago. Manners cost nothing and they go a long way with the chaps behind the sticks.
Be a tidy drinker. Even though it is technically the bar staff’s job to clean tables, you can make it a hell of a lot easier for them. Use the coasters provided to soak up any overspill and resist the temptation to rip off your beer labels (which just makes you look nervous and weird, anyway). When you’re done for the evening, it’s a nice gesture to take your empty glasses to the bar on your way out. The bartender will appreciate your kind gesture and may even upgrade you to his ‘favourite regular.’
Don’t be an asshole
There’s no need to berate the bartender for prices that he/she didn’t set. Drinks can be expensive, especially in certain bars. Know the price of your drink before you order and if you can’t afford it, buy something else. It makes you look like cheap and holds up the queue when you shout and moan. The same goes for haggling. Don’t.
Be patient. Shouting, snap, whistle or waving your money only makes you stand out as ‘the guy to avoid serving next.’
Never ask for an ‘extra strong drink’. You can get bartenders in trouble for giving something away for free. They’ll sort you out if they like you.
Don’t brag about the tip. Never tell the bartender that ‘I’ll sort you out tonight, ________.’ (Insert: bud, Chief, pal). That just signifies that you’re preemptively expecting him to prioritise you all evening.
Don’t hit on the bar staff. Just because she smiles at you or laughs at your jokes doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in; they work for tips. Besides, she’s probably had every single guy in the bar try their moves on her. Focus on the other 50 women in the room who have dressed themselves up for a reason.
Never expect preferential treatment. Just because you’ve ordered an expensive round or made the staff laugh, doesn’t mean you’re any more important than the rest of the customers. They’re there to do a job – respect that.
Throw your card behind the bar or open up a tab if you plan on sticking around. This saves you having to pay every time you order and allows you to give a decent tip at the end of the night.
Pace yourself. It’s never a good look when both your words and your body language are slurring. Know your limits and stick to them. Take a breather. The drink should stop when the fun stops.
PDA is a no go. It’s great that you’ve managed to hook up with someone or that you’re really into your date, but no one wants to endure a heated make-out session whilst they’re trying to unwind. Take it back to your place before you start making people feel uncomfortable.
Treat the bathroom like you would your own. You hate walking through piss as much as the next guy, so keep it accurate! If you’re too drunk to aim like a normal human, then you’ve probably had a tad too much.
Don’t get drunk on beer when you’re out on the pull. When you’re heading to the bathroom every quarter of an hour, she’ll be left to check out your competition.
Never, ever drink and drive
I don’t need to explain this one. There’s so many options to get yourself home – taxi, Uber, friends or family. They’d much rather get a late-night call from you than they would the police.
Please don’t be another stat.
Remember, the sole reason you’re out at a bar is to have fun. So, do it! Leave your troubles at the door. Take in the atmosphere, the conversation, and the alcohol. Create new memories. Come together over old ones. Have a good time and make sure you drink responsibly.