5 Golden Rules to Follow at the Bar

This week’s post is a simple but oh so necessary crash course on how to properly order drinks at the bar. Nothing’s worst than annoying your bartender by asking for clarification on simple questions. Not seeming confident or relatively knowledgable at the bar can lead to your bartender giving you rookie drink suggestions and money traps. You don’t want to tell your friends you paid $10 for a bottom shelf liquor over ice.

First we’ll start with some simple rules to abide by:

1. Know what you plan to order before you get to the bar.
This is especially important when the bar is crowded. Don’t be the person disrupting the bartender’s order of service by getting skipped because you don’t know what you want. It’s also a great service to your friends and the bartender to have your orders together once one person gets their attention. At the very least, know what type of liquor you want if specific cocktail names escape you. Say, “I want something with bourbon/gin/vodka.”I only go to bars during less crowded hours when I want to experiment with new drinks and/or let the bartender take the wheel. Casual conversations with your bartenders while it’s slow is the best way to learn what you like.

2. Have a “go-to” drink.
This goes along with rule #1. I added this rule because countless times you will be at the bar and either the bartender has never heard of that fancy drink you had at the steakhouse last weekend and/or the bar isn’t as well stocked as ones you’ve visited prior. Always have something that’s a near guarantee to be available. A “whisky and coke” is a popular staple. Upon seeing the bottles available at the bar, you can then replace “whisky” with specific brands.

For one, plastic transactions take longer than cash ones. Two, this will annoy any bartender on Earth to no end. There is no penalty for leaving your tab open all night even if you only order one drink as long as you remember to close it before you leave.

4. Get a feel for the bar before ordering.
What do I mean by “getting a feel” for the bar? Look around at the people around you. Look at the decor. Look at the bar itself. Look at the “bouncers” if existent. The same way you can judge a restaurant by the patrons and atmosphere, you can judge a bar. Lower end “dive” bars won’t have top shelf liquors well stocked. If everyone is smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, this isn’t a place to order a martini. If the bartender is dressed nice enough to attend a wedding, the “well” liquors will more than likely be a lower end bar’s premiums. A dive bar with make your cocktails with plastic bottled liquors you’ve never heard of. These liquors don’t taste as good, hence the reason they’re used in cocktails that overpower their tastes. Prices are also affected by this. A $3 shot is probably some terrible liquor. This won’t always be the case though. I’ve lucked up and found places that will regularly serve mid-tier liquors at well liquor prices. Usually this is because of bartender inexperience or all around management incompetence.

5. Tip your bartender.
Tipping puts you in your bartender’s good graces. Your face becomes more memorable and they’ll be more likely to serve you before others at a crowded bar. Tipping can only lead to good things. I’ve gotten countless samples and free full cocktails just from being a good patron. Depending on the cost, typically $1-2 per drink is a fair amount.

Those 5 rules should keep you in your bartender’s good graces anywhere. Happy drinking!

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