Bars are not just simple beer, whisky and wine establishments. Now they are labor-intensive and ingredient-driven cocktails and mixed drink boutiques.
Ordering a drink in a bar is now more complicated than it was several years ago. You are expected to know the proper pronunciation of different drinks, and there are a million bars that specialize in a million different drinks.
Try out pre-Prohibition places, tiki bars, high end, and nerdy places. Go to pseudo dive bars or actual dive bars, hotel bars and bars that are family-run. It is possible to order from an extensive drink menu, but if you want place a drink order that is not listed on the menu, be prepared to answer many questions.
Ordering drinks at a bar involves looking at the menu, if they have one, asking for the proper type of drink, and paying. But if you order a drink not listed on the menu and it is exotic, you will look foolish. Most bartenders will try and make what the customer orders, but it could be a disaster and you get something totally undrinkable.
As an example in a bar in Manhattan a patron order beer that wasn’t furnished in the bar. The patron then proceeded to order a specialty drink (Stolis). The bar did not have the ingredients. The patron was rude and left the bar. Not a good idea to make the bartender look stupid.
Figure out what you want to drink before you order. Ordering a martini in different countries can be insulting. For example, many pubs in Ireland specialize in Irish whiskeys and beers not hoity-toity martinis. Avoid ordering exotic drinks at a neighborhood or casual bar.
Do not order something trendy and simple at a high-end bar. Make a plan before you open your mouth. Have respect for the bartender.
Rules to Ordering a Drink
Brush up on your bar etiquette before going bar hopping. There are at least eleven important proprieties to use.
- When you walk into any bar look around and observe the bartender; check out how busy he/she is. Watch other customers in the bar. How do they interact? This gives you a feel for how to approach a busy bartender.
- If you want the bartender’s attention absolutely do not whistle or snap your fingers. Being obnoxious is the perfect way to get thrown out, ignored or insulted. In addition do not yell at the bartender. Instead say, “I see you are busy. I’ll wait my turn.” The most violent or the loudest only won a drink in the Wild Wild West.
- Avoid hesitating and hemming and hawing when the bartender gets to you. Know what you want. If you are ordering for friends, have their orders ready, too. If you see what someone else is drinking, learn the name and ingredients. Saying “I’ll have what he’s having” is not good bar ethics. Make up your own mind and stick to it.
- Order the right drinks and in their entirety. In other words if you order a simple martini you will be asked many questions – how much, what type, what brand, etc. Ask for a specific type of dry martini, “Dry Hopewell’s gin martini, not too dry and put in a dash of orange bitters. Straight. No garnish.
- Run a tab or pay immediately. Give the bartender your credit card or the appropriate amount of cash up front. When you have finished with this bar, check out. Never leave a bartender standing holding the bag. They will call the police, and the police will arrest you.
- Tip at least 20 percent of the total of your tab. If you expect special or get special service, tip 25%. Don’t just tip with a dollar bill. The bartender will remember, and you might not get service the next time you come in.
- One of the reasons you go to a bar is to meet other like-minded people. Be careful you don’t push yourself on others. If you feel unwelcome in a group, chances are they don’t want to talk to you. If you want to send a drink to someone you don’t know, but want to get to know, ask the bartender and they will ask your intended.
- If someone buys you a drink; reciprocate. Buy them one back. If you are feeling uncomfortable with this game, however leave the bar quickly.
- Going to a bar often equals drinking too much. Listen to the bartender if you have had a little too much. Do whatever you are told to do. There is no flexibility on this protocol. Even if you aren’t drunk but just loud and annoying, if asked, leave the bar.
- Don’t push in front of others. If you see a temporary space at the bar, that doesn’t always give you have free rein to butt in. Ladies: avoid using your feminine wiles to get ahead in a bar line. There are words for ladies who use this type charm to gain favors from bartenders. Not really nice words and not worth the name-calling.
- Always do what the bartender asks you to do. He/she is always right. Give them respect and you will fast become a favored customer.