With the approach of another New Year’s Eve, I face my annual debate: should I go out to a public venue? And as ever, I conclude it’s just not worth it.
New Year’s Eve brings out the newbies, the folks who never visit clubs any other time of year and who have no clue about how they work.
In the hope that education might be the answer, I offer the following information. Perhaps we can get some kind of public communication project going next year to promote these principles on colorful posters with cartoon mascots named "Bobby Booze" and "Cindy Cocktail".
How to Drink in Public:
– Have your ID out when you get to the front of the club. They will almost certainly check it. Don’t make a big deal out of it.
– If you don’t like cover charges, don’t go to the places that have them. There are plenty of alternatives including, in many cases, coming in earlier. New Year’s Eve can be an exception; the club spends a bunch on decorations and bringing on extra staff, so do a little homework first and go somewhere you can afford.
– Decide what you will order before you approach the bar. Don’t ask the bartender to recite the beer list – look at the goddamn taps or the bigass menu behind the bar. Don’t shout back to your idiot friends at your table asking what they want.
– Know that you can only order and carry two drinks. If four friends want drinks, two of them should go to the bar. The bartender needs to see an appropriate number of drinking age patrons to go with the drinks.
– It’s really easy to see what’s happening at a bar and gauge when the bartender will get to you. Don’t wave your hands at him or shout. Just stand there with your money in your hand, chin slightly raised and watch him until he makes eye contact. Raise and lower your face quickly while smiling slightly (the same gesture you make when passing a co-worker again in the hall and asking a rhetorical "hey, how’s it going?"). The bartender will acknowledge this with a similar gesture or a wave. You should now stop staring at his every move, relax and enjoy the ambiance of the bar. Stay attuned to things so that when the bartender approaches you are immediately ready to order. It might take a little while, but a patient and friendly patron brightens the bartender’s day and tends to get very good service.
– When the bartender says "What will you have?" state your answer clearly and if you are ordering more than two drinks, gesture at the person(s) with you as you order the third and fifth drinks. Good patrons who like the same drinks will order them in rounds so that the bartender can mix them together. For example:
"A Guinness, two Sam Adams, and three Lemon Drops, please."
– If you care about the alcohol in your drink, name it in your order. Otherwise you will receive the "well" or "house" version of that alcohol. For example:
"Sapphire and tonic, and a Grey Goose Martini, please."
– If you want to order something obscure, have an easy fallback order in mind. Do not order difficult drinks when a bar is very busy. Always look for the bottles for the ingredients to your drink; you shouldn’t ever need to ask "Do you have Campari?". A scan of the bottles and of the drinks being served will usually tell you how complex your order can be. It is best to work up to a complex drink by ordering a simpler one in the same family first. For example:
Round 1: "A Manhattan, please."
Round 2: (noting the bottle of Pernod and being satisfied with the mixing of the first drink) "How about a Sazerac?" If the bartender unfortunately says "What’s in it?", respond with "Actually, another of your good Manhattans would be fine. Thanks."
– Order appropriately for the bar you are in. Don’t have a martini in a poolhall in a Texas college town; you might think that no one could screw up a martini, but you’d be wrong. Get a beer or a Jack & Coke.
– If the bartender asks to see ID, show it without comment or rolling your eyes. They can lose weeks of pay when a bar gets closed for serving someone underage; don’t endanger someone’s rent payment for your drink.
– When the bartender comes back with the drinks, have your payment ready. Do not start a tab on a credit card unless you will be ordering more than two rounds. ATMs are plentiful, just bring cash for god’s sake.
– Tip your bartender. If you can’t just hand over the right amount for drinks and tips, after you get your change, set the money on the counter nearer to the bartender’s side than yours. A dollar for a couple beers is fine, but mixed drinks call for a bit more. Complex drinks such as Mojitos or Bloody Marys deserve an extra dollar beyond that.
– Always make room for barbacks to move through the crowd bearing their heavy loads of ice, bottles, or glassware. They have a hard job; treat them kindly.
– If you need to leave your drink momentarily (e.g. to go to the bathroom or step outside for a cigarette), set a coaster on top of your glass. The bartender and barbacks will know it’s not abandoned and will leave it for you. Do not abuse this courtesy by leaving it for more than 15 minutes.
Bartenders and barflys, what have I left out? Belly up to the bar in the comments!