The Basics Drinking Out

Behind the Bar: Etiquette

On great nights, a bartender will delight you with well-mixed drinks, introduce you to new elixirs and, when called upon, entertain you with funny stories. But for many bar-goers, drinking is more like a junior high dance filled with moments of stomach-turning awkwardness and self-doubt. To make life a little easier, I’ve examined some of the thorniest of bar situations that trip up even experienced night owls. Now you’ll be able to drink with confidence.

Sending Back a Drink:

Sometimes you get a cocktail that just isn’t right. But there’s no need to suffer in silence. Meet the problem head on and calmly say, “Excuse me, this drink is a little too sweet.” It’s not the end of the world and, hell, a good bartender can fix these things easily.

Dealing with an Unfriendly Bartender:

An unfriendly bartender can wreck your evening. There’s never an excuse for rudeness (on either side of the bar), but more often than not a bartender who is aloof or short is hiding a lack of skill. The solution for you is simple: find a new joint.

The Art of Tipping:

Americans have been tipping since colonial times, but no one seems to know how much to leave at a bar. Once and for all, tipping for drinks is no different than tipping for food—15 to 20 percent is appropriate. Also, when you’re lucky enough to get a complimentary drink or appetizer, you should tip as if it were part of the check. And if you’re at a restaurant having drinks before dinner, tip the bartender before you move onto the dining room. There’s a good chance when your tab is transferred that the bartender may never see a gratuity for your drinks.

That last tip is on the house.