Tips From Last Night: Order Up!
The dos and don'ts of placing a drink order

Justin Zelewski (Photo by Tim Baker)

Welcome to 2019! I have noticed that not everybody caught the advice I offered up in my debut as a nightlife columnist. This month I’m going to take one of my small pieces of advice from the December column and go in depth. We are going to start with the first basic step once you get to the bar: the order.

You are probably asking yourself, “Self, has Z lost his damn mind? I know how to order a drink from a bartender!” Well I am here to tell you that some of you have no fucking clue what you are doing when you approach the bar. Now this may just sound like a whiny rant. We as bartenders should shut our mouths and do our jobs and make the drinks, right? But I’m here to make both of our lives easier. Soon, my friends, you will know.

Before we dive into the shallow end of the pool, there are a few things to consider.

First: What type of bar or restaurant are you in? Bars come in all shapes and sizes. You have your dive bars, craft cocktail bars, nightclubs, college bars, neighborhood watering holes, breweries, biker bars, saloons, Irish pubs, high-volume bars, hippy bars and the list goes on. Each one of these establishments offers a different experience, but they all have the same goal: taking your order and getting it to you as quick as possible. Sounds simple, right?

This should be the most harmonious part of the interaction between a bar guest and a bartender. For some reason, it’s this interaction that has been the bane of my existence, and many others in my field. Let’s start with a simple example. You would not go into Subway and ask for sushi, right? Then do not go into a busy nightclub or any high-volume bar and ask to sample a craft beer. It is a nightclub, not a brewery. Don’t walk into a dive bar asking for a Murto Made Vodka dirty martini with bleu cheese-stuffed olives. You are at a dive bar, dumb-dumb, order your whiskey and coke or PBR and keep it moving.

Common sense should be your rule of thumb. It’s as simple as knowing your surroundings, which will make your night more enjoyable and make your bartender not want to pretend you are Casper.

Now that you can read the room, we’re going to go into the dos and don’ts of ordering.

Do be ready before you approach the bar with your order. You probably have a routine when you go out for the night; you get ready in your favorite outfit, meet up with friends and enter a bar. That would mean you have somewhere between one and two hours before you even approach a bartender. I am not asking the world of you, just have an idea of what you want to drink. This order will not be a life-altering decision.

Do not ask me to make a drink that you had at that place in Cancun on spring break that was blue and fruity and sweet. I slept through my mind-reading classes in high school and I have more than likely never gone on spring break with you.

Do not wave me down like a New York cabbie; whistle at me; yell, “Hey, hey, hey, hey!” like you just found a dead body in the bathroom; touch me; snap your fingers; flash money at me like a stripper; make weird noises; or use any other inappropriate way to get my attention. I am not Helen Keller, I can see and hear you. Chances are that I am taking care of a guest that came before you and will take care of you as soon as I possibly can.

Do start a tab if you are planning on having more than one round. Do not spend a night closing a tab 500 times when a bartender is busy.

Do not order 15 drinks and then ask me to split it four ways — one with cash, two with cards and one with change from your cup holder in your car.

Do not wave me down, then when I ask you what you want, turn around and ask what your friends are having, start a Snapchat, or do anything other than tell me your full drink order.

Do not ask for free drinks, a strong drink, or a “hook up.” If you want a stronger drink, order a double. This is not Let’s Make a Deal, it is more like Deal or No Deal.

For the ladies, do not give me the old, “I’m on his tab.” Who is he? Do you even know who he is? “That guy over there, I don’t know his name,” does not work for me.

Those of you that have never been behind a bar may be offended. Or you may take a look in the mirror and realize that you are an offender. In my lifetime, I will not stop global warming, build a wall, take a wall down or solve world hunger. But through this column, I do have the opportunity to make my life better and make your experience at a bar better. Just remember, do tip your bartender.

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