10 things every gentleman should remember when ordering at the bar

Whether you're overjoyed or dismayed at the end of table service and the return of the bar, every gentleman should know his bar etiquette...

So, as of July 19th (also known as ‘Freedom Day’ — or, by those for whom clubbing is the stuff of life, the ‘happiest of days’), the bar is back. Happy days, indeed! We’d started to forget what it felt like to queue for our beverage of choice, desperately trying to catch the bartender’s eye whilst avoiding being jostled around by the thirsty crowds around us. Who doesn’t love the bar?

But on a serious note; ordering at the bar is a staple of the hospitality industry, and one that’s been greatly missed by many. It’s a staple that demands a very particular form of etiquette, however; one that every gentleman should strive to adhere to, whenever he steps into a bar’s mere vicinity. Those long days of lockdown-induced table service might have made your memory of the correct bar etiquette a little hazy, though — but don’t worry. That’s what we’re here for.

1. Don’t queue jump

We’d hope this isn’t something we have to remind you of: gentlemanly fellow that you no doubt are. But it’s amazing how easy it can be to queue jump without even realising it. If it’s on you to buy the rounds for your table and you’re heading directly for the bar with your eyes on the cocktail prize, it’s the easiest thing in the world to inadvertently bypass those who’ve already been waiting for 15 minutes. But be sure to take stock of who’s already waiting, and step neatly in line behind them: no one likes a queue jumper.

2. Hold your own

Chivalry is a wonderful thing; but when it comes to being chivalrous at the bar, you might end up being there all night. Don’t queue jump, by any means; but equally, don’t let person after person go on ahead of you if you were there first. They’ll probably think you’re the nicest guy in the world, and it’s certainly gentlemanly to put others first; but they’ll forget all about you once they’ve got their drinks, and you’ll still be waiting to order yours three hours later. Hold your own in the queue; if you were there first, you were there first.

3. Know what you want

Anyone who’s ever whiled away long school summers working in hospitality will know there’s nothing more aggravating than someone approaching you to place an order; only to realise they don’t know what they want. ‘Umming’ and ‘ahhing’ when there’s a crowd of people waiting impatiently behind you is a surefire way to make some unfortunate enemies. Know what you want before you reach the bar. Trust us.

4. Put your phone away

No bartender wants to serve someone who’s on their phone. You might be firing off a work email, or texting the woman of your dreams; but as far as the poor bartender’s concerned, they’re serving a disinterested sort of chap who can’t even bring himself to look up from his phone screen. We’d advise leaving your phone in your pocket, and giving the person serving you your full attention. On which note…

5. Make eye contact

As we’ve said before, it’s the gentlemanly thing to do; and never more so than in this era of masks and face coverings, where the eyes are often the only part of the face that are fully visible. If you’re ordering a drink, we’d advise placing your order while making full eye contact. After all, a gentleman knows that everyone he meets is wholly worthy of his full attention, no matter who they may be.

6. Smile

A smile goes a long way, gents. That just can’t be said enough. Imagine you’re the bartender who’s had an appallingly long shift; who’s been yelled at and talked down to by more people than they can count — and then you come along. The polite, affable gentleman who makes eye contact and bestows a beaming smile on everyone he meets. It’ll likely brighten their day: such is the power of a simple smile.

7. Be ready to pay

This one’s in a similar vein to ‘know what you want’. If you’ve got hungry (or should that be thirsty?) hoards behind you, you can guarantee they won’t take kindly to the guy who watches his elaborate cocktails being made for several minutes, but doesn’t whip his wallet out until the card machine’s actually right in front of him. Cue a lot of pocket searching, followed by rifling through the wallet to find the right card…it’s no way to make spontaneous friends at the bar. Have your card ready to pay, and make a swift exit to let the next person through. The bar is a finely oiled machine, really; but only if everyone plays ball.

8. Chat to your fellow drinkers

If you’re standing at the bar next to a single other person, both of you gazing into the middle distance as the waiter dashes downstairs to find a new bottle of Malbec; why not engage them in conversation? We’ve all lived through far too many periods of disconnection from each other to pass up an opportunity for casual conversation with someone new; and it’s far more fun than standing side by side in total silence until one of you, unable to bear the silence any longer, pulls out his phone and starts scrolling aimlessly through Instagram. Strike up a conversation, and who knows? You might even make a new friend.

9. However: a gentleman doesn't force his company on anyone

That said; don’t force your company on anyone, either. That’s totally unacceptable bar decorum. By all means, give it a go; but if the person you’re chatting to doesn’t give any signal that they’d like to continue chatting, we’d advise leaving it there. No gentleman forces his presence on another person; a true gentleman accepts when his advances aren’t being returned. There’s always next Friday.

10. Once you’ve got your drinks, it’s time to leave the bar

Trust us on this one. Even if your smile worked wonders and you’ve been chatting away with the bartender; even if you’ve made a new best friend in the person standing next to you — once you’ve got those drinks, it’s time to make a swift getaway. Those ordering spots at the bar are prized positions; positions that everyone waiting behind you is desperately trying to get to. Once you’ve got your drinks, you no longer have need of it — so it’s time to step away, and let someone else fill that much-sought after spot. Oh, and try not to spill your drinks as you leave; as bar etiquette goes, spilling drinks is the lowest of the low.

Looking for more etiquette advice? Well, here’s the problem with pick up lines…and what to do instead

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