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A how-to guide for ordering drinks at the bar

 Ordering Cocktails

For many twenty-somethings, the world of crowded bars, power hours, and ladies nights is a thrilling one. It opens up the possibilities of meeting new people and sharing memories with friends. But, for the shy and reserved, a night out can be an anxiety-inducing experience. What drinks are available?  How are the drinks priced?  What the heck is the difference between a tall and a double?

Step 1: Deciding what you want
If you want to make a bartender roll their eyes at you, wait until you get their attention to decide what you want. Bartenders are dealing with a slew of impatient patrons, so they’ll quickly skip over you if you’re indecisive. Not sure what your options are? The best bet is to take a suggestion from a friend who knows what you might like. Otherwise, if you have a smartphone, install a mixed drinks app so you can browse through the different drinks. Most bars will have the ingredients to make any cocktail that looks good to you, or at least something similar.

Step 2: Bellying up to the bar
For me, the most difficult part of being a newbie to the bar scene was fighting the crowd. I had to get over my timidity and learn how to be more assertive, keeping in mind that there’s a huge difference between aggressiveness and rudeness. Confidently move forward as space opens up and don’t allow others to move in front of you; a polite “excuse me, I’m waiting to get a drink” should do the trick. This is common sense, really, but it’s overwhelming for anyone who isn’t used to it.

Step 3: Getting noticed
Your wait is not over when you finally get up to the bar. Some patrons wave their money in the bartender’s face or simply yell their order out. Don’t be that person. The polite and effective way to get noticed is to face forward at the bar instead of turning sideways to take up more space, have your money or credit card visible, and make sure you aren’t sipping a drink or holding one for a friend (they might assume you’ve been taken care of already). Then, be patient and polite. A bartender’s job can be fast-paced and stressful. Don’t add to their stress by being impatient and rude.

Step 4: Ordering a drink
To ensure that you get what you want, familiarize yourself with bar lingo. For example, a rail is a drink made with the cheapest liquor available. If you don’t specify a brand of liquor, you’re ordering a rail. A double is a standard-sized drink with double the alcohol and double the price. A tall has the same amount of alcohol as a single, but with more soda; it’s often served in a pint glass and priced as a single. Check a more detailed how-to-order guide for more common terms, tips, and tricks.

The bar is a great place to enjoy drinks and make memories, but remember to drink responsibly. Never leave your drink unattended or get separated from your friends.

What’s your advice for ordering at a bar?  Comment below!

About the Author

Natalee Desotell

Natalee graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013 with a triple major in Political Science, International Politics & Economics, Languages & Cultures of Asia, and a minor in Global Public Health. After a couple years in the working world, she recently returned to her alma mater to study Cartography and Geographical Information Systems. A self-proclaimed public health nerd, her dream job is to communicate epidemiological information visually through beautiful interactive maps and graphics. She enjoys iced black coffee, punk rock music, and surprising people.