Scratching with the Eagles, A Gentleman's Guide to Bar Etiquette - October 2014

A bar is the birthplace of so many wonderful things.
Relationships. Friendships. Animosities. Hangovers. Great new ideas that you will never come around to doing. Horrible ideas that you unfortunately do come around to doing. Discussions about whether Bonham or Moon is the greatest drummer of all time.*

A bar is a microcosmos, and I have spend many years studying it from behind the counter. To help guide you through the whole ordeal I have compiled some points to make your life, and your bartender’s, somewhat easier.

*For the record, this is not a discussion – it’s Bonham.


Pretty much all bar etiquette guides I’ve read seem to be written by bartenders who will tell you that as a ‘man’ you can only order an obscure whiskey sans ice.
This is complete and utter nonsense. You are there for your own enjoyment, and this is not the Old West anymore. You are a grown up. Don’t let some grump with a cocktail shaker and suspenders tell you what to drink.

Do you like Aperol Spritzers or Prosecco? Go for it.
Strawberry Daiquiris? Do it.
Long Island Ice Tea? Ok, there is a limit.

Anyhow, the one good advice I will give you on ‘what to order’ has to do more with time and place. If you are in a busy bar at peak hour on Saturday night – Do not order 4 different work intensive cocktails. This will make the people behind you in line unhappy, because they have to wait. This will make the bartender unhappy, because he will see the line of unhappy people behind you. This will make your friends who are waiting for your drinks unhappy, because they do not have a drink in their hands. Just go for simple mixers, wine, beer or straight liquor. Save the cocktails for either dedicated cocktail bars or early in the evening.


In a busy bar, this one comes down to two simple things - Know what you want to order, and have your money ready. This might seem like a very obvious statement, but you would be surprised how many times I had a lady or gentleman at the bar who would be waiting for 5 minutes, and still had to ask everyone in their group what they wanted as soon as it was their turn. On a packed night, having someone at the bar stating their order clearly and promptly is a blessing. This will probably ensure you will get helped faster next time - your bartender will remember you, trust me.

In a quiet cocktail or hotelbar this whole dynamic is completely different of course. Asking for suggestions if you’re not sure what to drink is totally acceptable, especially if you have little knowledge about cocktails and liquor. Just speaking from my own experience – I always enjoyed it tremendously when someone asked for suggestions and I was able to come up with a drink they loved.


Eye Contact.
No snapping fingers.
No ‘Hey buddy’.
No knocking on the bar.
No grabbing arms.
No touching the bartender in general ever actually.

Never, ever, EVER wave money at your bartender. You are at a bar, not at a strip club.

If the bartender doesn’t serve you, but serves all his friends or the pretty lady next to you even though they came in later? You're in a shitty bar and you should not be giving them your money.


Having a few too many drinks is fine, we all been there. Multiple times.
Anyhow, there’s a few things you should keep in mind:

Try not to do it too often.
Try not to insult guys that are bigger than you .
Try not to break anything more valuable than the amount of money you have in your wallet.

Another great tip - If you got very drunk at a bar one night, it’s a classy thing to go back the next day and apologize to the staff for your behavior, even if you didn’t do anything outrageous. The people behind the bar will love you for this, and being loved by your bartender obviously has many advantages.

Also, trying to talk to someone you are attracted to when you are drunk is usually not a good idea, especially if the person on the receiving end of your advances is sober. But no one ever listened to me on this one, including myself.


In the US or any other country where the staff depends on tips for their income – always tip. If the service sucks you should tell the manager or just never come back to the bar. In Europe or anywhere where staff does gets paid a decent wage tipping is a bit more flexible. Personally I almost always tip, but it is fine to not give anything extra when ordering just one drink. However, if you have racked up a big bill over a whole night – put something on top for the server or bartender. If you can run up a 500 euro bill, you can afford it. Especially if you are putting that bill on your company expense account.


This should actually have been the first thought, and it should be completely obvious, but these days it seems like a forgotten art sometimes:

Be polite. Show some manners.

When I was a little boy and my dad would take me out for ice cream, there was no way he would allow me to walk away without saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’. If you do the same thing as a grown man ordering in a bar, you would be disappointing my father, and that is not something I would recommend.

Originally Appeared on Man Got Style