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Bar Etiquette: 10 Tips When Going Out

I hesitate to use the phrase “bar etiquette.” It implies that I’m about to set rules for your Friday night out. I’m not here to set rules. For all I know, there are no rules. Especially in college. Be who you are, especially if you’re crazy.
 
 
What I mean is that there are certain behaviors in a college bar that bartenders appreciate and other behaviors that they certainly do not. I’m giving you the inside scoop. As a bartender for a local college bar in Amherst, with kids packed like sardines on a Thursday night, I’ve seen a lot. All I’m doing here is maximizing your bar experience and yes, helping you (potentially) receive a couple free drinks.
 
1. Three Magical Words: “Leave it Open”
 
When someone hands me a debit card and says, “Leave it open,” I often reply with “wait, really?” You’ll hear a lot of bartenders say that you should bring cash out, but I understand that isn’t realistic. As college kids, we rely heavily on our plastic and I see nothing wrong with that. With that being said, if you’re buying $3 bud light drafts all night and making me run your card each time, you’re killing me. You’re really killing me.
 
 
2. HEY! HEY YOU!
 
Nothing gets me singing “On to the Next One” faster than a someone waving their hands, demanding I serve them, screaming, “HEY. HEY YOU. YEAH YOU.” If there is a full bar of students looking for drinks, the loud and obnoxious ones might be waiting a while. Common sense here, really. Believe it or not, manners still exist (and are greatly appreciated) in our neck of the woods!
 
 
3. A Little Thought Goes Along Way
 
You finally made it through the crowd. You’re waiting anxiously for the moment that your eyes make contact with whoever is behind the bar. She’s coming for you. Yes! Finally!
 
“What can I get for you?”
 
Awkward silence.
 
This is the part where preparing ahead of time would have done you well. She’s moving on while you’re still deciding between a Jack and Coke or a Sex on the Beach. 
 
 
4. Buying Rounds
 
Most of us are on some sort of budget. Buying a round for you and a group of five lady friends isn’t an easy task to take on. In fact, you might actually have to check your bank account before making that move. However, ordering six drinks for you and your friends and handing over six different credit cards is a questionable move. It’s almost worse than the dude closing his card out after every $3 bud light draft. We don’t forget those kind of stress-inducing people. 
 
 
5. Know Your Limits
 
This is something your parents tried to teach you in high school. This is something your friend tried to remind you after your first frat party freshman year. This is something you should know before you hit the bars. Hey, we all have our nights, and those nights can be awesome, don’t get me wrong. But, do you want to be the girl stumbling into a bar, ordering six car-bombs, and promptly being asked to leave by the hot bouncer in your Finance class? Didn’t think so.
 
 
6. Can I Have a Free Drink?
 
We get this one a lot. Some people are kidding and some people are very serious. Make this move and you’re probably banned from the “Give Free Drinks” list. Which does exist. It happens often. To deserving folk.
 
 
7. Make It Strong.
 
Similar to #6. You just earned yourself a 1/2 ounce of booze and a whole lot of soda!
 
 
8. Pitcher Foam
 
Complaining about the pitcher foam is kind of a rookie move. You’re paying around $10 for a pitcher and most bartenders will to do everything they can to get you your money’s worth. The truth about beer on tap? There is foam. And sometimes it foams a lot. Sometimes the pour sucks. When it’s busy, there isn’t much they can do. An inch of foam never hurt anybody and if you really feel gypped, ask her to top it off. She most likely will! We follow the golden rule, serve someone the way you would like to be served. 
 
 
9. Tipping
 
As previously mentioned, we’re all on a budget. Before I became a bartender, I rarely tipped at the bars. Something the service industry teaches you: you always tip. You just do. If you don’t have enough money to spare, you’re not cut out for the scene. No one’s talking big bucks and no bartender is looking for 20% ALL THE TIME. A little bit goes a long way.
 
 
10. Smile
 
The best part about bartending? Meeting awesome people. When you have a killer personality, treat the bartenders and staff like friends, that’s when you get the special treatment everyone’s always looking for. You’d be surprised how quick a bartender will go out of his or her way to give you a great experience in return for a little respect.
 
 
The most important thing, Collegiettes, is to have fun! Take these few pointers, put them in your pocket, and see how it may benefit you next time. 
 
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Molly Shriver

U Mass Amherst

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