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Sex + Relationships

Bar Etiquette: Sending And Accepting Drinks, & More

Short dress? Check. Sky-high heels? Check. Fly-away-less hair without a millimeter of frizz? Double check. Every ounce of you smelling like a delicious combination of your signature perfume, deodorant and shampoo/conditioner? Obvi! And your makeup is perfect. Your entrance into that crowded bar has a chance of standing out to that guy chilling by the bar with his less attractive buddies. Get his attention and you are golden. But why, why do you want that guy’s attention while you’re at the bar with your girls (other than the obvious arm candy/nightcap buddy)?

  1. Confidence booster — can’t lie, having your idea of the best looking guy pay attention to you ups your confidence level…leaving you looking even better.
  2. You certainly don’t want to be the only one of your friends not being chatted up by a guy! Awkward.
  3. Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots! Well, ok, if you took that many shots you might lose him due to the inability to walk or speak. But when it comes down to it, unlimited attention from Mr. Right Now can also translate into some free drinks. 

Her Campus breaks down bar etiquette for receiving those precious drinks…and what to do if you feel so inclined to make a bold move and buy him a drink. Scandalous!
Lexie Sonis, a former bartender at Dino’s, a college bar for Cornell students, talked about what she viewed on the job.
“I rarely saw guys sending girls drinks; most of the time the guys would approach the girls before buying them drinks. When I did see it happen, either the guy somehow knew the girl already or the guy was a ‘creeper.’”
Lexie explained that when girls had drinks bought for them, “it ALWAYS led to the girl giving her full attention to the guy…the only exception is when a guy (or guys) would buy drinks for multiple girls. In that case, either girls wouldn’t take it as a compliment or were more interested in hanging out with their friends. If a guy was interested in a girl, he would first get her away from her friends…and then buy her a drink.”

But what is truly protocol for when a guy sends you a drink? Do you have to talk to him? Yes. Seriously? At the very least this guy bought you a drink. Give him a few minutes of your time while you sip your drink. Worst-case scenario, he sucks and you got a free drink. Best-case scenario? You got a free drink and a date you can’t wait to go on next week. No one says you have to hook up with him or give him your number, but at the very least give him the time of day.
Now, what about turning that drink down?
Melissa, a junior at Rutgers University explained, “When a guy who I’m not interested in AT ALL offers to buy me a drink I usually say, actually my boyfriend can get me one. Even if that’s a lie, I feel like it’s an easier way to let a guy down…unless he knows I don’t have a boyfriend!”
As far as getting sent a drink — by a “creeper” — the responses get a little different, according to Lexie.
“The girl would take one glance at the guy and then run and hide (but with the drink of course).  I personally never saw this tactic lead to any interaction or work in the guys’ favor.”
Personally, I’ve only ever seen super-pushy guys send drinks. If you look over and he’s cute, consider accepting. Again, how bad could talking to a cute guy be, as long as your friends are nearby? But if you find him unattractive, and aren’t impressed by his ballsy move to send you a drink, there is no shame in politely declining the beverage.
Lexie explained that it was only guys sending drinks — never girls. She had never — in her nearly three years as a bartender or bar-goer—seen a girl send a drink to a complete stranger.  Noted.
But guys, Lexie saw, did occasionally get drinks bought for them!
“I never saw a guy taken aback by a girl offering him a drink. The guys usually seemed thrilled to get a free drink.”

Her Campus’s new Real Live College Guys, Joe Masterman and Zach Wasser, weighed in on girls buying them drinks.
“I would say that a girl sending a guy a drink is ballsy and good.  Guys like that kind of spunk and straightforwardness in a girl,” Joe explained. “It’s not the same thing as the girl asking the guy out on a date—that would be emasculating.”
Zach explained that the way he looked at a girl buying him a drink is all about the follow-through.
“It’s all about how the girl approaches the conversation after she has bought the dude a drink. If she seems self-confident when she first meets him after she has bought him the drink, the guy will think she’s just a really cool and intriguing girl who was interested in him, and that will boost his ego (and guys love that). If the girl comes off too strong in their first conversation—if she acts overly interested in hooking up or just too interested in the guy—the guy will probably be less attracted to the girl because she’s made herself completely available, which is rarely attractive. So the act itself is kind of determined by its aftermath: if she’s a cool girl, the guy will think she’s ballsy for buying him a drink, if she comes on too strong, the act is pushy,” Zach said.
Frances, a Boston College student, explained that while he would never turn down a drink a girl bought him, he would probably be more intrigued if she bought him a shot.
“I feel like if a girl was to say something like ‘hey I’m getting a round of shots for my friends, want one?’ it would come off more casual. Follow that up with some conversation…could be a win.”
As for guys buying girls drinks—as many of you know, it’s not necessarily a surefire way to get success with the opposite sex.
“I figure if I buy a girl a drink, it never hurts my chances, though I wouldn’t say that buying a girl a drink always leads to ‘success,’” Zach explained. “I generally think that people love to drink enough that if I buy a girl a drink and I’m not a creep about it, why wouldn’t they like it?  Obviously some people are wary of all strangers, especially in club settings where people could slip something in your drink, but every time I’ve bought a drink for a girl, she’s been appreciative because she doesn’t have to spend money, and (I assume) it boosts her ego to have a guy hitting on her and willing to spend money for her.”

Joe explained the care that guys go through if they choose to send a girl a drink—wary of that creeper rep. 

“Make sure the girl is not with any other guys because you never know whose turf you could be stepping on, or whose game you could be interfering with.  But if a girl is with other girlfriends, and hopefully has at least seen you and appeared to not have thrown up a little in her mouth, then go for it.  It’s a move that shows some confidence and class, and that most young men wouldn’t have the guts to go for.  Don’t be looking at the girl when the waiter gives her the drink, and don’t send it if she already has a full drink.”

So…what now?

  • Graciously accept drinks (that you watched the bartender make!) from someone who doesn’t seem like a huge creeper. It took confidence and cash to make that move!
  • If you’re feeling gutsy, offer a guy a drink or a shot…but make sure you follow up acting your confident, fabulous self, and not too pushy!

Bar culture is your first step into the grown-up party world. Here you can have more than just a Natural Light or a Keystone Light to drink, you can hang your not-favorite coat (don’t be stupid and bring out your new designer coat, we’re not that grown-up yet) on a coat rack here with less (but still some) concern that it’ll be stolen, and you can go to a bathroom regularly cleaned. Woo hoo! Now act like a big girl and strike up a conversation over a delicious Long Island Iced Tea! Just don’t think you’re such a big girl that you can throw these back all night! Happy bar-hopping!
Lexie Sonis, Cornell grad and former bartender
Joe Masterman, Her Campus Real Live College Guy
Zachary Wasser, Her Campus Real Live College Guy

Cara Sprunk has been the Managing Editor of Her Campus since fall 2009. She is a 2010 graduate of Cornell University where she majored in American Studies with a concentration in cultural studies. At Cornell Cara served as the Assistant Editor of Red Letter Daze, the weekend supplement to the Cornell Daily Sun where she also wrote for the news and arts section and blogged about pop culture. In her free time Cara enjoys reading, shopping, going to the movies, exploring and writing.  
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