Where does drinking come into all this? I won’t lie, sometimes alcohol is the perfect social lubricant, diminishing inhibitions just enough to quiet the anxious voice. But that’s not actually what has helped me most . . . no, what has helped me most is the bar, particularly the bartender. Through trial and error at a variety of venues, I have learned that my best experiences almost always happen at the bar. This effect is dramatic enough that I have had a reversal in opinion about a place where I previously sat in a lounge area. So trust me, sit at the bar.
While both servers and bartenders are vital to a venue’s customer service, you often interact with a server in short bursts and
One perk to sitting at the bar, especially if the place isn’t swamped, is that you get to have a one-on-one drink consultation. I write a blog about drinking and still tend to panic when ordering because the options are overwhelming, especially if the bar doesn’t have a menu. Contrary to what some websites may lead you to believe, most bartenders enjoy helping their patrons figure out what to drink (when they have the time to do so properly). You can start a great conversation by saying “I like whiskey/gin/vodka and prefer drinks that are sweeter/spicier/more spirit forward, what would you recommend?” Or if you have a drink you like, try asking “I like Gin And Tonics but am in more of a whiskey mood, do you have any ideas?” As long as you’re open to trying something new, you just might end up with a new favorite drink before the night is done!
Good bartenders get to know you because they are well-practiced in reading, talking to, and helping people. It doesn’t matter that you’re not very good at talking to strangers because the person on the other side of the bar is a professional at it. The best bartenders can make even the most awkward and anxious person feel at home, in part so they will buy another drink and in part because their people skills probably helped them get their job. As I said, there’s a safety net in sitting at the bar. You don’t have to fear rejection because it’s a bartender’s job to make you happy, but you also know you’re in good hands because you’re with someone who enjoys and excels at getting to know people.
The moral of the story is this: sit at the bar. You’ll get more face time with someone who is well practiced at making people feel comfortable because it’s part of their job, you’ll have a better experience because you’re enjoying a drink with the person who created it for you, and there’s little social risk involved as long as you hold up your end of the deal (respect, politeness, paying/tipping). The best social benefits of alcohol don’t come from getting drunk; they come from bellying up to the bar and getting to know the bartender. Practice makes perfect, and this practice happens to come with delicious beverages!