Cocktail Chatter: Bar-havioral Problems

Gay bar bartenders, who are not necessarily gay bartenders, are usually the most efficient and fair intoxicologists in the drinking universe. I say "fair" because at straight establishments, hot women and rich-looking men (usually jerks) get first priority, and the bartenders frequently take drink orders out of order. Infuriating! This is not often the case in gay watering holes, where the bartenders tend to be the hottest people in the room and don't need to impress you by serving you first (you need impress them with the size of your tips).

Also, gay bar patrons know how to behave (toward the bartender anyway) and will often line up in an orderly fashion at the drink well rather than shouting and waving like the opening scene of The Love Boat all along the bar. I take straight friends to my favorite gay bar and they are amazed at the German-like efficiency in place. They are often jealous and determine to start coming there every night, until they hear the 14th Madonna remix in a row. I can't say I blame them.

In a nightclub or other crowded venue, or anywhere with a mixed crowd, all bets for orderly ordering are off. You need to gain the attention of the bartender as well as make him or her think you're going to be a good (i.e., fast, non-annoying) customer. Here are a few suggestions for attracting the bartender and keeping his attention.

Look available. You want to make eye contact with the bartender and have her give you the "I see you" nod. To accomplish this, face the bar, not your friends behind you. If you're turned around chatting and using the bar as a leaning post, you're not giving the right signal.

Be ready. When you are trying to get the bartender's attention, have visible cash in your hand – but don't wave it around unless there is a row of drag queens in six-inch heels blocking your line of sight. And if you're planning to pay with a credit card, you may want to keep that hidden. It takes longer to process, so the bartender will serve the cash-holding folks first. Also, be ready with your friends' drink orders. Don't wait until the bartender gets there to turn around and say, "What do you guys want?" As the person standing next to you, I'll swoop in and say "Three martinis please" when your back is turned. I'm like that.

Strategize. Don't shout to get the bartender's attention. Nobody likes to be yelled at while doing their job. A friendly "Hi!" sometimes helps though. Make your first tip the most generous one to help ensure prompt service and healthy pours for the rest of the evening. And be respectful of others – if the guy next to you was waiting longer but the bartender comes to you, give him the "he was here first" point. The bartender will remember that you're next, and you never know if that guy next to you will return the favor and pay for your drink.

Camper English is a cocktails and spirits writer and publisher of Alcademics.com.

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