There never seems to be a bad time of year for a visit to your local watering hole. In the summer, you can sit outside and slowly sip wine, beer, and cocktails on a sunny patio or deck. In the winter, the bar is a great respite from the chilly weather and hordes of mall bargain shoppers. It’s also an ideal place to meet someone interesting and share a few cocktails. That is, if you know how to keep it fun and not edge into awkwardness (or worse, predatory behavior).
Obviously, there’s a wrong way and a right way to chat someone up at your local watering hole. It’s your responsibility to learn this and respect the boundaries of others. To help, we decided to ask the brave souls who have to witness our lovelorn fumblings — bartenders — for advice. Find all of their answers below.
Don’t be too drunk
Dave Bach, general manager at Sierra Gold in Las Vegas
“Is there a non-creepy way of hitting on someone at a bar? Crack a joke, make eye contact and hope they’ll keep talking with you. Just make sure you’re not too drunk – that will make you look like a creep no matter what.”
Make eye contact
Allison Villarreal beverage director at South House in Jersey City, New Jersey
“Just like getting a bartender’s attention, make eye contact with the person you are interested in first. Once eye contact has been established, walk over to them, introduce yourself and buy them a drink. If they’re interested, they will hang out with you and get to know you. If not, they will most likely go stand in a corner with their friends and avoid you for the rest of the night. Never follow them around the bar all night or linger around their area too long, that’s what creeps people out the most.”
Don’t be rude
Spencer Elliott, head bartender at The Boogie Woogie Room in New York City
“I can’t tell you how many people, guys and girls, who have just made sure it was okay to chat. If it wasn’t, they were respectful and wished the other party a good evening. Be funny or quirky about it, but never be rude if someone just isn’t interested.”
Ask if he/she is interested
Brock Schulte at The Monarch Cocktail Bar & Lounge in Kansas City, Missouri
“How can customers hit on someone at a bar without looking like a creep? Ask the bartender to offer a drink or buy a previous round and ask if he/she is interested. Ladies can reach out too.”
Jared Boller, lead mixologist at The St. Regis in Toronto
“Be respectful to every individual and their space. Be cautious and understanding of someone’s nonverbal cues. Be observant and identify if someone’s even interested in your advances. Don’t overstep your boundaries and say anything inappropriate. Be kind and maybe initiate a conversation with an observation about them as an individual. People enjoy compliments if they’re sincere, and maybe ask questions… people enjoy speaking about themselves.
Buy them a drink
Matthias Hinrichs, Bartender at Public Belt Bar and Lounge in New Orleans
“How can customers hit on someone at a bar without looking like a creep? A customer can ask the bartender to bring a drink to that person, or they can initiate the conversation by engaging in small talk to leave a great first impression without coming on too strong.”
Nick Rini, head bartender of Refinery Rooftop in New York City
“I say just go up and say ‘Hi.’ Real human interaction is always the most genuine way to get someone’s attention. Don’t be a creep and just send me a drink. That tells me you don’t have the balls to say ‘Hi.’”
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[ONE WEEK] On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, thereby repealing the 18th Amendment, which banned the sale, distribution, and consumption of alcohol. Celebrate the end of Prohibition at your favorite San Diego Speakeasy! Enjoy a Redemption Whiskey Old Fashioned Bar from 8-9pm, and our classic Blues & Soul jam with the Lafayette Blues Band! Wednesday, December 5th!
Ryan Andrews, lead bartender at Prohibition in San Diego
“How can customers hit on someone at a bar without looking like a creep? Start with, ‘Hi my name is…’ Everything else is unacceptable, and if a simple introduction doesn’t lead to a conversation, walk away.”
Make a joke
Joe Masse, beverage director at The Woodstock in New York City
“You both have something in common already — you’re drinking! — so the opportunity to make a quick-witted joke ‘on the fly’ presents itself without you having to walk over to a stranger praying that they don’t swipe left on your face in real life.”
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Jason Rodriguez beverage director at HALL in New York City
“Just talk. Be yourself and have a normal conversation. A regular intro is always the best way to go and if your bartenders is paying attention and is good at their job, they’ll generally wing man you and strike up a conversation involving all of the patrons on the bar so that you can then make your intro and get to chatting it up. Even something as simple as commenting on a drink they’re having ‘…is that the infused rye old fashioned? Oh yeah, they make a great one here and Woodford is one of my favorite brands. (Smile) Hi my name is…’ It isn’t that hard, just be you.”