How to Order Drinks at Your Next Business Event or Dinner

When you go out for drinks, whether on your own, with colleagues, or with friends, you’ll want to feel confident. Following our guide on how to order drinks will ensure you have proper bar etiquette and won’t embarrass yourself.  

What kind of bar?

Before even considering what drink you’ll order, you need to assess the type of bar you’re visiting. Bars can vary widely in their offerings, so knowing what to expect will increase your confidence.

Are you in a restaurant bar? Order their specialty: for instance, Tex-Mex restaurants would be keen on margaritas. An upscale restaurant usually carries wine and upscale cocktails. If you find yourself at a beer bar, tavern, or brewery check out the taps and ask for a sample of one that sounds interesting. A wine bar will probably have a long list of vintages with no beer or liquor. Cocktail bars are typically trendy and pride themselves on their mixology. In any bar setting, you can always ask the bartender for recommendations.

Basic Terminology

Before you attempt placing an order, it is important to get some terminology straight. Even if you’re not an expert get these terms right, and no one will be any the wiser.

Beer comes in a pint: a standard 16 ounces in the United States.

Tall or short – either glass uses the same amount of alcohol. If you don’t state a size, you will usually get a short drink.

A well liquor is the basic, generic brand that will likely be used to mix your drink unless you specify a brand. So if you have a preference, name it. When you order a mixed drink, well or not, state the liquor first, then the mixer: quite literally, what the liquor is mixed with. This may be soda water, tonic water, juice, and other sodas. Getting the sequence right is important; you will definitely alert the bartender and listeners to your ignorance if you switch it around.

Putting it all together, your order = tall/short + liquor + mixer. Example: Tall vodka soda, please. Remember, if you want a specific brand, name it. Example: tall Stoli & soda, please, with a twist (lemon peel).

Single v. double – by default, a mixed drink will be a single serving of alcohol. If you’d like two servings, order a double. You can add the “double” before or after you name the drink. Example: double rum and coke is the same as rum and coke, double.

Neat v. on the rocks, states your preference to have your drink without or with ice. Alternately, straight up means chilled. Order your “whiskey, neat,” and you’ll feel as smooth as you sound.

Almost There

If you know where you’re going and what type of bar it is, you’re already doing your research. Go ahead and take a look at their menu, as this will help you feel more comfortable once there.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ve brushed up on your vocabulary, but if you still run into uncertainty upon ordering, ask for clarification. The minor embarrassment of asking is well worth avoiding disappointment and potentially distaste at accidentally ordering something you don’t want. The bartenders are the experts. Unless the bar is swamped, they should obligingly help you out, or least offer you a menu.

Don’t put your foot in your mouth. A couple of questions you should not ask are: “What’s good here?” and “What’s cheap?” These seemingly innocuous questions are actually insulting to the establishment. Instead, what you should ask is “What’s popular?” and “Are there any specials?”

Approaching the Bartender

Etiquette is vastly important in your approach and delivery of your drink order. Don’t idle at the bar until you are ready, or you have a question if they’re not packed. Walking up and simply putting your hands on the bar will indicate to the bartender that you are ready. Do not snap, whistle, yell, or any variation thereof. The bartender will come to you.

Be mindful that if you are at a restaurant bar, the same bartender is mixing drinks for the entire establishment. If it’s crowded or loud, make sure you speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard. If you have multiple drink orders, state them all at the same time. Example: One pint of Guinness and a margarita on the rocks, please.

Finish Strong

Have your payment ready. You may choose to open a tab if you will be ordering more drinks later on. If this transaction will complete your outing, then go ahead and complete the exchange, and don’t forget to tip. A standard 10-20% will do in the U.S. added to your receipt or in the tip jar.

Knowing how to order drinks is indicative of good manners. Oxford & Wells knows that appearance and proper etiquette is important to business travelers. Look as sharp in your suit as you do at the bar with these tips and a bottle of Oxford & Wells spray starch. Visit us today to learn more about leaving a lasting impression.