1. Check social media before you go to see if there is a list.
If you are being coerced into one of those evenings — whether for a birthday, a celebration, or just for the taste levels of one of your more bro-y friends — where you’re going to a bar or club with a cover, look online. Half the time, there are lists on Facebook or their website where you can easily sign yourself up to forgo the cover, skip the line, or even get a free drink or two. (Not to mention, if you are a ~lady~, there are often establishments that will simply open their bar to you for an hour or two just for the pleasure of having your uterus sip their finely-made cocktails.) It pays to look at those terrible club promoter Facebook fan pages. It just does.
2. If you are tight on money, buy a pitcher of beer instead of a round of shots.
While it’s always a good idea to buy something for friends (and to start that Pay It Forward-ball rolling that will eventually end up in people buying you drinks), sometimes we just can’t afford to drop 50 dollars on a round of nice shots for everyone in our group. So you can still ball on that shoestring budget by getting a pitcher or two of beer and handing everyone a cup, like some kind of alcoholic Jesus bringing soothing tinctures to the leper colony.
Pro tip: If it’s late and everyone’s already wasted, don’t worry about shelling out for shots. Just get a basket of wings/french fries/mozzarella sticks, and let your ravenous friends have at it. Get them a sampler, and watch them offer you their first-born child as repayment for your selflessness.
3. Always tip well for the food or drink you were comped.
If your bartender is gracious enough to toss you a basket of chicken tenders because the chef was feeling generous, or give you an extra shot for free just to see you smile like a newborn child seeing bubbles for the first time, respect that. Always tip well. In theory, it should be equal to the amount that you would have paid for the item (minus tip), but if you’re going to be cheap, let it be at least half of that amount. If their kindness is not repaid in cold, hard cash, watch it dry up like the last well on the Oregon Trail, and watch you have to pay full price for everything going forward.
4. Know where the server’s well is, and avoid it.
Don’t stand in the spot where people are going to be constantly yelling “EXCUSE ME” and moving past you while carrying teetering trays of sizzling-hot fajitas on their way to pick up some mixed drinks for table 12. Don’t be the guy who constantly has to be pushed aside so that people can do their jobs. Don’t make everyone hate you, even if it’s the only spot left open at the bar. That shit does not count as an actual spot, and you know it.
5. Don’t order mojitos when it’s busy.
Unless you want to watch the fire and zest for life in your bartender’s eyes slowly fizzle away as he or she realizes that the next 20 minutes are going to be spent agonizingly making seven super-complicated drinks while a hundred sweaty bros yell at them to refill their domestic drafts, don’t do this. Save the complex stuff for when they have the time and energy to put their attention into crafting something cool, and keep the screamed, Friday-night orders as simple as possible. If there are more than two ingredients, you’re probably being a pain in the ass.
6. Never order the second-cheapest bottle of wine.
I will quote my former-server-now-bartender friend on this one:
“Restaurants and bars know that people are cheap, and don’t know anything about wine, but they don’t want to look that cheap by ordering the very cheapest bottle on the menu. So they always order the second-cheapest bottle of whichever type they prefer. And so the management just puts a crappy bottle with a big markup in that slot, and everyone buys it. You’re probably better off just getting the cheapest, if you don’t care that much about quality.”
7. A vodka martini could easily be a double vodka on the rocks.
And once again, his words of wisdom:
“Unless you’re going to a good cocktail bar, their idea of a ‘vodka martini’ is probably just going to be a couple ounces of chilled vodka in a martini glass with a twist of lemon or an olive. Save yourself some money by getting a double vodka either chilled or on the rocks, and you can even throw in a bit of lemon if you really want that taste. The money you save on having a fancy glass can go into a nicer vodka, or you can just keep it for another drink.”
8. Plan ahead for your transportation.
You can hold a rock-paper-scissors tournament with your friends before leaving to find out who is going to carry the burden of everyone’s sins by being DD. You can organize a trip with a company as innovative, reliable, sexy, and convenient as Uber (also referred to in certain circles as The Most Life-Changing Invention Since The Polio Vaccine, and likely even more life-changing, because who cares about polio victims when you have CAR SERVICE WITH A FREE BOTTLE OF WATER ON YOUR PHONE!?!?!). You can do whatever you like. Just make sure you’re taken care of, so that you don’t do anything stupid.
9. Take a look at your garnishes before you eat them.
Chances are, those things have been sitting there for a decent amount of time. And by decent, I mean egregious. Make sure your limes aren’t sandpaper-dry, your lemons aren’t covered with some inexplicable swamp slime, and your olives aren’t wrinkled in on themselves like acidic little raisins.
Also, never reach across the bar to pick yourself up a few extra cherries or olives. Never, ever, ever do that.
10. Make a pact with a friend for glass of water with every drink ordered.
Make it into a game if you have to. Make it a challenge. Bet one another that you can’t keep it up all night between every drink, and the loser has to buy the other one potato skins. Whatever you do, just make sure you are getting in a tall glass of ice water in between every actual drink. Your skin, your bank account, your stomach, and your head the next morning will all be tripping over themselves to give you a huge hi-five. Make that shit into a habit, and watch going out become a joy, and not the moisture-sucking trial it once was.