The Do's and Don'ts of Taking a First Date to a Bar

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The cardinal rules of first dates
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How to pick the perfect setting — and what to do once you're there.

DON'T: Order dinner. Remember, this date has an expiry time, an hour or two.; three at the most, but only if it’s going well. Going out for drinks means that neither of you have to commit to being in each other’s company for longer than you want to be. A first date can be weird even if there’s obvious chemistry, but weirder times would be had if you order prime rib and mash, and your date orders a little bowl of edamame. I’ve seen it happen. Trust me, no one wants to watch you eat. That said; eat something before the date so you’ve got a good base coat down on which to pour a date’s worth of alcohol.

DO: Drink good booze. Whether you drink beer, wine, or liquor, order the nice version of your usual poison of choice. If you're a Bud Light drinker, select a nice craft pilsner instead. Go for top shelf liquor instead of well. The words “house chardonnay” should never come out of your mouth on a first date. Feel how you want about it, but snobbery does exist in the drinking world, and your date may well be paying attention to what you imbibe, passing judgment on your character as they do.

DON'T: Drink too much. One or two cocktails ought to be enough to smooth out any rough spots in this heightened social experiment, but three or four might put you over the line into red-faced and sloppy. Even if you’re a nervous drinker, you need to rein that in on a first date lest your companion comes away from the evening thinking you’re an alcoholic.

DON'T: Drink before your date. I’ve encountered this over and over at my bar: an anxious suitor shows up 20 minutes early to put a few away before their date arrives, and ends up a boozy mess for the date itself. When your date finally does arrive, and leans in for a familiar cheek kiss or quick hug, you want them to smell your shampoo, perfume, or aftershave, not an eye-watering wallop of Kentucky Gentleman. 

DON'T: Order for your date. It's pushy and can come off as pretentious. The whole point of a first date is to get to know what they like, their preferences and bugaboos. By definition, you don’t know these things about them yet. Ordering an expensive bottle of Bordeaux may seem like a baller thing to do, until you discover that your date gets migraines from the tannins in red wine. Then you're stuck drinking a whole bottle of wine yourself, inadvertently violating a few of the don'ts above.

DO: Tip your bartender. Well. This may sound self-serving — because it kinda is — but a show of generosity to the person taking care of you will go a long way to making your date better. Even if you make all the right moves, crappy service can easily ruin a perfectly nice, romantic evening. Be nice to the people serving you, and show your appreciation. If they're any good at their job, they'll take good care of you if you do.

DON'T: Make a big show of your generosity to your date, or your fat bank account, or any other aspect of your healthy finances. Just this weekend, I had a customer telling two ladies at my bar that he was the richest guy in the room — three times — and guess who went home alone? On the flip-side, don't complain about being broke, either. Just leave money out of the conversation entirely. When the check comes, pay for it, unless your date insists on going dutch, in which case, don't put up a fuss about that either. Most of all don’t make it your bartender's problem to negotiate who pays for what.

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