Raising The Bar: 5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your NYC Bar Experience

The New York City bar experience can be either awful or awesome. One night, you're hooking up with the person of your dreams, and the next night you realize you're a homewrecker. You could get an amazing seat at the bar, or you could be stuck in a corner by the bathroom being bumped every five seconds by passing patrons looking for relief from the "2 for 1" beer special.

There are thousands of bars in the greater New York City area, and each varies. While some don't enforce a dress code, others won't allow hats or athletic wear. Some serve food (which can range from finger food to 5 star cuisine), while others serve only alcohol. Some are neighborhood staples built from the ground up, others are just one of millions owned by a major corporation. No matter the bar, the overall experience can be unpredictable. But never fear! Here are some tricks to help narrow the possibility of a disastrous evening.

1. Do Your Googles

I know, I know, research is lame. But it cuts the odds of having a terrible night out in half. Doing a search on a bar will let you know if it's worth making a stop there. You can see if the bar has happy hour specials, serves food, has a dress code, or specializes in fun activities like beer pong or karaoke that will make the evening epic. Yelp, Zagat, and other apps can be tools used to get more information. The reviews and ratings from other customers will give you insight into what to expect and might be the overall deciding factor in picking a great bar or bars.

2. The Early Bird Gets The Worm... In The Tequila

"Who goes to a bar early?!" Well if you're smart, you would. The earlier you get to a bar in most cases, the better. A "dead" atmosphere allows you to get a comfortable seat at the bar or a table without any hassle. It makes for better conversation between you and your party. No need to yell over the music or chatter of othersIt'll also be easier to get service from a bartender or a waiter/waitress. It would probably be in your best interest to strike up a part-time friendship with your bartender/server. Some mild chatting and flirting (without boundary-crossing of course) might get you and your friends some free food or drinks, or perhaps a number (wishful thinking but it doesn't hurt to try). Knowing your bartender or server's name before the impending bum rush makes it a more pleasurable, calm experience.

Pro tip: Googling the spots you want to go to will reveal what hours they have the highest foot traffic.

3. (Don't) Dress To Impress

As previously mentioned, some bars do enforce a dress code. Some may be more strict than others, but for the ones that don't and are known to be packed, wearing your Sunday best might not be the best idea. There are only 3 things that are certain in this life: death, taxes, and someone spilling their drink on you when you least expect it. Even though a spilled drink isn't necessarily the most welcomed or wanted experience, wearing clothing and shoes that you aren't too emotionally attached to should take the edge off of having a full pitcher of Bud Light poured down your back by accident. As far as footwear goes, throw on a pair of the beat up Chuck Taylors you have in the back of your closet. That way if someone steps on your feet it won't be an issue. FYI, "beat up" does not mean dirty or smelly. Make sure that old shirt you've had since 2007 doesn't smell like 2007…..

4. The Closer, The Better

Bar hopping is done by foot. Drinking and driving should never be a question, especially if you plan on having multiple drinks at every pit stop. If you're a motorist, leave your car at home and walk or take a cab that evening. The keys to making a successful bar hop entertaining instead of exhausting are to not over-drink and to visit places in close proximity. Limit the drinking at each destination to about 1-2 drinks maximum. You can also substitute your second drink with a shot, and make sure to drink water before heading to the next location. Try not to stay too long at a particular place if your plan is to hit up more than 3 bars. The ambience may differ from place to place and the sudden shift from low to high or vice versa can be draining. Each bar should be no more than 10 minutes walking distance and no more than 5 minutes by cab. The shorter the travel time, the more inclined you and your friends will be to keep the party going. Start strong, finish strong.

5. Keep Tabs on Your Tab

Chances are, if you're hopping from bar to bar, you're not going to open a tab. However, you may have to if you're paying with a card. Many bars have a minimum balance in place when making a credit/debit transaction. If this is your payment method, it would serve you best to make sure that your tab is actually your tab. To avoid confusion make sure every time you purchase a drink or drinks that you say the name of the tab's owner (i.e. "Can I have two more Long Island Iced Teas, please? Put them on [insert your name here]'s tab."). It may seem tedious and unnecessary, but it also prevents a mischarge on an innocent patron's tab. A free beverage on a stranger sounds good, but we're trying to avoid Bad Bar Karma here.

Closing out a tab in a crowded bar can be frustrating for a customer and a bartender. A lot is going on, and a mistake can be made on either end. Make sure that when you finally do close out, you check your receipt for any inaccuracies. If that's the case, politely take them up with the bartender. Oh, and one more thing…..make sure to get your card back at the end of the night, and that it's your card! Nothing would suck more than finding out that your card and it's new owner kept the party going after you called it a night. It can't hurt to double check the numbers on the card. There's a very slim chance of another customer having the same exact name as you, but better safe than sorry.

Hopefully, these tips will enhance your already epic bar routine, or encourage you to give that dive where you had that awful time another shot (no pun intended... okay maybe a little). This may take some practice if you're just starting out, but if you're a little more advanced then you'll be able to go pro on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras next year. The main keys to these steps are pacing and patience. Bar culture can be overwhelming, but enjoyable if you have a plan in place. So make sure you're safe, and please drink responsibly. Happy Hopping!

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