How to behave in the bar

As far as social experiments go there are few better petri dishes than the bar. Demon drink is a catalyst which can quickly unveil those ignorant of social mores.

All sorts of behaviours are found in the bar room, but often it's the sort to make you cringe and others snigger. Though bars are a place to relax, socialise and even party, it pays to be across basic etiquette to save yourself from looking like a mug.

Good behaviour (in moderation) will get your bartender to respond quicker, your friends to enjoy your company more and even a chance to get the number of that potential love interest at the other end of the bar. So here's a couple of pointers to help you avoid any nightlife gaffes.

Mobile madness
The technology age has brought us many marvels, but it has also heralded the death of the art of conversation. Real conversation isn't restricted to 140 characters and it certainly doesn't survive with interruption from the bleeps and vibrations from your smart phone. If you are catching up with a friend or a business acquaintance consider turning off your mobile – the world is unlikely to be taken over by an alien invasion during the time it takes you to have a cocktail or two.

If you cannot bear the thought of being out of touch with the world, then when your phone rings excuse yourself from present company and move outside or at least away from the bar to take your call. Avoid constant text messages to friends who aren't in the room and pay more attention to those you are with. By no means answer your phone whilst trying to place an order from the barkeep. It's a sure way to get you ignored.

Ordering etiquette
Do you know how to order a drink at a bar? It's not a trick question as you'll be surprised by how many people get this simple task wrong. For starters don't ever click your fingers, whistle or holler at the barkeep. If he or she doesn't ignore you they'll get you thrown out - and nobody will miss you.

Don't get your server's attention until you know what you want to order – unless you need some advice. Once you have the bartender's attention, place your whole order at once preceded or followed by a 'please'. 'String ordering' – where a customer orders one drink and waits for it to be made before ordering more drinks in that round – is incredibly frustrating for a busy bartender who is trying to be efficient and serve those waiting at the bar as quickly as possible.

Get your tips out
Once you've placed your order be ready to pay for the entire round. Avoid paying for drinks separately where possible and even consider setting up a tab if you're having more than one and have no cash on hand. Most importantly, leave a tip on bigger rounds or if you're ordering fancy mixed drinks. It doesn't have to be much and a gold coin or two should get you a smile, a thank you and even friendlier service from the staff. If you can't afford to tip for a cocktail in an upmarket bar you can't afford the cocktail.

The bar is not your home
Let's get this straight – the bar is not your home. And that fruit bowl on the bar is not for snacking on. Avoid fondling the fruit or doing anything inappropriate with a cucumber - it's meant to go in people's drinks. As a general rule, don't reach for anything on the bar top unless it's handed to you by the bartender. This includes reaching for drinks whilst the bartender is still making the round, reaching into the ice well or putting straws into drinks. A cocktail glass doesn't need a straw just as you wouldn't drink champagne or wine with one either.


The topic of conversation
In the bar it's always wise to avoid religion and politics. They're both topics that are bound to polarise people in any social group and lead to heated discussions. Remember that alcohol is incendiary and it's especially so when it comes to people's religious and political beliefs. Besides, if you can't find a topic more interesting to talk about than Benedict XVI's latest papal decree, it's time for something a little stronger than that light beer in your hand.

Read the signs
The lights are up. The music is off. There's someone with a broom doing the rounds and there's a rather large dude in a suit standing over your shoulder. It's a fairly safe bet that the bar is closed. Don't try your luck at ordering another drink – read the signs – it's time to move on.

Don't outstay your welcome and leave before you're asked. No bartender is going to listen to any argument that would have him stick around for another hour on top of the 12 he has already worked to serve you another drink you don't need. Say thank you and goodnight, and you'll be wished the same in return.

What behaviour from fellow patrons grinds your gears?