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11 Tips for Getting a Drink in a Crowded Bar

Crowded bars are brutal. These tips for getting a drink will make it less brutal. (You're welcome.)

If there's one thing I've learned from being a raver, it's that getting a drink in a crowded bar is absolutely brutal. There are millions of people, all clamoring for the bartender's attention, and you are just one in a bunch of them. 

Getting a drink, especially in elite bars, can be rough at peak time. That being said, it is doable—you just need to know how to do it without pissing off the other patrons. 

Speaking as an old-school bar fly who's used to New York City style venues, these tips for getting a drink at the overly crowded bar of your choice will help you whet your whistle. 

Before we talk about how to navigate crowded bars, I have some advice.

There are a lot of reasons why you'd want to learn tips for getting a drink at a bar, but let's be real. Some bars are crowded due to the people who go there, and others are crowded because they serve amazing cocktails. 

If you are going to hit up a crowded bar, make sure it's one that is worth going to. You can have a good time anywhere, but a great cocktail? Well, that's a little harder. 

Wear appropriate attire, but make a point of standing out.

Just like anything else in life, your appearance matters. This is one of the best tips for getting a drink at the bar and it can also work for getting a phone number or two, in my experience.

If you want to get a bartender's attention easily, the fastest way to do so is to stand out in a good way. Balance and nuance is the key here.

You want to stick to the dress code and you need to match the crowd. If you're a crust punk who goes into a crowded yacht club bar, you're not going to get services even if there's no one else there.

A good way to get better service at the bar is to wear something shiny on your wrist. Ideally, it'll be an accessory that shows that you have cash to spend and that will also glitter enough to catch eyes across the room.

Girls can choose almost any accessory to work this tip, but guys tend to have a harder time. This shiny watch from Cartier will usually do the trick.

Understand when it's just not happening.

Sometimes, the crowded bar that you're at will not want to serve you regardless. All the tips for getting a drink on this list are for naught if they're just not interested in serving you. 

Businesses are allowed to choose clients, and frankly, it'd be better to drink at home than to spend money in a place you're not welcome. If you notice any of the following signs, you should not give that bar your patronage—and yes, you should complain:

  • They bar you from entering. If they won't let you enter, you can't drink there. Don't try to force your way in. 
  • They ask you to "wait" while they serve people who came ahead of you. This is the more polite way of refusing you service. 
  • They tell you to go elsewhere. Yes, this is a sign, too. 

Find your space at the bar.

Getting to the bar and actually finding a spot can be the hardest part, so it makes sense that a lot of tips for getting a drink at hyper-crowded bars will involve learning how to saddle up to the bar like a pro.

Personally, I've seen four approaches work:

  • Gently push through the crowds. Make sure to say "excuse me" when you do, and always ask if you can get a little closer to the bar. Manners are important, especially if you are in a social setting where you could meet cool people.
  • Find an "air pocket." In all but the most crowded bars, there will be small nooks where you can squeeze in. Look for one of those places, and lean against the bar. Congrats! You found a nook.
  • Dance your way to the bar. If you're at a club, this is your best bet. People make way for dancers.
  • Find somebody you know and greet them. Make a point to make the bartender your best friend, and you'll never have a hard time grabbing a spot. 

Enlist the help of others if you need to.

One of the smartest tips for getting a drink and making friends I ever heard was to enlist the help of a crowd to get a drink. It's also great if you're short.

If you're in a bar that's absolutely, positively insane in terms of crowding, tap someone on the shoulder who seems to get served easily and ask them for help.

If you're friendly, people will help out and also start talking to you. Something as simple as, "Hey, if I buy you a drink, could you please flag down the bartender?" will work. 

Don't be aggro!

Have you ever seen someone who basically gets into a fight with the bartender or bouncer over being unable to get a drink in time? It's a cringefest and typically results in that person being one of the most hated patrons in that venue.

Seriously, do not get aggressive with others or staff. It will get you blackballed or get your drinks watered down. It will also make people avoid you because they'll think you have a drinking problem. This is one of the secrets every bartender knows and wishes problem clients knew. 

Use some finesse when you order, and work body language to your benefit.

Finesse is something that you should learn to work, and that's one of the tips for getting a drink that can be hard to fully explain in person. You'll know aggressive behavior when you see it.

Raising a finger or doing a small wave is the most you should use when it comes to getting the bartender's attention. If you're really wise, you'll also keep money in your hand so that the bartender registers that you're here to drop cash. 

Become a regular if you can.

One of the best tips for getting a drink on the cheap, or getting extra special attention at the bar, is to be a regular. This is true no matter where you are—even if it's at ultra-trendy clubs like 1Oak. 

Bartenders know that regular patrons are their bread and butter. They will run to serve regulars, especially if they know you're a good tipper. Use that trick, and you'll have no problem getting a drink. It's just the way the bar industry is built. 

Order quickly, but be patient when you actually wait for your drink.

This is one of the things bartenders wish customers understood and remains one of the best tips for getting a drink at a crowded bar I know. You should know this before you get to the bar. 

Bartenders do not have time for you to hem and haw over a menu if they are currently serving 30 other people. Know what you want before you get anywhere near the bar. 

On a similar note, you might want to give them time to complete your order. Bartending a crowded bar is hard work. Stressing them out will cause bartenders to make mistakes and delay your drink. Let them work. 

Particularly wild clubs give scantily clad women priority over everyone else—use that to your advantage.

I'm not going to say that you should do this all the time, but if you are a hot girl, you might as well use your looks to get a drink. Showing a little skin can and will work.

It's one of the oldest tips for getting a drink in the book, and while it may not be the politically correct thing to say, it works. At raves, it even can help when you just need a glass of drinking water for free too. 

Once you get your drink, move away from the bar.

This might not really be one of the more important tips for getting a drink in a crowded club at first glance, but it makes a world of difference for someone else who might be trying to get their first drink. Don't crowd the bar. Let someone else in. 

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11 Tips for Getting a Drink in a Crowded Bar
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