Wherever you happen to be.
By Ross Floate & Robyn Kanner.
Few things beat the joys of travel. The sight of new architecture, stimulating new experiences, and the excitement of meeting new people.
Then drinking with them.
Yes, drinking with them. Now that smoking is increasingly seen on par with procuring whales for SeaWorld, drinking alcohol is one of the great social and cultural icebreakers. You might not be the same class as someone. You might not be from the same culture. You might not even speak the same language. But you both drink.
And if you don’t then this isn’t for you.
Now, how the hell do you do this in a new city — a place you’ve never previously been? You’ve flown in, checked in at whatever hotel your company or travel agent arranged, had a shower (because you had that aeroplane stank on you), and you’re ready to meet some locals. Now what?
You know what you need? You need a system.
First off, dress well. Look, we’re not your mother; it’s just that this will help, trust us. Your hotel almost certainly has a bar, and at that bar there are stools. Don’t be shy; go up and high-stool-it with confidence. If you feel like having a beer (or if the bar’s cocktail menu has offerings like a Fluffy Duck or any drink named after a questionable sex act) order a decent beer. Even a Heineken in a pinch. If you’re in the mood for a cocktail and the bartender seems both capable and agreeable, order an Old-Fashioned or a Martini. Don’t be pedantic about it. Thank the bartender, drink it, and (this is important) tip with cash. Heavily. Don’t start talking to the bartender yet; you haven’t earned it.
Drink your drink, take a quick look around, and be be inoffensive. Your job right now is to be the perfect customer.
With rare (and fantastic) exceptions, hotel bars aren’t where hospitality professionals want to work. It’s where they cut their teeth, it’s their second job, or they’re filling in a shift for a friend. If they’re serving you an acceptable cocktail at 10pm in some no-name hotel in Tucson, then it’s fair bet that they know where they’d rather be slinging drinks.
The key is to find out where that is.
Finish your drink. Have your money in hand and get ready to order your next. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for.
Deep breaths. You’ve got this.
Bartender: “Want another?”
You: “Please, that’d be great. Also, where — apart from here, of course — can a person get a decent drink in this town?”
Your bartender is now your five-minute-friend. They know you want a drink, and they know you don’t want to have your third at the Holiday Inn (at least right now). Of course they’d rather keep you at their bar, but they know that you’ve already tipped well, so they’re willing to let you go.
Why wouldn’t they tell you about the best place in town to get a beer (you were drinking beer, remember?) or that hole in the wall that makes an Old-Fashioned with none of that cherry nonsense in it? You’re obviously good company, you’re not in town long, and you’re not going to ruin the place. And remember dressing well? Your bartender isn’t going to worry that you’ll be under or over-dressed for their suggestions.
In short, you know how to drink. You might be a tourist, but you’re not a tourist.
Listen to your bartender intently, thank them, head over over to your next destination, and enjoy a drink with the locals.
Have a good time, meet new people, and above all be a gracious guest. Don’t ruin this for the rest of us.
Ross Floate is the creative director of Floate Design Partners in Melbourne, Australia. He would like to be remembered for coming up with the idea of the Medium ‘DrinkPiece’.
Robyn Kanner is a freelance designer in Boston, Massachusetts. She likes bikes, blogging, and breakfast.