How to Master the Art of Going to a Bar Alone

how to, how to master the art of going to a bar alone


There are lots of things that might seem weird to do solo at first—eating at a fancy restaurant, going to the movies, attending a concert, and going to a bar alone are chief among them. The reality is that all of these activities can actually be quite rewarding when done solo, particularly the last one. If you go to the bar alone, it’s not a sign you’re an antisocial, introverted, misanthrope who prefers the company of a glass of whiskey over real human interaction.

On the contrary, going to a bar alone to enjoy a cocktail is a relaxing, pleasurable experience, giving you time to ponder your life choices, finish reading that article or book you’ve been dying to get through, strike up a conversation with a stranger, or just stare pensively off into space with a Negroni in hand.

Whatever your intention, we spoke to bar industry experts to get their rules on how to go to a bar alone. The main consensus seems to be pretty simple and obvious: Don’t be a creep. Enjoy yourself, but be courteous and respectful. And, this should go without saying, but tip your bartender. Here’s the modern man’s guide to going to a bar alone.

Ask Before You Buy Someone a Drink

You’ve seen this scenario in countless movies and TV shows: Men go to the bar alone, spy someone they find intriguing or attractive, then buy them an unsolicited cocktail. That might sound gallant and impressive, but according to Jarrett Karlsberg, beverage director at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, NY, this is the wrong move.

“Always ask people before you buy them a drink,” he says. “They may not want one, they may not want to talk to someone, and it may make them uncomfortable.”

Max Green, bar director at Point Seven in New York City, seconds that notion. “I hope men of today are evolving towards knowing better than to bother a single woman who’s reading a book at the bar, having learned how to enjoy the company of solitude,” he says. “Order your drink, enjoy it, and maybe order a second after that.”

Consider that the person sitting alone across from you is there for the same reason: to enjoy some solitude in public.

Leave the Politics at Home

If you do go to the bar alone and engage in conversation with someone, consider the subject matter. Stick to the cardinal rule of no politics.

“That never works out,” Karlsberg says.

We’re living in a particularly fractured moment in terms of politics and worldviews, so maybe some friendly and casual conversation might be the way to go instead of jumping right into discussing something divisive.

“When you chat with someone, asking where they’re from is a great icebreaker,” says Karlsberg. “Usually you’ll know something about that place, and most people have a lot to say about where they’re from one way or another. It’s just personal enough.”

Enjoy the Silence

Of course, sometimes silence is golden and can speak volumes more than small talk. And, if nothing else, your quietude might lend you an aura of serene mystery.

“Get noticed without speaking a word,” says Joshua Boissy, owner and co-founder of Maison Premiere in Brooklyn, NY. Good taste comes from your attire, your scent (try these best-smelling colognes), your drinking habits, and the places you choose to frequent, he says.

Dress to Impress

It’s one thing if you’re just grabbing a beer at your local dive, but if you’re heading out to an upscale bar to drink alone, you might want to consider your sartorial choice.

“Dress to impress, regardless of the circumstances,” says Boissy. Or as the French novelist Balzac is credited with saying, “The boor covers himself, the rich man or the fool adorns himself, and the elegant man gets dressed.”

Swapping out sweats for slacks elevates your vibe when going to a bar alone, according to Hernán Trujillo, general manager at The Boardroom in New York City.

“Carry yourself with intention and pride,” Trujillo says. “Know what you like to drink before you order. Be concise. And, most importantly, have control of your inhibitions. Conduct yourself with class and know how to enjoy yourself in the appropriate settings.”

Consider the Hotel Bar

A hotel bar is a fantastic place to go to the bar alone given the elevated, serene setting you’ll usually find there. There’s something about arriving at a hotel and knowing you’re just an elevator ride away from an upscale atmosphere perfectly suited to sipping a dram of whiskey or a cocktail all by your lonesome.

“I love a good hotel bar,” says Aaron Thompson, co-owner and operator of Brother Wolf and Osteria Stella in Knoxville, TN, who visited NYC recently and enjoyed a few drinks alone.

The beauty of hotel bars is they’re usually filled with travelers staying for business or pleasure.

“It was really comforting to go down the elevator where a pretty excellent—albeit expensive—old fashioned and wine list were waiting for me.”

Once you close out and tip your bartender, you just need to take the elevator up to your room and retire knowing you had an easy night.

Be Nice to Your Bartender

It’s not just your fellow patrons you should be polite to. The bar’s bartenders and staff deserve your respect. That means not coming in super hot with a thousand unwanted takes on various subjects, berating them with questions that feel like an interrogation, or being combative in any way.

“There’s definitely a difference between the guy who walks into a bar by himself with specific expectations and engages the bartenders in conversation about what to order and what’s interesting,” says Kitty Bernardo, head bartender at Paradise Lost in New York City, “versus the guy who feels entitled to our undivided and instantaneous attention.”

Check out the menu, wait your turn, and table your entitlement.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Of course, being polite and not engaging in inane or boastful banter doesn’t mean you have to keep your mouth shut. According to Bernardo, asking questions about what’s on the menu is more than welcome because the staff at a good cocktail bar should be able to steer you in the right direction.

“I see bartending as being an ambassador between guests and the world of spirits and cocktails,” Bernardo says. “Helping someone find something new to drink or experience flavors in a way they’ve never had before is one of my favorite things about being a bartender.”

Read the Room

“The bartender is essentially the host of the bar,” says Karlsberg, and that means they’re tasked with making sure everyone is comfortable and enjoying a well-made drink.

That doesn’t mean the person behind the bar is going to have time for deep conversation if you go to the bar alone and expect to be entertained. Read the room, figure out what the vibe is, and go with the flow.

“This is your time to spend it how you choose, whether it’s engaging in a conversation with the other bar flies, reading a book in a more quiet corner of the space, or finally trying that trendy drink everyone seems to like,” Karlsberg says. “Hanging out at a good bar by yourself should feel easy, effortless, and unpretentious. Find the space that feels right to you and have a ball.”

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