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A Barman's Confession: Bar Etiquette for Blokes

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When your mum taught you manners, she covered all the basics. No elbows on the table, please, thank you and covering your mouth when you cough. But when it came to teaching drinking etiquette, mine fell short (sorry mum).

There's something about bars that bring out the fence-straddler in all of us, teetering on the edge of making the simplest of decisions. There's so many etiquette pitfalls out there, looming like the proverbial black hole, ready to swallow you up and spit you out onto the social reject pile.

Frankly, I'm loathe to jump on to the Great Gats-wagon but those smart socialites had a point. Etiquette for blokes in bars is a very real and potentially life-changing skill. It's not do or die, but it will help you float through social situations as seamlessly as John Terry edging into a celebration.

As a barman at a number of London venues, I've seen that social reject pile and I've seen the Jay Gatsbys of this fine city - and here's what I've learnt.

Doing rounds - First up, if you suggested the bar, then you should be the one sorting a table and making a decision on setting up a bar tab or doing rounds. My advice - go rounds, and make it clear drink-dodging tight-wads won't be tolerated.

If someone's not in for the long haul, exclude them from the round group and let them order alone; this will save any 'but I only had one pint' hissy fits. And if you're going to tab it, make sure everyone brings cash to avoid card machine meltdown at the end of the night.

Getting the first drink - If you're with a woman, be she an ardent feminist or not, offer to buy her first drink. Chances are you're on a date or you at least want to leave her with a good impression, so offer but don't insist if she's adamant. Never comment on her drink choice - yep, it might be pricey or a full-on bevvie, but better left for her to explain than you prod for an explanation. The same applies for drinking with anyone senior to you - offer first drink and don't comment on their choice.

Do unto others - Never click your fingers or shout 'hey' at a barman. Bad. In the same way, if you have a mate who's got a little lairy, apologise on their behalf - they'll thank you in the morning. In the same way, if you're the last group in the bar, staying past closing time and you're keeping that one, tired barman at work, consider switching bars to a late venue - if it was you behind that bar, you'd love that consideration.

Tipping - If you offer a barman 'one for themselves' expect them to take up to £5 extra. And don't be afraid to ask for their advice or recommended bevvies. They're a barman for a reason!

Jack Williams works across Late Night London's 52 venues across the capital and the UK. This week he was at Jewel in Piccadilly but you might just encounter him anywhere...

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