When sitting down for drinks with someone new, your order can say a lot about you. And on a first date, when the stakes are high and the pressure is on, the beverage you choose is as important as ever. While a decision as simple as gin or vodka in your Martini may not make or break a potential relationship, your order can tell your partner much more about you than just the flavors you enjoy.
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity to show off that you are aware of your surroundings,” says Abigail Gullo, director of Bartender’s Circle. That means understanding the vibe of the bar you’re in and ordering accordingly. “If you are having this first date in a dive bar and you go in and try to order some fancy cocktail, you’re going to come off looking like someone who is not a good listener.”
Therefore, as Gullo explains, your choice of drink can and should vary depending on where you are. At a dive bar, go with something simple. Gullo suggests a beer and a shot, or a refreshing highball like a Whiskey Ginger. At a restaurant bar, “maybe you should order a snack at the bar as well? Because you have access to beautiful food.”
If the date is in an upscale cocktail bar, it’s time to get experimental. “Show a sense of adventure,” Gullo says, “that’ll show that you’re kind of game for anything.” A drink that incorporates pisco, aquavit, or another obscure spirit is an ideal order in this case.
If your partner is unsure of what to order and asks you to choose their drink for them, choosing a cocktail you think they would love is another great way to show your date that you’re paying attention. To make a good choice, make sure to ask them some clarifying questions. First, Gullo recommends asking your date what flavor profile they’re craving. Then, be sure to ask if there are any flavors or spirits they dislike. From there, “choose your own adventure based on the clues that they’ve given you so that you’re still giving them what they want, but also something unexpected,” she says.
Once both you and your date have your drinks in hand, let your cocktails steer the conversation. “Cocktails are very much tied to a sense of nostalgia, so it’s a great way to open up a story,” Gullo says. From old college tales to family lore, the taste of a certain drink can bring back memories and inspire exciting stories. “It’s a good way to open up a little bit about the history of the cocktail and how it’s connected to your own personal history,” Gullo says.
But beware: While the conversation may flow freely, keep the drinks flowing at a slower pace. “No matter what, though you may be nervous, refrain from overindulging because you want to keep your composure and your class and your good consciousness,” Gullo says.
That also means treating your servers with respect and tipping generously. “You’re starting at 20 percent and moving up from there,” Gullo says. That’s because, while you’re nursing a drink or two over the course of a night, you’re renting your space in the restaurant. If you’ve only had a couple cocktails but have been sitting at your table for upwards of two hours, “let the bartender know you appreciate the good service and the care that they gave you, even when you weren’t drinking.”