Drinking Alone At A Bar

How to overcome your fear of stigma and own your party of one at the bar

Mention "drinking alone," and people tend to envision the town barfly going shot-for-shot of well liquor against himself, sadly secluded in a corner. But it doesn't have to be that way—and it's time to shake the stigma of going stag to a bar.

While it's great to hit the town with a group of friends, that isn't always an option. Maybe you're traveling alone for work, or simply want to treat yourself to a solo nightcap at the new neighborhood joint. Whatever the case may be, a handful of top-notch bartenders are sharing tips and tricks so you can master the art of drinking (within reason) alone, no matter what scenario you find yourself in.

① Chat Up the Bartender

If you're in a talkative mood, try striking up an organic—but casual—conversation with the bartender. According to Chantal Tseng, Head Bartender at Washington, D.C.'s Petworth Citizen & Reading Room, "visiting a bar solo and looking for conversation can be a tricky maneuver. Definitely, do not fire questions interview-style at your bartender. Try starting a conversation with a simple introduction like 'I just got into town and heard about this place from so and so.' Showing a touch of openness gives me the cue to help find suggestions or offer introductions to other solid regulars."

② Meet Your Neighbors

Lucas López Dávalos of Casa Cavia in Buenos Aires is also happy to play matchmaker. He notes the role a bartender has to "identify their guests' expectations. In my bar, I like to introduce strangers, which usually leads to fun and interesting stories." But there's a fine line between appearing approachable and intruding on private conversations. As López Dávalos advises, "Wait for the right opportunity to chime in. Try cracking a joke or asking a thoughtful question about the bar or neighborhood to get things flowing."

③ Read the Room

It may sound obvious, but pay attention to social cues. For example, don't interject if the smitten couple sitting next to you is deep in conversation, or try to talk the bartender's ear off on a busy Saturday night. As suggested by Dan Q. Dao, a writer and bartender at Middle Branch in New York City, "a slammed bartender with a fully packed room will not be able to engage you on the level of conversation you might hope for. Show that you are cognizant of their workflow and, if appropriate, suggest that they serve other guests first so they can return to you once they have more time."

④ Embrace Your Solitude

There's also nothing wrong with wanting some peace and quiet as you sip your drink. According to Ivy Mix, an award-winning bartender and co-owner of Leyenda in Brooklyn, "there are reasons why we go to bars to drink alone rather than drink at home; there is something sacred about being alone around other people. And there is nothing better than a fantastic barfly for patrons and bartenders alike. The person who sits at the bar and stays off the damn phone and maybe reads a book is a good person to have around." As Dao puts it, "Be confident in yourself and know that you have as much right to your spot at the bar as any couple or group of drinkers."

Ian Centrone is a native New Yorker and freelance writer always on the hunt for his next adventure. Follow his travels at @iancentrone.