So I’m reconnecting with a friend I made awhile back and, while it’s clear enough we both share a common interest in each other, I don’t have a lot of dating experience and no experience drinking socially. I’ve only actual drank with friends over some group Skype calls over a few weekends. She is a more sociable sort than me and honestly prolly knows what she’s doing a good deal more than me.
- Where can a couple go for a first date out to get a drink?
- What can I expect having never stepped foot in a bar or anywhere else that has served alcohol?
These are some great questions, and the only thing I amend your questions with is what to drink. Don’t worry, I’ll get to your questions, and then answer the one you should have asked.
I’ve covered first dates before and honestly, I never get tired of talking about them. I’ve previously written about First Date Etiquette, Planning Perfect First Dates , What you can do on first dates, and how you could be ruining your first dates , and of course, recorded a podcast on 10 ways you’re screwing up your online dates. Needless to say, I’m fairly knowledgeable about first dates, so I hope you take my advice to heart.
If you pick the right first date venue, you definitely increase your odds of going on a second date. The right venue, as I’ve mentioned before, needs the following elements:
- Not empty, but not crowded
- Not Silent, but not too loud
- The people at the bar aren’t terrible
- Great Lighting
- Relatively inexpensive
Now, if you lived in NYC, I could have given you my list of Great NYC Date bars and been done with it. Assuming you don’t, let’s talk about what sort of place you should go to. Besides all the points I mentioned above for picking a great date venue, you want to also determine the best neighborhood for your date. My go-to date neighborhood was approximately 20-30 minutes away from me, about 20-30 minutes away from most commuters, and in a location with access to most public transit lines that service multiple boroughs. Depending on where you live, that might not be as feasible for you, but you should pick the best neighborhood that works for both of you. If it just so happens that the middle ground is a neighborhood not all that suited for a first date, maybe lean toward planning the date at a location that is closer to her. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that as the man you always have to be the one to go out of your way, I just think that the person who plans the first date should try to make the date as convenient as possible for their date. Remember, your goal is to plan a date so good that it almost guarantees a second date. The second date can always be closer to you.
Since you’ve never really done the bar scene, you’re either going to want to ask friends or consult the internet to find some date bar suggestions. If you live in or near a major city, chances are that there is some site that aggregates and creates listicles for Top Date Bars in your area. Seriously, just do a quick search for “Top date bars in X“ (X being the variable for where you live) and check them out. Usually, the lists are pretty good and often have options depending on your price range. You can ask your date of course, but consider this a last-ditch move because some, not all, but some women find being asked to provide the date venue for the date unattractive. This girl might be a bit more chill, but generally speaking if you know where you want to go for a first date it comes off as more attractive.
Now as to what you can expect, well, that depends entirely on the bar you pick. Some bars are a bit more casual, some bars are more focused on sports, some bars are closer to being a lounge or a club. Let’s assume you’re completely clueless and go from there:
- Cocktail bar/lounge – expect a more upscale environment here, so avoid jeans and a t-shirt. Drinks tend to be pricier with a focus on specialty cocktails. Avoid this as a first date option if you are on a tight budget, or if you’re not a fan of formal dates.
- Wine bar – A great option for a first date, since wine bars generally have an atmosphere that meets the 5 criteria for a great date bar. Also works well for novices because saying “I’m not knowledgable about wine” is a very common refrain. Generally speaking, the most expensive wine isn’t necessarily the wine you want (especially on a first date). It’s okay to ask your waiter for options based on a price point, and it’s also okay to ask them to describe the flavors of each wine.
- Dive bar – a low-cost, informal bar that focuses primarily on cheap beer, cheap liquor, cheap wine, and occasionally, cheap food. Your date MIGHT like dive bars, or not, so be sure to check first.
- Sports bar – Exactly what it sounds like. Expect tons of televisions tuned to various sports. If she’s a huge sports fan, float the idea, just keep in mind that sports bars get very loud and very crowded during games
- Entertainment bars – These include Blues/Jazz bars, Comedy clubs, Dance bars, Karaoke bars, Music venues, etc. Avoid unless your date has expressed a prior interest. Just be aware that in the case of Comedy bars there are usually drink minimums
Generally speaking, I recommend the types of bars listed above in the order I’ve ranked them. Cocktail bars or Lounges often make for great first date because they’re usually not too crowded, they’re playing music but at a reasonable level, other people there are on dates so they’re usually on their best behavior, the lighting is usually very sexy, but you know, not all that inexpensive. A wine bar is a great second choice because it limits your options a bit, but also seems very much like a date. Dive bars are great if you’re on a budget, just make sure to avoid the various subsets of dive bars if you don’t fit into that demographic or don’t feel comfortable in that setting (gay bars, biker bars, college bar, cop bars, etc.). Sports bars are fun…if your date is into sports. The various types of entertainment bars are fine, but they tend to cost you a little more either because of the cover charge, a drink minimum, or increased drink prices. They can make for great 1st dates, but you might want to save them for when you’re a bit more experienced.
Now on to what you should drink and how much you should drink. If you’re not a heavy drinker, I would suggest that you stick to drinks with low alcohol content. Beers/Ciders (2% – 12%ABV) and Wine (9% to 16%ABV) are great low alcohol by volume options and on the furthest end cocktails are a good bet. Spirits tend to be around 20% to 80% alcohol by volume, but are diluted when mixed in a cocktail. Avoid drinking any drinks “neat” or “on the rocks”. Neat means that the drink consists of a glass, your choice of liquor, and that’s it which means you’re drinking whatever spirit you choose at its full ABV. On the rocks means the drink is served over ice which means it will slowly get diluted as the ice cubes melt, but generally are fairly close to its full ABV. Try to limit yourself to a 3 drinks maximum for whatever drink type you choose and whatever you do, do not take a shot! Generally speaking, the darker the beer the darker the alcohol content, so if there aren’t any beers that have “Light” or “Lite” in their name, ask for suggestions by asking “What’s the lightest beer you have”. If you’re going with wine remember that generally speaking, white wines are usually sweeter, red wines are usually more bitter, and rosé is somewhere in the middle. It’s not always the case, but it’s a good rule of thumb. Red wine may briefly stain your lips and teeth, so maybe stick to white wines or rosé. As for cocktails, try to stick to drinks that are simple (i.e. two ingredient drinks), or on the cocktail menu but beware, cocktails often contain multiple types of spirits and lots of sugary ingredients, which you want to avoid. My go to drink is Vodka and Soda (“soda” meaning soda water or seltzer water, not like soda pop). You don’t have to drink that drink, but try to avoid drinking dark liquor (Dark Rum, Dark Tequila, Whiskey, Bourbon, Scotch, etc.) and fruity or sugary mixer (Soda, Fruit Juice, etc.) as both of those tend to give people hangovers. Light or clear liquors such as vodka, gin, light tequila, and clear rum are safer bets and pairing them with either soda water, tonic water, or just plain old water are your safest bet when it comes to hard liquor. If you get stuck on what brands to order, you can just order the “well” version of your drink. I generally get well vodka no matter the bar I’m at because for me, the difference in taste between premium vodka and well vodka is negligible. Generally speaking, well drinks are made with the cheapest alcohol which means that they contain more of the impurities that cause hangovers. If you limit yourself to only 3 drinks it shouldn’t be too bad, but if you want to get fancy you can ask what liquor they have by type (ex. What whiskey do you have?) and ask for recommendations. Try to drink at the same pace as your date, so don’t burn through each drink.
There you have it! I hope your first date goes well and I think it will. Just remember to pace yourself, limit how many drinks you get, and try to have a good time.
Good Luck Out There.