Open-Bar Etiquette: No, Shots Aren't OK

And, yes, you should be tipping.

Ah, wedding season: family, friends, and free booze. While not everyone feels like they have to recoup the cost of their gift in expensive vodka, wedding season does bring out the Drinky Crow in many. Here are my boozy dos and don'ts for what to do at the reception's open bar. I dedicate this column to all my behind-bars brethren, who will clean up puke more than once before October. (Disclaimer: I run special events and therefore have a personal interest in your good behavior.)

Do bring your dollar bills and a watch. Not only is it proper etiquette to tip at an open bar, putting money down for each drink helps you keep track of your imbibing. One drink an hour is a good rule. But if the reception starts at 5 and goes past midnight, and your name isn't Keith Richards, you'll need to apply the brakes at some point.

Do know your drinking class. If you are an occasional drinker, don't start with a martini. A martini equals almost two glasses of wine but with 80 percent less liquid; and champagne really does go straight to your head. It's the special-occasion drinkers who decide to "cut loose for once" who usually end up puking. Ordering another drink just because your glass is empty is another amateur move.

Do drink a glass of water with or between every drink. Ask the bartender for sparkling water with a lime to look like you're drinking. Alternatively, order your drink "tall," which means the same amount of booze and more mixer, or get a drink made with lower-proof spirits, such as a Campari and soda or a sloe-gin fizz—the ultimate wedding cocktail.

Don't do shots. Ever.

If you want to get drunk, do have the sense God gave a goat and go about it the right way. Don't drive; get a hotel room or take a taxi to and from the event (so the drunk you isn't tempted to drive home).

Don't call attention to yourself: Don't become a fixture in front of the bar. Don't order doubles. Don't hit on the bartenders (that's what the wedding party is for). Once you're on a bartender's radar, you're done.

Don't argue with the bartender. Memorize this while sober so that you might remember it when drunk: Arguing for another drink only achieves the exact opposite. Bartenders think hard before they refuse service, especially when someone has spent $50,000 on a wedding. We don't want drama, but it's the law. According to state law RCW 66.44.200, it is illegal for the bartender to serve you if you appear intoxicated. Worse than that, if you leave and kill someone in your car, the bartender can be held liable for you. We're acutely aware of this, so "Come on, just one more" rings a little differently in our ears.

If the worst-case scenario happens and you're cut off, tough love says you should take it as a hint. Someone you don't know is worried enough about your safety to keep you from drinking—that's how ridiculous you are right now. Don't ask for the manager; a bartender's decision is final. Remember that you are a guest and don't ruin anyone else's good time. In the words of Eddie Murphy, just "have a Coke and a smile, and shut the fuck up."

mdutton@seattleweekly.com

 
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