A Bartender’s Guide To A First Date

Posted in 16 Nov 2018

Ryan Kimball helps manage the bustling bar down at Palmer & Co. – where ambient lighting, an extensive cocktail list and the moody sounds of jazz all make for a winning first date. But for every great date, there are at least a handful of train wrecks. So who better to ask about the ingredients of a good date than the bartender himself?

“If you are in a bar on a Tinder date, everyone that works at the bar knows,” Ryan admits right off the bat. “And we are usually all rooting for you.” In other words, bartenders are uniquely versed in the art of courtship – and they want to help you win at the dating game. So we tapped Ryan’s wealth of knowledge to find out what to do and what not to do when it comes to nailing the perfect first date.


1. Have an exit strategy

One of the biggest train wreck first dates I ever saw was a man in his late thirties and a girl in her early twenties. He kept trying to impress her by picking up his cell phone and yelling into it: ‘What do you mean the trade’s not going through? This deal is worth a million dollars!’

He was getting louder and louder and she really wasn’t into it. So her exit strategy was totally a fake phone call situation. When she went to leave, Mr Important Businessman started saying things like: ‘You don’t know how big of a deal I am.’ So she definitely made the right choice.

2. Nail your order

The perfect drink order depends on what you’re doing, but I would suggest either trying something new, or sticking to something you’re comfortable with. It’s also a good idea to order something the place does well – like a cocktail from Palmer. Personally I would go for the drink that I can sip on like a Sazerac with rye.

Something boozy that you’re not going to drink too quickly is good. Then when it comes to the food, stay away from anything really fussy or messy like pasta. You want small share plates that you can enjoy together – and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations, because that’s what the staff is there for.

3. Mix up the formula

The bartenders all know you’re on a Tinder date not just because of body language, but also because of people’s tendency to laugh too much, to interview the other person or drink too quickly to hide the nerves. So mix up the formula and just try to be yourself.

4. Pick your location and night wisely

Pick a place to meet that you are comfortable with and also think about the night of the week you go. Palmer & Co. for example can be a really quiet and intimate venue, or it can be a crazy loud party. So if you’re there on a first date, then one of the quieter nights like a Wednesday will usually be the safest bet.


1. Don’t calm your nerves with Dutch courage

It’s tempting to if you’re nervous and need to pluck up some confidence but it generally doesn’t end well. Sometimes if things aren’t going well, girls will walk their date to a cab and come back inside to flirt with the bartender.

2. Don’t sit at the bar

On a personal level, I would say that you do not want to sit at the bar on a first date. Because, as I said, the bartenders all know you’re on a first date and they are going to be eavesdropping hard. Plus, it can be tricky to talk naturally and get to know someone when you are sitting right next to them.

3. Don’t spend the whole night on your phone

Phones are good for one thing on dates: showing people pictures. It can be a fun way to connect with someone and let them know a bit about you. It is also a good way to keep the conversation rolling, but you don’t want to spend all night texting other people.

Also, what I would recommend is that if you are going to show people photos, don’t have anything you wouldn’t want someone to see lingering on your phone. And turn off your text previews too – just in case that other guy you’ve been hanging out with texts you mid-date.

4. Don’t pretend to know what you’re talking about

We often see people pretending to know exactly what they’re talking about when it comes to the menu. Like a guy who orders a Manhattan with sweet vermouth because he saw it in a movie once. Then it comes out in this tiny glass and he’s insecure about it. Then you’re stuck, because you either do this all the time and you’re still insecure about it, or you actually have no idea what you’re talking about.

You want to go to a cool place and experience things that neither of you has experienced, so you can build the relationship together. The whole reason you go to a fancy place is to try new things, so rather than pretending you ‘do this all the time,’ I think it is way cooler to embrace the experience and ask the waiter for some recommendations.