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Celebrating your 21st birthday at The Vortex has become a rite of passage in Atlanta, so we really want to help you crazy kids learn the ropes. Trust us, you don’t want to be branded an “amateur” by your friendly neighborhood booze slingers. To begin, it’s important to understand the difference between day drinking and night drinking. Day drinking isn’t just for the unemployed. It’s a more relaxed, low-key pastime than drinking in bars at night. That’s one reason people in “hospitality” often prefer day drinking. It seems there are fewer amateurs around. Or maybe they’re just not as obvious during the day. At night, popular bars can get very crowded. And while the staff wants to keep the party going, they’ll need your help. You never want to be the one knuckle-head gumming-up the works for everyone else. While these guidelines apply to patronizing a bar at any time, they’re especially relevant to night-time bar culture. After reading this article, you will have no excuse for acting like a clueless punk. It’s time to get your drink-on like a grown-up.


No reputable bar owner is going to risk their liquor license just so you can buy a beer without an ID. Some bars restrict access to people 21 and over, and all bars are required to check ID before selling you any booze. You must technically have valid ID on your person to consume alcohol in a bar, no matter how old you are. So, never give anyone a hard time when they ask to see it. “How old do you think I am?” is a stupid response. Bar staff does not want to guess your age, but they are required to verify it. “OMG, I can’t believe this! I’m almost 23!” is another comment made by foolish children when they’re carded. Listen, you may think you’re all grown-up, but if you’re in your 20s, you still look like an embryo to the real, crusty adults around you. Enjoy it while you can because someday, when you’re not quite so nubile, no one will ever card you again. If you didn’t bring your ID with you, and are denied access, or refused a drink, it’s your own damned fault for being a dumb-ass. Always carry your ID, show it when required, and shut the hell up about it.


In case your parents didn’t teach you any manners, you need to understand that just because you’re spending money, it does not give you the right to act like a disrespectful jerk. That garbage behavior might fly at “TGI Shenanigans,” but real bars reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, and they’re usually pretty serious about it. They have absolutely no incentive to tolerate problem customers. Besides, you’ll generally get much better service by simply being nice. So, never snap your fingers or whistle to get the bartender’s attention. They are not your dog. And once you are approached, don’t say anything stupid like, “I’ll have a gin and tonic, and make it strong.” This kind of comment not only calls into question the bartender’s ability to make a drink, but it also makes you look like a cheap schmuck. If you want a double, ask for a double – and be prepared to pay for a double. And ordering “light ice” will not get you more liquor, just more mixer. You should never expect anything for free. The bartender is not your mommy.


Some bars feature “mixologists” that specialize in creating “craft cocktails.” This often involves layering exotic ingredients, using eye-droppers for measurement, lighting things on fire, or shaving five different types of ice. Drinks like these may take some additional time, so you should be prepared to wait. Bars that employ “bartenders” generally want to get a drink in your hand as quickly as possible. Chatting about drinks with the bartender is all well and good in the middle of the afternoon when business is slow. And if you’d like to try a goofy shot or a labor-intensive cocktail, that is the perfect time. But when bars are operating at high volume, asking questions like “What’s a good shot?” or, “What beers do you have?” is just silly and time consuming. When a bar is busy, you need to know what you’re going to order when you’re approached by the bartender. Otherwise, you’re just slowing down the process for all the other thirsty guests clamoring for service right behind you. This is definitely not the time to order that mojito you’ve been craving.


If you are ordering drinks directly from the bartender, have your money ready. Fumbling for your wallet or purse will delay them from waiting on others. Paying for a single drink with a credit card is really annoying, and also a big waste of time. If you do it all night, you’ll probably notice it becoming increasingly difficult to get the bartender’s attention. If you want to pay for one drink at a time, use cash. Otherwise, you should probably just start a tab with that credit card your daddy gave you for “emergencies.”


If you’re paying “per drink,” then you should tip your bartender on every single drink, without exception, and probably more than you think you should. Don’t bother with fractions or coins, because if you can hear your tip hit the bar, you are being way too cheap. Tipping is how bartenders earn their living, so they appreciate patrons who tip appropriately. Bartenders also have the memory of an elephant. They know who tips well and who doesn’t, and right or wrong, this can make a big difference in the quality of your service. To keep things simple, just leave a buck or two per drink or tip at least 20%, whichever is more. The bottom line is that a 20% tip is now the standard tip percentage for good service. Don’t believe in tipping? Then drink at home.


Few things are as embarrassing as getting “cut-off” at your favorite bar. So do everyone a favor, and cut yourself off before you start acting like a damned fool. Your friends should help you with this. If they don’t, then you need new friends. If you insist on acting like a jackass when you drink, then you should probably only drink on St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and New Year’s Eve. Those are official “Amateur Nights,” so you’ll have lots of company. For the record, barfing in a bar is the epitome of amateur behavior, and it’s really rude. Someone has to clean that up, you know? If you ever vomit in public, particularly in a bar, you have crossed the line from “social drinking” into “binge drinking,” and you may now officially be referred to as an “amateur.” Let the self-loathing begin.


If you plan on doing some serious drinking out on the town always designate a driver. Better yet, you’re a tech-savvy millennial, so download those ride-sharing apps onto your cell phone. Companies like Uber and Lyft have virtually eliminated any need to drive if you’re going to be drinking. And while that may be bad for State revenue generation, it’s really good for keeping your silly ass out of jail. Impaired driving is dangerous, and getting a DUI really sucks. It’s not worth the risk, the hassle or the expense. So, be safe and be smart. Never drive when you go out bar-hopping. If you’ve got a drink in your hand, the time has come to take a little responsibility for yourself – just like an adult.