The most important cocktail bar etiquette rules. The appropriate behavior for drinking in a cocktail bar. Avoid embarrassment and be an ideal customer.

cocktail bar rules for guests

What cocktail bar etiquette is

Cocktail bar etiquette is the set of rules for going to a cocktail bar. It includes the appropriate time, how to order, what to eat and drink, and the appropriate behavior.

As a guest, know cocktail bar etiquette rules to avoid any embarrassment.

As a host, cocktail bar etiquette rules help you manage your customers’ expectations.

General cocktail bar etiquette principles

Cocktail bar etiquette is based on three main principles.

  • Match our rights as customers in the appropriate manner.
  • Respect the cocktail bar staff.
  • Respect the other guests. 

Cocktail bar etiquette rules

1) The appropriate time to get into a cocktail bar

The appropriate time to visit a cocktail bar is after 18:00 (6 pm). The ideal time is after dinner.

Usually, cocktail bars serve mostly long drinks with high alcohol content. Thus, an earlier time is uncommon and often inappropriate. 

2) How to dress in a cocktail bar

The appropriate dress code depends on the venue and its style. 

Usually, cocktail bars tend to be refined venues. In general, it is best to avoid very informal styles. Think of a dress code between casual and business casual. Thus, avoid flip-flops or tank tops. 

Do not wear a hat inside the venue.

3) Cocktail bar ordering & drinking etiquette 

How to order in a cocktail bar

Choose your drink based on the time of the day and weather.

In general, order light and dry drinks before dinner. Stronger, sweet, and richer drinks after dinner. Avoid strong and rich drinks in warm weather.

Before dinner, the cocktails should be lighter and aperitivo-style. Ideally, prefer cocktails based on wine, vodka, or gin. Avoid cocktails based on spirits with a strong flavor. Such as whisky, rum, or bourbon. 

After dinner, do the opposite. Prefer cocktails based on whisky, rum, or liqueurs.

Avoid spending too much time choosing. Do not make the other guests wait. Choose the main alcohol first, such as vodka. Then, pick a cocktail based on it.

It is not elegant to order food at a cocktail bar. It is perfectly appropriate to get some appetizers. However, avoid ordering large quantities of food.

How to drink in a cocktail bar

The cocktail bar will serve each cocktail in its appropriate glass. Apply the general drinking glass etiquette. When a cocktail is served in a stemmed glass, hold the glass by the stem.

Drink your cocktail in small sips. A cocktail is supposed to last between 20 and 40 minutes. Do not rush.

Most cocktail bars serve complimentary water. So, you do not need to order it. Take a sip of water now and then, while you drink your cocktail. 

4) Cocktail bar seating and standing etiquette

If you sit, follow the basic table seating etiquette rules. 

Keep your legs under control. Do not spread or stretch them. 

If you stand at the bar or near a stall, limit your movements. Stand still and do not lean on the bar. 

5) How to manage your belongings

If the cocktail bar has a wardrobe, leave any bag or luggage there. 

Otherwise, place them where they do not impede the staff or the other guests. Ideally, keep them on the floor, on the side of your chair. If you are standing at the bar, place them between your feet and the bar.

6) Respect the staff and other guests

Some cocktail bars allow smoking. Before smoking, ask the staff and the guests at your table if they are ok with it.

Switch the sound of your phone off. Avoid taking a call, texting, or browsing if you are with others. Doing otherwise is a major etiquette breach.

Speak softly. Most cocktail bars are not loud venues. 

Never bring any food or beverage from outside.

Limit the number of drinks. In general, 2 long drinks are ok. 3 or 4 are borderline. Over 4 can be too many. If you are getting tipsy, take a break. If you are getting beyond tipsy, consider leaving. 

7) Cocktail bar rules for kids and pets

Normally, kids or minors are not allowed in a cocktail bar. Even if they are, it is best to avoid bringing them in. 

Some cocktail bars allow pets on their premises, while others do not. Call the cocktail bar to check their rules before going. 

8) Cocktail bar check and tipping etiquette

Respect the closing time. Pay at your table or the bar, depending on the venue. It is common to tip between 10% and 20% of the total. 

Cocktail bar etiquette: the worst mistakes

Avoid the worst cocktail bar etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Getting drunk.
  • 8/10. Bringing food or drinks from outside.
  • 6/10. Speaking loudly.
  • 5/10. Wearing too informal clothes.
  • 4/10. Ordering a large quantity of food.
  • 2/10. Getting to a cocktail bar before 6 pm.


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