Mike Reddy

Behold, the cocktail—the preferred drink of the rich and the effete alike! And ah, behold the cocktail bar—the cultured and beautifully designed gathering place favored by only the most erudite and rarefied of alcoholics! Like any other beloved place that helps us get drunk—from our quaint, cozy neighborhood pub to Uncle Dave’s prison cell with a bubbling toilet full of festering pruno—there are rules at cocktail bars. They are mostly the same rules as everywhere else that serves booze, with the notable exception of Uncle Dave’s.

Stop standing in lines.

This one goes first, Portland, because as a city we are awful at this, with entirely too many of us insisting on forming lines, to everyone’s detriment and to bartenders’ dismay. (We’re also famous for being awful at it. Last month, in an organ no less august than The New York Times, John Hodgman described something else Portlanders just can’t figure out—the zipper merge—as “a particular affront in a city where they line up single file at bars, like kindergartners waiting for a snack of beer.”) Last time we raised this urgent issue in the Mercury’s pages (“Line-lovers at bars will try to side-eye you when you deviate from their misguided attempts at creating order,” wrote the wise, learned Chipp Terwilliger. “Pay no attention to them!”), a bunch of line-lovers freaked the fuck out, to the extent that we decided to conduct a scientific survey, even though we barely understand science. The result? Out of nearly 500 respondents—about 20 percent of whom were bartenders—roughly 60 percent believed lines are a waste of time. And when only bartenders were asked? Sixty percent of them begged you to stop standing in lines. Lines slow everyone down (meaning you drink less) and they stress out bartenders (meaning you drink shittier drinks). For the good of our city entire, stop standing in lines at bars.

No, they aren’t into you.

And neither is the bartender (believe it or not, they have stuff to do that isn’t making small talk with rambling randos), and neither is the person reading at the bar, who has zero interest in telling you what they’re reading. (Psst! It’s the new edition of Oh, I Don’t Know, How About You Mind Your Own Fucking Business for a Change?) Okay, okay: Is there a chance the exceedingly attractive and apparently single person sitting at the bar next to you is silently, desperately hoping you’ll strike up a conversation? Sure! Just like there’s a chance the bartender really is curious how your night is going, and a chance the person reading at the bar wants nothing more than to join Oprah’s Book Club with you, and a chance that Democrats will miraculously get their shit together by November and somehow prevent the very worst effects of a total societal and ecological collapse. Sure! There’s technically a chance!

Tip, and tip well.

This should go without saying. And yet.

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Don’t talk on your phone.

Texting? Swiping? Convulsing with silent sobs as you tumble down an endless, icy crevasse of Instagram-filtered loneliness? Go for it! If you’ve got a few minutes to kill, nobody’s gonna give you shit for smearing your face into a screen; it’s 2020, and none of us really remember what other human faces actually look like. (They have... eyes? And... ear?) But all of us do know what it’s like to listen to some oblivious dipshit shouting into their phone about how furious they are with Mandy, and it is the sound of shattered glass being hammered into eardrums with rust-eaten nails. (To be fair: Fuck you, Mandy!)

Read the room the bar.

Cocktail bars, by definition, serve cocktails, which, by definition, take longer—a lot longer—to prepare and serve than, say, yanking a Rainier tallboy out of the cooler and lobbing it down to that angry dude at the end of the bar. (Congrats on your parole, Uncle Dave!) So read the room. Is it a crazy busy Saturday night and the bartender’s swamped and goddamn Mandy still hasn’t apologized and the line-lovers are freaking the fuck out? Then perhaps it’s not the ideal time to order your stirred-not-shaken Watenshi gin martini with tincture of dolphin tears, diamond-strained lavender bitters, fresh zest of mangosteen, and muddled snow leopard fur. Look, you’re already ordering a cocktail. You’re already being precious. No need to make this any worse for the rest of us.