Friday, 30 November 2012

How to go Down the Pub

Continuing with my series of 'How-to Guides' which state the obvious, here is my latest.

Going down the pub is not as simple as you think. You may have been to a Swiss finishing school before and not have been to a proper English pub or you may be unfamiliar with what the right thing to do is. You may unwittingly piss off the bartender, fail to pull or most importantly, look like a tit. Many years of evolving pub behaviour has resulted in a secret unwritten etiquette which for the first time I am attempting to define and publish to the world. 

Pippa Middleton, move over. You're welcome.

Jack Beard's, EC1

Types of pub

Firstly, you need to define which type of pub you are going to. There are lots of types of pub, and admittedly this is London biased, as my knowledge of suburban neo-Tudor family hang-outs (the kind that have car-parks) is minimal and yeah yeah pubs up North are great etc I know, I know *face slips off palm*. 

Moody estate pubs. St Georges flag in the window. Fighting dogs outside. My dad used to say 'Never drink in a pub with a flat roof', but make one of these your local and never worry about where to by knocked-off Hackett gear ever again.

Wetherspoons type chain. Town centre nightclub haunts of chavvy groups and Also used by old men in daytimes/weekends, who go there for the ridiculously cheap mild beer.

SW London chainish Gastropub. Probably owned by Rupert Cleverly. Farrow & Ball mushroom coloured walls, coir matting floor, chesterfield sofas, nostalgic novels, hunting prints,  expensive hearty food menu.

Trendy local. Hackney/Shoreditch An old corner pub 'saved' by nice chaps with names like Ben who aim to 'keep the heart & should of the pub' by hanging taxidermy on the walls and hoping the old white Reebok wearing locals disappear. Frequented by local creative workers (weekdays) and paunched marrieds on Sunday lunches. Probably lots of craft beer.

Work local. Best examples found in Soho/Fitzrovia/The City. These are my favourite. Hopefully still owned by independent landlords, not infected by trends yet. Very busy weekday evenings, dead at weekends. 

Types of visit

Who do you go with? Ever get that awful feeling of dread when you don't know if people will be there and you have to wander round like an idiot searching for people? 

Going alone. Men: Highly encouraged. The top ranking pub-goer is the solo male drinker, he who can hold his own at the bar, without feeling like a loner loser. He knows a few of the regulars and staff, he doesn't need to arrange with friends to go. Guys, If you can go down the pub on your own, you've made it in one of the main bloke tests of life.

Women. Highly encouraged if you charge £1000 an hour and the 'pub' happens to be the bar at Novikov, highly discouraged if not. We've all seen them, middle-aged, sitting at the bar with cheap jewellery adorning day-after-party-balloon cleavage, clothes for girls half their age, half-cut, eyeing up teenagers. Acceptable if you're waiting for someone.

Going in groups. Guaranteed to annoy the hell out of the rest of the pub, and the landlord, but tolerated because of the hefty bar bill of extra bottles of Chardonnay and the round of 15 shots that only half of the table drink. We've all seen the 'reserved for Wayne from Fatknot Recruiting' card on the table in the corner, and witnesses as the hoard of chubby, Headmasters hairstyled and high-heeled admin assistants and their Ted Baker mauve/purple shirt & tie combo colleagues strut in and try to out do each other on the Jaegerbombs.

Sitting down or standing

Men. Sitting down is not really allowed, unless on a first date, or in a meeting (with a female colleague/client). 

Women. sitting down only allowed when in groups of girls, or on a date.


Girls. Hang around the bar. Under no circumstances sit down at a table. Someone will chat/smile/offer you a drink in approximately 5-10 mins. Select nicest one.

Guys. Apply the simple 'talk to everyone' rule. Buy lots of drinks. Rule of averages states someone will be drunk enough to fancy you in the end.


It's important to know what is acceptable to drink in a pub. You don't want your mates to laugh at you or to seem unattractive to the opposite sex.

Cocktails. You're standing three deep at the bar waiting for the already overworked bar staff to keep everyone's orders flowing, and what happens, some twat decides it would be a good idea to order four different cocktails.  Cheers for that. The barman relishes the chance to roll up his sleeves and demonstrate his obvious destiny as eclectic mixologist, his ironic tattoos and Edwardian hipster braces leaping into action. Meanwhile, the rest of the waiting customers groan and make 'WTF it'll be another hour' signs to their mates. Unless your name is Derek Trotter, cocktails are only to be ordered by girls, and only then when the bar is relatively empty.  Chances are any cocktail you get in a pub will be shit anyway.

Pints. Unless you're an aspiring lad-ette, pints are for men. Order by 'pint of lager' only, as choosing between different fizzy corporate continental lagers renders you a precious twat as they all taste the same anyway.
Unless of course you've bought into the craft beer thing, which generally means you get something that tastes of something but costs loads. Ale, of course, is for really manly men.

Wine. For groups of girls, or university lecturers trying to seduce their students. Pubs generally know nothing about wine, but make massive mark-ups so don't expect anything decent.

Spirits. Go for the classics. G&T, Vodka & Soda etc. Never drink Coke with anything.
Whisky - neat, Scotch. Single malt if you're flush. Never any ice or water/mixer of any kind. Under no circumstances order bourbon unless you are in an American themed bar and you're drinking boilermakers (beer & bourbon chasers) or you're a Slash fan.

Shots. Shots are to be encouraged. I'm a great believer in shots very early on, even with the first round. 
For maximum pub points, have them at the bar, on your own, waiting for your mates' drinks to be poured. Always offer one to the bar tender.


Pubs should supply a decent selection of salty snacks to encourage more drinking. The more pretentious the pub, the more expensive the snacks. Expect anything from Walkers (Cheese & Onion, my fave) to fancy 'handcut' crisps from a farm in Suffolk, with funny flavourings and wholesome packaging. Steer clear of bar snacks you have to eat with a knife and fork.

That pretty much covers everything. Recently, all kinds of silly organised activities have been introduced to pubs, including board games, quizzes, and other weird things like knitting clubs (WT very F?). All to be avoided.


  1. I drink in pubs by myself ALL the time

  2. Ours was an evening event, and everyone really liked the recent streamlined renovations. Other than a miner hitch regarding seating, the night went off well.
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  3. This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here!



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