For people who go out often — and the waiters, bartenders, and chefs who serve them — New Year's Eve is referred to as amateur night. Restaurants and bars are packed with infrequent patrons toting high expectations and unrefined nightlife manners. From single women anxiously searching for their midnight kiss to that couple that didn't think a reservation was really necessary, New Year's Eve is a minefield of potential mistakes for the unseasoned reveler. Follow our tips to help you manage the evening like a pro.
Those unaccustomed to eating out show their amateur status in various ways. "One of our pet peeves is when people hand plates back to a server out of order," says one downtown waiter. "Stacking isn't so bad, because it's kind of helpful, but just let us do our job by setting and clearing the table in between courses."
A fancy dinner may cause you anxiety when it comes to using the wrong fork or glass, and yes, your server will notice, but they won't judge. Take a page from the dining room scene in Titanic and start with utensils from the outside of the place setting and work your way in. But don't employ a false arrogance, especially when ordering a cocktail.
"I had this woman order a cocktail that I was unfamiliar with," confides one waiter, "and when I asked her what was in it she told me to 'just ask the bartender.' He had no clue. If it's not on my cocktail list or a simple liquor and one mixer drink, don't assume that we'll know how to make it to your liking."
Patience is a virtue, and one that you'd be wise to adopt on one of the busiest nights of the year. Make peace with the fact that any restaurant you choose will in fact have to cook your food, and it will most likely take longer than a meal from Panera. If you've hopped on the gluten-free bandwagon out of choice rather than medical necessity, please specify.
"There's a huge difference between having celiac disease and preferring no gluten," says our waiter. Restaurants take allergies very seriously and often have to stop to wipe down cooking utensils and their line in order to ensure no cross contamination. And if you order a double decaf cappuccino after dinner, expect it to take a little while.
"It's awful to say, but in the grand scheme of things, that's probably not our top priority on a busy night like New Year's Eve."
You may have paid $135 to attend the Grand Ball at the Aquarium, but don't try to drink enough liquor to break even. You'll become pushy and rude and because of your economic agenda, you'll seldom tip. If a kind friend doesn't intervene, you may make another rookie mistake, the dreaded New Year's Eve blackout.
No one goes out with the intention of forgetting everything past 10:30 p.m. A good deal of money has been spent on that pricey party ticket and dapper new outfit. Don't waste it by blacking out. The bartenders will joke amongst themselves that you probably haven't stepped foot in a bar since St. Patrick's Day. The women combing the crowds for someone to kiss will recoil from your side-to-side sway and droopy eyelids. The best outcome you can hope for is that you will become very tired and find a corner to pass out in. The worst fates, more likely for some, are that you will run your mouth and get into a fight you're ill-prepared to win, or that you'll decorate the bathroom with your vomit. If you make it to the bathroom.
"If you can't handle drinking shots with your champagne," said a local bartender, "then just don't drink them."
A common bar mistake is assuming that this "cocktail revolution" you've heard a lot about has come to this bar and that these bartenders are the mixologists of lore. But this bar is filled to capacity and the bartenders are getting the workout of their life just trying to keep up. Now is not the time to ask if they can make you the Smokey Grove from the PDT Cocktail Book.
It's also important to note that your bartenders are not legally blind. There is no need for you to wave money in the air, jump up and down, or yell for their attention. Quiet eye contact and an air of readiness are your best friends. An ounce of compassion for those giving up their New Year's Eve in your service will also do you wonders; buying a shot for the barkeep or leaving more than a lousy 10 percent tip will likely help you get quicker service for subsequent rounds.
No one likes a desperate girl, but they especially do not like a desperate girl trying to kiss everyone after the ball drops. A good rule of thumb: "If it's 12:15 and you're still going, please vacate immediately," quipped one bartender. Another faux pas for the coupled set is going at it as if there's a zombie apocalypse outside.
"For the most part, New Year's is fun," says one bartender. At least it will be if you follow the above tips and avoid looking like one of the novices hitting town on Amateur Night, er, New Year's Eve.