Ask the Bartender: New Year's Eve is for amateurs -- here's how to drink like a pro

Sean Kenyon knows how to pour out both drinks and advice. A third-generation bar man with almost 25 years behind the bar, he is a student of cocktail history, a United States Bartenders Guild-certified Spirits Professional and a BAR Ready graduate of the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource Program. You can find him behind the bar at Squeaky Bean -- and here every week, where he'll answer your questions.

Amateur night: That's what many servers and bartenders call the last night of the year. New Year's Eve got that label because people who don't go out very often or don't consume alcoholic beverages will head out for a rare night on the town on December 31, and these rookie revelers can be a nightmare for people in the hospitality industry. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned veteran of the party scene, I have love for you all (hear that, Kyle Garratt? You now have a sparring partner from your side of the tracks), and I look forward to seeing you on the 31st.

But first, study this guide to partying like a pro on the biggest bar night of the year:

1. DON'T DRIVE! Taxi to your destination, or delegate a designated driver. Remember, a designated driver is someone who will not drink at all -- not someone who just drinks less than everyone else. I recommend the latter, because taxis are difficult to find at 2 a.m. and police are out in force. You don't want to end the year with a $10,000 DUI.

2. Know where you want to be at midnight and get there by 10 p.m. I've seen this too many times: People rushing to get inside a bar at 11:55m, only to be stuck outside wishing the other people in line a Happy New Year. Besides, if you arrive by 10, you will have a better chance of establishing a comfortable spot where you and your brethren can welcome baby new year. Don't forget, several great Denver restaurants still have reservations available, and that's also a great way to celebrate.

3. Pace yourself. Do you want to be that guy or girl who's puking by 10 p.m. so that a friend or girlfriend has to miss the fireworks so that they can take you home and be your nurse? Do you want to have your embarrassing drunken episodes repeated by friends for all of 2011? Think about saving the whiskey shots for the right moments. Drink a lot of water between alcoholic beverages, eat some food.

4. Bar ettiquette. On NYE, bartenders at most bars will be busy, and while getting their attention is going to be your priority, there is a right and wrong way to do it. Do not: Wave your arms, wave money (even worse), pound the bar, snap, whistle or call out "Hey Barkeep!!!" A polite wave or gesture is okay if you don't think that you've been seen. A good bartender will know once you step to a bar where you in the order of guests; they will acknowledge you with a smile and eye contact and get to you at your turn. If your service is good, tip well. But don't remind your bartender that it is a good tip -- that's just tacky. On your next trip to the bar, your patience and humble generosity will be rewarded, because you will seem like a benevolent oasis amongst the wavers, snappers and guys yelling "Jager Bombs!!!"

5. Be ready for your bartender. There is nothing more frustrating for a bartender than to get to a guest, only to have him turn to his party and ask, "Okay, what do you guys want?" Then we have to wait while you poll your friends -- Meanwhile, hundreds of other thirsty eyes are staring us down. Have your money or credit card ready, too; watching a someone dig through a duffle bag-sized purse can seem like a lifetime.

And while we're on that subject, if your party has eight people, please don't plunk down eight forms of payment. If the bar is slow, it's easy to handle (albeit annoying), but on NYE it can bog a bartender down and put him in the weeds fast. My advice: Take turns buying rounds; it will even out in the end. And don't continually open and close your credit card tab. Open it once and close it once.

5. Think about your midnight libations by 11:30. Every year, there's a rush to the bar at ten minutes to midnight, and a good percentage of the latecomers will end up waiting until 2011 for their round. Buy a bottle of sparkling wine or a round of shots, and do it early.

6. If you go out to eat after midnight (I recommend Steuben's, open all night on NYE), send your drunkest friends home first. Attempting to wait on someone who'se hammered, passing out or worse is maddening.

7. Again, if you've been drinking: DON'T DRIVE.

8. Once you get home, drink some water. It will prevent or at least lessen your New Year's Day hangover. When I go out drinking, I take two ibuprofen and drink a ton of water before bed. I'm not a doctor, but it works every time.

If you follow this advice, you should survive New Year's Eve in fine form.

I wish you all a healthy, prosperous and bibulous New Year. Cheers. Have a question for Sean Kenyon? Ask the bartender at [email protected]

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Sean Kenyon
Contact: Sean Kenyon