the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Things Every Man Should Do Before He Dies — #6 Buy a Drink for a Woman in a Bar


I have never bought a woman a drink in a bar. I’m not much of a drinker, so that is hurdle #1. I also grew up believing in feminism. Why should I buy a woman a drink? Let her buy me a drink! This is from a man who once called for an end to the condescending concept called “Ladies’ Night.”

All my life, I’ve seen countless movies and TV shows where a guy buys a drink for an attractive woman. Sometimes, he’s sitting halfway across the bar. He’ll call the waitress over and say “Buy that lovely lady over there a glass of merlot (or a cranberry vodka or something exotic with an umbrella) … and say it is from me.” Once the attractive lady gets the drink, the guy raises his glass to her, and she raises her glass back, usually with an appreciative smile.

Now let’s say I’m in a fancy bar, maybe even in the lounge where they are having that LA Bloggers’ reading. I see a pretty woman, I buy her a drink, and we raise our glasses in an “air-toast.” What is the next move? Is the raising of her glass a universal gesture meaning “You’re one lucky fellow.” Or is it, “Thanks for the drink, sucker. You just wish you could see me naked.” Do some women accept the drink, then quickly disappear forever, laughing at you during the cab ride home?

Imagine I make it to step #2. I go over to the woman who I bought the drink for, and we start chatting. I quickly learn that she is dull or “a theater actress” or a follower of “The Secret.” Is it impolite to ask her for a refund for the drink? Or is buying the drink for a stranger in a bar a little bit like playing the slot machine in Vegas? You might win the jackpot, but changes are you’re going to lose your money and your dignity.

Male readers — Have you ever bought a drink for a woman you didn’t know in a bar? Did anything ever come of it?

Women readers — Do you always accept a drink from a man in a bar, even if he looks like a total loser?

Despite my reservations over the whole “buying a drink for a woman in a bar” activity, it is an accomplishment every man should have under his belt, along with smoking a Cuban cigar, driving a Lamborghini, having a foursome with at least one Asian woman, climbing Mount Everest, and shaking Roger Clemon’s hand. For that reason —

Welcome to “Citizen” Virtual Bar and Grill

You’re a woman sitting at the bar, alone, feeling a little drunk from the one beer you’re drinking. It was a tough day at work. Suddenly, the waitress comes over to you with a martini.

“It’s from HIM,” she says.

You look over at a nearby table and you see ME, smiling at you, toasting you with my bottle of Samuel Adams.

OK — What do I do next?

And how long do you wait for me to come over there? If it takes me longer than twenty minutes to approach you, do you just say “forget him” and end up doing the hunky bartender in the stock room instead?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Comedy and Modern Science


  1. Eileen Dover

    I usually have drinks bought for me and sent over by short, creepy, pudgy-borderline-fat, old, semi-hairless men lacking social skills, and when they do come over to talk to me, they seem to have an inability to retain their saliva in their mouths when they talk in my direction.

    I’d much rather refund them their money.

  2. LisaBinDaCity

    They never say it’s “from him.” The bartender always says “the gentleman over at the table bought you a drink,” or “compliments from the gentleman at the bar.”

    Just for your edification.

  3. Felicity

    Right, as a former sud-slinger, it’s never “from him.” I knew most of my customers names so I would say, “So and so would like to buy you a cocktail!” with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. Because all of my customers were gorgeous, there was never any problems.
    I’ve both bought and accepted drinks…regardless of appearance…because everyone has something to offer. A purchased drink could result in interesting conversation. It doesn’t HAVE to trasnlate into a sexual come-on. Now THAT is feminism for ya.

  4. better safe than sorry

    no one has ever bought me a drink, however, many years ago, my gf and i sent drinks over to these two cute guys in the bar, i wound up marrying one of them. it was the only time i had ever done that, but i will have to admit i was more interested in the guy my husband was with then my husband. oops!

  5. question girl

    it also depends on the establishment…. in some places – you don’t buy an acutual drink – what if the person in question only is drinking one – instead you would be buying her “next round” so the bar tender would give her/him a “to-it” (a round disk w/the establishments name/logo on it – for those not in the know, maybe its a local thing)… i used to go to this one bar w/ my best friend (yes – we were regulars) and we litarlly had our own to-it jars because she was hot and everyone always wanted to buy her “next round” but most didn’t want to be rude so they got me one too.. well, once you had 3, 4, 5 free drinks adding up…….

    i don’t think i paid for a drink there after my 2nd time walking thru that door – and i was still a fav customer

  6. kapgar

    I did, in fact, buy a drink for a woman in a bar. And I got sex as a result.

    Of course, I was married to her. Does that still count? 😉

  7. girlgoyle

    I accept a drink from a man out of politeness though I do find it an awkward gesture. Not something I have to worry about much anyway but to have a drink sent over is odd. Less odd is if it starts out with a conversation and then ends up with a ‘can i buy you a drink.’ A lot less of a chew and screw situation.

  8. Megan

    In my bar-hopping days no one ever sent a drink from across the room. If a guy wanted to buy me a drink usually he would come up to me and start talking and if the conversation was going well say, “hey, what are you drinking?” when my glass was empty.

    I’m a feminist and still I find it pretty charming if a guy buys me a drink. I think that relationships should be economically balanced, obviously, but it doesn’t mean that we necessarily have to give up charming bits of our culture. No, buying a woman a drink does not entitle a man to sex, but buying a drink can be a good conversation-starter.

    In my experience, if the woman reverses the roles, like buying drinks or anything else, the man gets his ego wounded and/or gets really freaked out and runs away. Even supposedly progressive men.

  9. NSC

    I’ve done it . . . sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But it was always a big decision as to whether to do it or not.

    Which brings back an old “going into a bar and trying to pick-up women” saying that my college buddies and I used to mention whenver we went, well, into a bar to pick-up women. Edited so as not to offend (as much anyway) and I apologize in advance for the obvious sexism:

    “Don’t be nervous, dude, remember, if you ask 10 women to f#!@* you get nine slaps and one piece of ass.”

    Not bad odds when you think about it.

  10. You can call me, 'Sir'

    It’s exactly like your slot machine reference…pointless and wasteful. Introduce yourself first, then if things are going well, offer to buy her a drink. Also, there’s always the potential that her boyfriend, Mongo, who’s a little psychotic and was just released from jail, will return from the bathroom just as the bartender is setting the drink down and pointing at you. Awkward AND painful.

  11. NSC

    Ohhh, another story. A few months ago my wife and I went out to dinner and she had a few lemon martinis – a new drink for her – and she got slightly smashed during our meal. After dinner she was in such a good mood she wanted another martini so we went to the bar (very nice restaurant and quite pricey with $11 martinis), and she had a couple more. She was quite tipsy now, giggling and laughing like she was on a first date and I was enjoying the heck out of it because, well, what husband doesn’t enjoy it when his wife is drunk and feeling all “girlfriendish” if you get my meaning. We are talking “getting lucky” here guys.

    Anyway, we were having a good time and the bartender asked her if she wanted another drink. She said no, but if you know my wife she was saying it because of the cost, not because she didn’t want one, so I tried to convince her that it was okay for her to get another if she wanted it. We debated it for a moment lightheartedly, and finally I just told the guy to bring her one because I knew she really wanted one (something about the tartness of the lemons – she loved them). But the guy says, “No, I can’t bring her one unless she asks for it.” I said, “Oh okay” and told her it was up to her and she then thought about it a moment and finally ordered one. The guy went to make it and I leaned over and whispered to my wife, “You know he wasn’t gonna let me get it for you because he thinks I am trying to take advantage of you while you’re tipsy.” So she leaned back staring at me with those big beautiful eyes and suddenly broke out in loud laughter saying, “But doesn’t he know we are married?”

    After 24 years, it’s moments like those that make me remember why I asked her to marry me.

  12. Dagny

    Hmmm. I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a drink. And yes, the guys are often creeps but I am quite adept at getting rid of them. Of course, they are rarely sent. Instead the guy usually approaches and asks if I would like a drink.

  13. heather anne

    There’s this great scene in 30 Rock with a guy flirting with Tina Fey in a bar. She walks away, so her friend chases her down and says, “What’s the matter with you? That guy wanted to buy you a drink.”

    Tina Fey hold up a glass and says, “I already have a drink. You think he’ll buy me cheese sticks instead?”


  14. Karl

    I’ve never bought a drink for a woman from across the bar. I’ve always wanted to, but never had the guts. (The slot machine analogy is very apt.) Instead I offer to buy them a drink after we’ve already been talking. You know, when I get the guts to talk to a woman.

  15. Bryna

    I’ve had the offers and both accepted, and declined. Most of the time the guy is a total creep… but you never know. The guy I married asked me if I wanted a drink. (of course he approached first) And the rest is history.

  16. Lisa

    No one’s ever sent a drink over to my table. Guess I’m not worthy. But I’ve sent a drink on one or two occassions. I’m also the type that’ll be the one to approach the guy at the bar. I’m not about to sit around all night waiting for them to make the first move.

  17. Non-Highlighted Heather

    I don’t think anyone has ever offered to buy me a drink. It’s quite possible they have and I just don’t remember. Typically, I’m already smashed when I get there so the odds of remembering my own name are slim enough.

    Send over a Gray Goose martini (3 olives please) on June 28th and I promise to accept. With pleasure.

  18. Non-Highlighted Heather

    Make that Grey Goose. Damn Europeans and they’re spelling.

  19. Rhea

    I always find this a bit awkward because you think the guy is expecting something in return.

  20. Marilyn

    A former student (he was former at the time)did this for me once. I was with a date. The waiter/bartender guy came over and said, “the gentleman at that table would like to buy you a drink,” which was very polite because then I got to ask for a diet pepsi instead of something alchoholic. My date and I stopped and chatted with him and his buddies and I made a lot of brownie points with my date. I’m not sure what the student got out of it, besides my gratitude.

  21. Finn

    A foursome? Two women aren’t enough for you?

    No one has ever done that for me, which could only mean one thing: Buy me a drink and I’ll sleep with you. No questions asked.


  22. Churlita

    I usually just go out with my girlfriends, so I don’t really want to talk to a guy I don’t know. If it was you, it might be a different story, though.

  23. sizzle

    yeah cuz “doing the hunky bartender in the stock room” is so a part of my reality. ahem.

    if a guy is going to send a drink my way, i’d hope he’d at least take the time to find out what i was drinking and send that over, not some lame “sex on the beach” thing that is supposed to be suggestive. eww.

  24. brooke

    If it wasn’t for guys buying me drinks all through my twenties, I’d never have been the drunken lush that I once was.

    Good times.

  25. Jazz

    No one has ever bought me a drink in a bar, but I’d think a woman wouldn’t feel obliged to do the buyer. But what do I know.

    Buy me a drink and make sure the bartender isn’t a hunk…

  26. Wendy

    I’m with Brooke. Thanks to all those guys for “helping” me learn to “socialize” in early adulthood.

  27. Neil

    Brooke — these comments are very informative. Just in case I’m ever in New Jersey — what is your favorite drink?

  28. Chantel

    — Safety First: If the waitress brings you the drink you can take it, if the guy brings the drink; don’t touch it. Its probably laced with GHB.

    — I’ve had a few guys buy me a drink only one did it right. You can buy a woman a drink but it is her option to recipricate with any communication at all. She is only obligated to say thanks. If she doesn’t take you up for conversation then walk away. A really nice guy a few years ago bought me a drink, he was 50. I should have just dated him because he is the only one who has ever bought the drink, had a conversation and remained a gentleman throughout. The rest of the time the guy bought me a drink then tried to kiss me or grind on me all night.
    –Neil, maybe you should give younger men pointers on how to buy a drink and get laid.

  29. V-Grrrl

    I never hung out at bars, possibly because I was practically a child bride, people. I never had a chance to be a lush like Wendy and Brooke. Poor me.

    However, I did go to a club with my husband when I was in my late 20s. I wanted to go dancing, and I was wearing a black leather mini. A guy at a neighboring table sent a glass of wine over to me. And when I finished it, he sent a second. And then he came by the table and told my husband how lucky he was to be with me. Yeah, my husband felt lucky–HE didn’t have to buy me a drink!

  30. mckay

    what’s wrong with “theatre actresses”??

    (theatre actress)

  31. sarah g

    Its kinda your own style after the drink is bought,and to go off of what she says.
    She probably won’t accept it if she is taken already, or if she isnt interested.
    If she does take it, she’ll thank you, and then you keep your eye on her in a non-glaring creepy way. If she keeps looking over, catching your eye and smiling.. then you have the set up to go over.

    If she accepted the drink and doesnt care, she wont encourage you.

    if you dont follow up, then she either gives up, goes up to you, or goes to leave with two options 1. you get her number 2. she leaves with that little smile/shrug of “you shoulda made a move”.

    ..not that i’ve ever experienced it or anything… (i have been on both ends)

  32. Danny

    That photo of Reagan is scary. And yet he looks SO much better in a tux than George W. Bush.

    I never bought a stranger a drink in a bar but I did meet my wife at a wedding and pursue her relentlessly. True, she later accused me of being like the Glenn Close character in “Fatal Attraction” but a short 15 years after that night we got married!

  33. laurie

    You’d probably be better off with a gal who follows The Secret you know. She’d be a big fan of “The Law of ATTRACTION.” har har

    I used to accept drinks from guys before I moved to L.A. … then I knew the ground rules, that it’s a charming gesture of interest. No harm no foul. But out here, men seem to think if you accept then you owe them sex. It’s sad, really. Some men in Los Angeles seem very big on keeping score, who pays for what and what they get in return. And these are the same ones who think women are gold-diggers.

    Not all guys are like that, of course. But the ones sending over drinks in L.A. bars seem to be like that. eeeeew.

  34. Neil

    McKay — actresses are crazy!

    Sarah g — Sounds like you’re pretty easy to pick up.

    Laurie — Didn’t you once tell me that you “never” go out — but from the sound of the last comment, you’ve been hit on in every bar in Los Angeles? Was this before the knitting hobby?

  35. laurie

    Before. And before I got married. I think the last time I was in a bar in L.A. was for Amber’s birthday party in, uh, 2005? Nothing had changed, though.

    I did go to a bar in NY with my folks. My dad picked up the tab LOL.

  36. mckay

    neil, i’m not crazy. i’m quirky.

  37. wendy

    You wait at the table. If she is your equal, she finishes the drink, and comes up to your table…with one she’s ordered for you.

  38. Non-Highlighted Heather

    Oh man, and now I just saw that I said “they’re” instead of “their.” Why the hell do I have to get so freaked out by that?

  39. Neil

    Heather — I would never buy a drink for a woman who mistook they’re for their.

  40. Jennifer

    Well, of course it all depends on whether you’re wearing the purple bathrobe or not!!

  41. princess extraordinaire

    I don’t drink alcohol but when I did I alwasy thought it was sweet when guys bought me drinks…and if they turned out to have a shoe size IQ I just politely left the immediate area

  42. psychomom

    Bars? Yes, I think I remember those places back in the day before jello or body shots (which I’ve never had).

    Back then when I was a true slut, I would accept a free drink and have wild sex with stangers. Ahhh the good ole days.

    Then I found what I thought was love, the kids came along, and me and the boys would enjoy “happy hour” with slushies and tater tots on the picnic tables at Sonic.

    It was a big change, but it was nice to know these boys meant it when they said “I love you”.

  43. Neil

    Psychomom — Too bad I only met you now!

  44. Non-Highlighted Heather

    That’s okay. I’d never accept a drink from a nancy boy that listens to ABBA.

  45. Neil

    Right. You’d love it.

  46. littlepurplecow

    If you sent over a dirty martini and the sweet sounds of “Dancing Queen” filled the air, I’d sashay over to your table and we would talk about how much we love our spouses and blogging all night.

  47. Neil

    I’ll accept “loving our spouses” and “blogging all night” as euphemisms for something else.

    And what is a “dirty martini?”

  48. Crys

    i always accept drinks, no matter whether someone appears like a “loser” or not, whatever that means. generally, it’s a nice gesture and i’m thankful for it. i usually try and return the favor, however. also, if a guy thinks buying me a drink is some kind of an entree into my entire night, he’s certainly wrong. i’ve encountered that a time or two.

    i think any guy who sends a drinnk over to a woman should always do it with the idea that he’s not going to see that money again and is essentially tossing it out the window. if he gets anything back by way of attention from the woman, if it bears fruit in any way, then he’s a lucky guy, but more times than not, it doesn’t work that way.

    drinks are good and ladies like them, but conversation is where it’s at.

  49. littlepurplecow

    dirty martini = extra olives and a good dose of olive juice added to the traditional martini

  50. communicatrix

    Good christ, no.

    The only person whom I’d allow to buy me a drink is someone who didn’t have to.

    No. No. No.


    Neil? Seriously–no.

  51. gorillabuns

    i’ll admit i’ve accepted free drinks from strangers in smokey bars. i accepted graciously and then quickly made my get away into the ladies room.

    basically, if the guy had the balls to face me beforehand, i would have given him the time of day.

    i’ve never really been attracted to assumptive dudes.

  52. Mo

    Interesting views.I gather people like freebies.I operate on a very simple rule,no drinks till I establish some degree of rapport.It may be a simple conversation(well,somewhat of a simplification as I’m attracted to intellectual women).I know better than to merely trust my eyes.The ambience,lighting etc in clubs,bars,lounges can be utterly deceiving.

    I got bought enough free drinks to satisfy Lindsay Lohan.Why?The male patrons saw me hanging out with hot mami.I guess they figured get in with the male friend and get her.Suckers!!

  53. MiaTune

    Gah, I hate feminists. (I’m female, btw) since I probably owe males about a thousand dollars on martinis alone and it helps to get through college if you don’t have to buy your own drinks (haha).

  54. Leslie G

    I’ve bought drinks for my man at the bar the last few times we’ve gone out because he’s been having a hard time getting paid by the guy he’s contracted with. THEN… i casually mention this morning on the phone that this older guy was buying ‘us all’ drinks last night at the bar… and I get a snide and sexist, “man i wish i was gay so guys would buy me drinks all the time… must be nice,” in response. PULLLEASSSE!!!! not only was it totally sexist, and totally rude since i’ve been buying HIM drinks at the bar the past few times… but he assumed that everyone in ‘us all’ were women, when in fact i had already mentioned that my sister’s boyfriend was with us. He’s a VERY masculine guy .. burly, and with a mustache.. and HE ALSO had a drink bought for him by this older gentleman. He bought us all a couple of rounds in fact… I went on to explain to my ‘BOYFRIEND’ (of 3 years i might add)… that he probably would’ve gotten a drink TOO had he BEEN there… I’m getting REALLY sick of this whole drink buying issue getting reduced to the sexist norm argument… there is WAAAY more gray area in there people… let GO OF YOUR LABELS and LIVE!!!!!!


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