On a recent Friday night, I found myself perched at the bar inside a pretty swank restaurant, twirling my straw and waiting for friends to arrive.

I had mistaken the time of our reservation and arrived 45 minutes early. Rather than filling me with anxiety, the mix-up made me smile—I would get to have a cocktail by myself at the bar.

Any adult above the legal drinking age should feel comfortable sitting alone at a bar. From waiting in airports to waiting for dates, sipping a drink is hands-down the best way to pass time.

I'll walk you nervous skeptics through it: First, find an open seat at the bar (preferably not in the middle of a string of empty ones, because you'll just be screwing over groups that want to sit together). Second, consider the drink list or chat up the bartender. Is it a cocktail spot? Beer or wine bar? Ask what's new or especially delicious.

Throughout this process, put your phone down. I mean it -- Put. Your. Phone. Down. I can hear your anguished cries from here, and I know it's hard. You could miss liking an Instagram within 4 minutes of someone posting it! But really, if you can't stop tapping your phone, you're missing all that real-world stuff your grandma used to tell you about.

Which brings us to step three: Smile when the bartender brings your drink, then start people-watching.

The best people-watching happens at airports and bars (bonus points for airport bars). If you're at a cocktail bar, it's a treat to watch the bartenders do their thing—shaking, muddling, straining. Watch as they prepare the drinks and you might even steal some tricks you can use yourself.

And no matter what sort of bar you're at, take a look at the people there. No, don't stare, just … observe. You can catch some pretty interesting interactions, and if you're single, your awesome air of yeah-I'm-sitting-alone-because-I'm-grown-and-sexy will doubtless catch a few eyes.

Step four? Fake it 'til you make it. Sure, it's a little awkward at first, and you will absolutely twitch to grab your phone every 30 seconds. Resist. After the first few minutes (and sips of that cocktail), you'll realize that no one thinks you look weird. No one. In fact, you look confident and friendly, and if you're open to conversation, you might be surprised by who comes over to chat you up.

After 45 minutes, during which time I rekindled my one-sided love affair with small-batch gin, my friends showed up at the restaurant. Because I had had some time to myself—oh, and that cocktail—between the maddening bus ride there and my friends' arrival, I was feeling calm and collected.

It's not a bad way to start off your night, regardless of what your plans are. And fear not—all those Instagrams will still be there for your tipsy cab ride home.



Kate Bernot is RedEye's nightlife reporter. kbernot@tribune.com

 

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