When my older sister asked me if I’d found “my bar” shortly after I turned 21, I immediately questioned whether I needed to have a discussion with her about the dangers of alcoholism. In my mind, the only person who had the right to claim a bar as their own was the legitimate owner of the bar.
I didn’t plan on spending enough time at any one bar to call it my own; I planned on exploring various bars or clubs with friends, posting shamelessly vain pictures to social media of all the cool places I was finally legally allowed to waltz into.
But boy was I wrong. I’ll go ahead and blame it on the fact that I was merely a bar-hopping newbie, but the bars in heavy-traffic areas of Houston, such as Midtown, did not end up being “my bar.”
But one person’s bar probably will not be the next person’s. It’s not necessarily the bar you go to when you’re itching for a wild night out; it’s the place you can relax at with a single drink one night, and then go to when you do want to get buzzed with friends the next night. Think MacLaren’s Pub from How I Met Your Mother or even Central Perk (although not a bar) from Friends. The bartender may even know your name—or at least recognizes you enough to ask if you’re having your usual.
Finding one’s bar can be a little like being with an old lover. While it is not my intention to romanticize an establishment that specializes in libations, there’s no denying that having a go-to bar that’s familiar, friendly and knows exactly what you like is a relief. Not to say that a change in scenery isn’t sometimes much needed, but this bar can take the stress away from deciding where to relax after a long day.
A perfect analogy for the importance of finding your bar is to refer to the 2004 comedy Shaun of the Dead. Where do you go when you want to get a pint with a friend? The Winchester. Where do you go to after a long day at the office? The Winchester. Where do you go when there’s a zombie apocalypse? The Winchester. Basically, find your bar or die in the zombie apocalypse. It’s your choice.
If you’re having difficulties finding a bar that you want to claim as your own, break it down to the five senses.
Sight: Is the bar visually appealing to you? Who is the bar filled with? The atmosphere and patrons of a bar is a huge deciding factor. If you’re looking for a relaxing night, a bar frequented by screaming sorority sisters probably won’t be your bar—which leads into the next factor.
Sound: Ask yourself what type of experience you’re looking to have when you go out. Do you want to find a bar with live music or is a jukebox acceptable? Maybe a bar that hosts various events like slam poetry and comedy is more your style.
Smell: Smell can actually be very important. Do you walk in and smell the sweat of bar attendees? Maybe the smell of alcohol seeping through the pores of patrons reminds you of home; maybe it’s revolting to you.
Taste: How’re the drinks and the drink prices? There’s not really much point in going to a bar if the drinks cost an arm and a leg and taste bad. If you’re one who enjoys eating while drinking, finding a bar that has a few food selections is always a good idea.
Touch: What is there to do besides drinking? Some bars have video games, ping pong, pool or karaoke. Challenge a friend to a game—loser buys the next round. Aside from entertainment, make sure there are plenty of places to sit for when you’re ready to just relax, talk and drink with your friends.
The bottom line: Find a bar that’s dependable. Find a bar where the company’s good, the alcohol’s fairly-priced, the bartender’s charismatic and where the music sucks only a little of the time—because there’s absolutely no way to anticipate the sadist who plays five Drake songs in a row on the jukebox.