There are experienced drinkers who seem to be privy to a secret language. They can speak to bartenders or waiters without ever muttering a word, using hand signals or other motions. It’s not really all that complicated at all, however, and the language is similar to the hand signals used in auctions. In fact, it may be helpful to be aware of the signals commonly used to ask for another drink, so that you don’t inadvertently make these motions and end up with a drink you never intended to order! After all, that could be eight to ten dollars you never meant to spend. So, the scenario is you just finished up a fantastic glass of wine; or a Margarita or Martini or some trendy drink (a Cosmo?). It was so good you decide you’d like another, but the waiter is on the other side of the room. You don’t need to yell “Hey waiter, give bring me another drink!”
First, a lot depends on how good your waiter is, and perhaps how experienced he or she is. A good waiter, especially one that wants a good tip, will tend to glance over at his or her tables, to scan the situation, make note of empty water glasses, or anything that might be needed, and to make sure a diner is not trying to signal for something or trying to get the waiter’s attention. Therefore, of course, you might have to wait until the waiter glances your way, or get their attention in some way. If the waiter is walking by, then just say “excuse me” loud enough for the waiter to hear you, or just wave your hand a bit so the waiter can catch the movement with their peripheral vision. That is, if you are concerned with politeness and the comfort of those around you. If you’re not, you can just scream loudly at them.
You’re probably not going to do that on a first date, but even if you are always polite and graceful, let’s face it, there is not always a perfect way to do anything. As well, there are probably dozens of ways you could signal for a drink and be understood. But, once a little eye contact has been established, there are two well-established ways to order a drink, without saying a word:
- Once the waiter is looking your way, touch your finger to the tip of your glass.
- Once the waiter is looking your way, hold your glass up toward the waiter, and, perhaps, shake it gently
Those are the two main ways to signal for another drink. The second way, holding up and maybe shaking the glass a little, can sometimes be used to both draw the attention of the waiter, and order another drink at the same time. Hopefully, the waiter will give some kind of acknowledgement to let you know the message has been received. Anybody who reads this who is a waiter in a restaurant: Do you know of any established ways to acknowledge such a drink order?
As I said, it is possible to accidentally signal for another drink by inadvertently using one of the motions above, or even some other motion that makes your server think you want another cocktail, or beer, or glass of wine. This does happen, and sometimes diners are brought second drinks they never wanted. Many times, they will think, perhaps, there is a two-for-one deal, or some such special going on. It would be very unusual for a restaurant to offer free cocktails. Cocktails are one of the main ways they make money. So don’t just accept a drink thinking it may be free. As well, you do not need to feel guilty about refusing a drink you never meant to order. After all, the waiter really should acknowledge and be sure of a diner’s request before bringing an expensive mixed drink, or any other kind of drink. Just say, “No thank you, I didn’t order a second drink,” or something to that effect. The waiter may be annoyed and a drink may be wasted, but it’s not your fault. If you feel like the situation warrants it, pad the tip to make your waiter feel like you’re all friends and the experience was good, but only if they handle the situation politely!