A square’s guide to bars and drinking

By Jeremy Brown, Staff Writer

Believe it or not, there are students at SIU that haven’t entered a bar before, nor have they had a single alcoholic drink.

Eric Caldwell, a bar manager at Hangar 9, said first-timers shouldn’t be afraid to drink.

“It’s not as crazy as some people make it out to be,” Caldwell said. “I think if you’ve never drank, you get it built up in your mind, but it’s really not that bad.”


Caldwell said that many newbies make a big mistake by trying too much, too fast.

People who are just starting out think that they can match the tolerance of someone that’s been drinking for years, and it ends poorly, Caldwell said.

“You throw up, you feel awful for two days, and you never want to drink again,” Caldwell said. “For me, I can have three beers and feel nothing. Whereas if you had three beers right now, you’d be drunk.”

Caldwell knew his interviewer had never drunk before and made this observation as the interviewer made a small spill on their sweater.

The bartender recommended that someone who has never drunk before should start with something sweet. He said a whiskey Coke, vodka cranberry or a cider were starting drinks for many people.

But for someone’s very first time, Caldwell said, they should drink at home. He said it’s ideal to be in a safe environment, which is an environment where there is a quick route to the bathroom, should you overdo it. This limits the embarrassment.

Kennedy Helenthal, a bartender at Traxx, said that she can tell when someone doesn’t drink when they order a “rail.” A rail, by itself, is not a drink.


“If you ask for a rail it doesn’t tell us what you want,” Helenthal said. “We have rail rum, vodka, tequila, whiskey, and gin. [Sometimes] we’re like ‘Okay, a rail whiskey Coke?’ And they’re like ‘Yeah sure, just get me drunk, lady.’”

Helenthal said many new drinkers don’t find a stopping point. They end up throwing up, which is why it’s important to pace yourself, even if you intend to never remember the night.

“A rookie mistake is ordering three trainwrecks in 30 minutes,” Helenthal said. “You’re going to go home pretty early. If you don’t pace yourself you’re not even going to enjoy the night, even if you don’t remember it.”

To help with hangovers, Helenthal said people should get Pedialyte from Walmart or a local pharmacy, and drink some an hour before a wild night.

Pedialyte is designed to keep people hydrated, so it can help counteract how much the alcohol in someone’s system is dehydrating them.

“It’s for babies,” Helenthal said. “Big, adult babies.”

Another tip for a night out: don’t drink if you’re in a bad place. That’ll lead to everyone else around you to suffer for it, Helenthal said.

“I’ve seen girls crying as they walk in the door, and they sit down to have a drink,” Helenthal said. “Same with [upset] gentlemen that come in here. Usually, those are the guys who get into fights. The night is disastrous for everyone who has to deal with it.”

Helenthal and Caldwell both said that if people are looking to meet someone while out at a bar, they typically don’t send drinks to people across the bar. It can come off as creepy too quickly.

Bryan Woodruff, owner/operator of Traxx, said he does see it from time to time with a wide variety of results.

“I’ve seen it work, and I’ve seen it completely blow up,” Woodruff said.

The general etiquette of bars and drinking are fluid. Helenthal said she always makes sure she raises her pinky when drinking, as it’s a classy gesture.

Woodruff said as long as the majority of the drink gets in your mouth and not on the bar, you’re doing well.

Whatever your starting point may be, it’s important to remember that you’re there to have a good time, even if it inexplicably becomes a forgotten one.

Staff writer Jeremy Brown can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JeremyBrown_DE.

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