Gracie Taylor is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

TV bartender Jonny Almario knows why you screw up your first dates

Auckland bartender and First Dates NZ star Johnny Almario has some important advice for those playing the dating game.

Don't get too drunk. Don't be overly eager. And don't try and flirt with anyone else besides your date - even if the waiter is pretty cute.

That's the advice of Jonny Almario, the TV bartender from First Dates NZ who can be seen counselling nervous singletons through their initial moments on the incredible awkward reality show.

His first advice is to take it easy on the alcohol.

"People for sure drink more when they're nervous. I guess people think it calms the nerves. They need something to chill them out a little. I guess alcohol always helps," he says.

"When people are on their first dates they don't really want to be smashing theses really alcoholic cocktail drinks and they don't want to look like an alcoholic. But then again they don't want to be safe. A lot of people order wine. Kiwis love wine."

Almario is a genuine all-round nice guy and a matchmaker who actually cares. He breaks the stereotypical barriers of most douchey bartenders that are present in the hip Auckland nightlife scene these days.

With six years in the business, he started out as a bartender in Wellington and upskilled in the busy hospitality scene in Melbourne. He now works at K road's quaint and quirky Madame George.


Because Jonny has that one-on-one time with the daters he becomes friendly.

"I can be seen as a therapist in a way and a friend. I think for me it was more trying to make these people feel a little more relaxed. It's easy for me to just turn my brain off and pretend I am working when they have the cameras rolling and that's fine," he says.

"If you make them feel comfortable they forget they are being filmed and yes they will still be nervous, but they won't be speechless when the other person walks in."

"It's interesting seeing different people from the show. Some literally were like, 'I just wanna have fun and meet someone new,' and others were like, 'I want to find the love of my life,' and those intentions of what they want when they first come on the show definitely influence the way they reacted on the show."

A scene from the TV series, First Dates New Zealand. Photo / Screengrab via TVNZ
A scene from the TV series, First Dates New Zealand. Photo / Screengrab via TVNZ

He also says people put too much pressure on themselves to find "the one" instead of relaxing and taking it slow.

"You have Tinder, you have Grindr, internet dating, speed dating, you have people that are really traditional about how they date and then some people have rules and protocols. I think people put pressure on themselves, telling themselves they have to be with '6s' and '7s' and I think too many people are wanting to find love rather than finding friends," says.

"That's one piece of advice I like to give to people: even if your date doesn't go well or you don't match, you can become friends and you can meet more people through them and it's just creating more friend networks and then hopefully meeting someone that's compatible with who you are.

"I think people should do that more often instead of if it didn't go well, they never see them again. People are missing out on a potential good group of friends they could be hanging out with.

Almario isn't a prolific dater himself and is now in a relationship. He says his time on the show has made him appreciate his partner more.

"When you meet someone for the first time you genuinely want them to have fun and be happy. You meet these people and you have a chat to them and you hope things go well for them," he says.

But his matchmaking picks don't always work out.

"There's a few times I thought people were going to match and they didn't and I was really hung up about it. I was like, 'Oh they should have matched! That sucks! What happened?' But again I am behind the bar so I can't really hear anything except laughter and watch but the tables are pretty far away."

A scene from the TV series, First Dates New Zealand. Photo / Screengrab via TVNZ
A scene from the TV series, First Dates New Zealand. Photo / Screengrab via TVNZ

So, who should really pay for the first date?

"For me first dates should always be Dutch. I think you should always split the bill," he says.

"I'm not a big fan of one person paying over the other because I think that creates an expectation where whoever is paying expects something in return. And because it's a first date I don't think you should really be putting those pressures on."

Mistletoe @isabellabwilson

A photo posted by Jonny Almario (@jonnyalmario) on


* Stream the first two episodes of First Dates here.

- NZ Herald

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