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updated 3/14/2013 1:16:19 PM ET 2013-03-14T17:16:19

Trying to catch a bartender's attention to order a drink at a packed bar can be a true test of patience.

A new app out of Milwaukee, known for its beer-making tradition dating to the 1800s, made its national debut at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas. Appropriately called Tappr, the app shortens the time between entering a bar and that first sip. Plus, you'll never have to worry about handing over your credit card to open a tab.

Tappr lets users order and pay for drinks from their smartphones in bars that have been set up with a simple system on an iPads. The creators of the app, including Maggie Dunn, tested Tappr at The Parish Underground, a popular watering hole for SXSW attendees. She said the bar owner loved it and Tappr's gifting option was a surprise hit.

"People were sending us "gifts" (aka free drinks) all the way from Milwaukee to use at The Parish," Dunn said.

Here's how it works. Download the free app from the App Store or from Google Play. Sign in with Facebook  to activate the social features of the app. You'll be able to see when friends check in at bars and you'll be able to not only buy drinks for yourself and your crew, but send them as a gift as well.

Scroll through the list of participating bars on Tappr and open the drinks menu, which includes prices. Choose your drink, tap to pay with a credit card you've stored in the app and don't forget to tap and add a tip. You'll receive a notification when your drink is being made and a second alert when it's ready for pickup. Head over to the bar, show the bartender your phone and the drink will be in your hand.

With Tappr's gifting feature, you can buy a drink at any time for a  Facebook friend . After you've selected a bar and a drink, tap the gift-box icon at the bottom of the display. A list of your Facebook friends will pop up and you can choose the recipient. Add an optional greeting along with Tappr's standard message, tap "Give" and your friend will receive a Facebook notification.

Friends will then download the app to use their free drink coupon. The app saves the drinks you've received from friends, much like Groupon stores coupons you've bought, so that all you have to do is show the bartender the coupon on your smartphone to get your drink. And like with  deals apps , bars can promote deals to Tappr users. For instance, the bar The Loaded Slate in Milwaukee is offering $2 cans of PBR (that's Pabst Blue Ribbon, which was established in Milwaukee in 1844). The promotions are included in the bar listings, a feature that makes it easy to find specials when you're heading out for a drink.

For now, Tappr is available in 11 Milwaukee bars (the Austin gig was only a test), but the team is currently working on a rollout schedule for other cities, Dunn said. She also said they will integrate Twitter into the Tappr service in the future. In the meantime, lobby for your city by tweeting to  @tappr_app.

Email  Leslie Meredith  or follow her  @lesliemeredith. Follow us  @TechNewsDaily Facebook  or  Google+.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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