13+ Things Your Bartender Won’t Tell You

Bartenders share their secrets, tips and best etiquette advice.

from Reader's Digest
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    1. Yell, whistle, or wave money and I'm going to make you wait. Make eye contact and smile, and I'll come over as soon as I can. Know what you want and have your money ready. Don't create a traffic jam.

    2. Start a tab. If I swipe your card five times this evening, that’s five times as much paperwork I have to do at 4 a.m.

    3. You want a drink made 'strong?' Then order a double-for double the price.

    4. Liquor sales in bars and restaurants were down 2.2 percent last year. Even beer sales are slow. But people scrimp on food first, drinks second.

    5. A lot of bars have comp tabs, which allows me to give away drinks. It's smart business and helps build a base of regulars.

    6. Bars that don't have regulars (in hotels, airports) have started using wireless gadgets that measure how much is poured and automatically ring up each shot. They're meant to prevent overpouring and to cut losses, but I don't like them-neither do customers.

    7. If your tipping guideline is still 'a buck a drink,' listen closely: That doesn't fly if you order a $12 cocktail. Tip at least 15 percent.

    8. At some bars, the sliced fruit garnishes sit out until they’re gone, sometimes for days. Munch accordingly.

    9. The smoothest guys compliment a woman, then walk away-it's very nonthreatening.

    10. I have the police on speed dial, and I never hesitate to call.

    11. Don't order a round of drinks after last call. Last call applies to everyone-even you.

    12. Some of us get a cut from the cab company when we call a taxi for a tipsy patron. Not that I've ever done that, of course.

    13. Last week, a couple had a little too much and got into a dumb argument, then asked me to choose the 'winner' of the fight. There isn't a tip big enough to get me involved in that situation!

If I cut you off, don’t argue.
 If anything, you should apologize if you’ve made a scene. 

Get a room.
 The more you make out with your date, the closer you are to being cut off. 

I've heard it all. 
One guy told me I had the worst smile he‘d ever seen. I found out that he thinks a girl won‘t remember him unless he puts her down. I guess it worked; I‘m telling you this story three weeks later.

Think tending bar isn’t a real career?
 You’re wrong. The craft of bartending is coming back, and some of us are even called “mixologists” now. 

 I love sharing what I know.
 If it’s not busy, ask me about the history of drink or the latest cocktail I’ve invented. You’ll learn something new. 

 I like a sophisticated palate.
You’ll win points with me if you request gin in your martini. 

 My knees hurt.
 Bar mats prevent slipping, but I really like them for the cushioning. I use sole inserts in my shoes, too. 

 I can tell if your date is going well or not.
 And I notice if you bring in a new date every week. 

 Everyone should bartend a few nights in his life.
You learn so much about people. 

 I'm not a piece of meat.
 If you’re going to hit on me all night, at least leave a big tip. 

 It happens every time.
 The songs you line up on the jukebox will play right as you’re leaving. 

 I do more than mix drinks.
 I love being your psychiatrist-matchmaker-entertainer-friend. Otherwise, I wouldn’t tend bar. 

 Please, take a cab.


    Sources: David Craver, president, National Bartenders Association, and anonymous bartenders in Boston, Kentucky, Florida, California, and Illinois. Interviews by Bridget Nelson Monroe.


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    Your Comments

    • jamesthebarkeep

      I’m a bartender and bars that do the “pay double for a double” rule are dumb. Also, some bars (like mine) give the barkeep a lot of leeway on liquor. Play your cards right, be respectful, and hint at making it worth my while ($$) and I’ll make your drinks strong. Typically easier to get stronger drinks for same base price (+ extra tip) on your second round. I do care about my business, after all they pay my bills. Also, garnish’s aren’t necessarily there for being munched on (celery in bloody Mary can be one of the exceptions), but they should always be fresh enough to be edible if the customer wants.


      Get off your high horses. Enough of this “mixologist” nonsense too, you are a bartender not a scientist. So many of you posers are too obsessed with what’s in the glass in front of you to have any semblance of a personality to begin with. Big ups to all of the men and woman out there behind the bar that are really holding it down.

    • idontdrink

      I dont drink

    • junrellerosales

      Bartending can be a lot of things, for some people it’s a temporary job where they earn the income needed to survive, while others turn it into a solid career and earn quite a lot of money from it. Just like any other job however, bartending might come with its dull moments, but on the other hand it allows you to meet a plethora of new people, sometimes very influential, and through that you can make great connections. Bartenders can gain a good income that ranges from $10000 per year up to $20000. And this doesn’t even take the tips into account, which might double the revenues.

    • McRight

      I throw them a few bucks and if they expect more than that they are disappointed I guess. Never seems to prevent me from getting another beer…

    • disqus_ubzDC4XSN5

      Honestly, if the garnishes sit out for days, any bar could be shut by the board of health at any time.

    • Ghraen

      Do bartenders get fired for incompetence toward customers?
      Why customer satisfaction doesn’t matter in a bar as it does in retail, banks
      or car repair shops? I have seen so many bartenders with a dreadful attitude and
      if they were working in a different setting, they wouldn’t get away with that ruthless
      conduct so easily. Perhaps the managers of these places tend to think the customer
      is always drunk instead of always right so they couldn’t care less. Also it appears
      that booze is a high demand commodity, they sell one too many so why do you
      have any importance as a customer? Sometimes
      I see myself almost begging for a drink in these places and definitely getting
      ignored, so people on my both sides can
      get served multiple times. The best job there is out there if you wanna humiliate customers and get away with it.

    • Don’t tell me what to do

      I hate these types of articles. Has anyone ever made a list called “How a bartender should stop complaining and just do his job?” It’s your job to make me a drink and if you do it well, I will tip you. You don’t just deserve my money for doing your job. I am a teacher and when a student does a good job on a paper due to my help, I don’t expect a tip because helping that student is my job. You made a drink. Wow. You did your job. Wow. That is how you keep your job. I can swipe my card as many times as I want. Newsflash: doing the paperwork is, you guessed it, your job! People work hard for their money and I can eat and drink at home cheaper than I can at your establishment, so be happy people are out spending their money so you can pull a little lever and liquid can come out.