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.


    Your Comments

    • Me

      never bartended but as a patron.

      buying rounds among a group seems like a significant one for efficiency.
      mostly applies to crowded bar.

      —1 person vs the group crowing the bar
      —1 transaction
      —only need to get the bartender’s attention once.

    • Michael

      don’t ever ask for a free drink……..you are more likely to get weaker drinks after asking

    • Shrazznazty

      Never mind, just re-read and realized Michael (bar owner) with his comments on “self serving jerks” was on my team. Nice!

    • Shrazznazty

      Bartenders have gotten so arrogant and entitled… $1 tip is fine whether the drink is $1 or $100. It’s ONE F’ing drink. You didn’t build the pyramids to make it. It most likely only took you a few seconds… I’m not going to be penalized because your bosses want to overcharge for drinks. Next, some drinks do purposely come with “munchable” garnishes. And if you don’t make those drinks accordingly, prepare to lose out to other bars that DO make them appropriately (i.e. bloody marys). To they guy saying not one of us “self serving jerks would make it through one shift…” Well, the overwhelming majority of bartenders aren’t even remotely qualified to do the job I have either. So what. Make my drink and shut up.

    • Jonnieray

      …all of the above being reasons why your collective loser a$$ is still a BARTENDER

    • scoop

      Gotta love the angry bar crowd . / / / /

    • McPiro

      I can’t speak intelligently about every bar in the country, but I’ve lived in NY, DC, San Antonio, and now Charlotte, and the bars of “getting to know your bartender” are long gone…

    • McPiro

      I can’t speak intelligently about every bar in the country, but I’ve lived in NY, DC, San Antonio, and now Charlotte, and the days of “getting to know your bartender” are long gone…

    • geoberk

      You’ll win points if you request gin in your Martini? Excuse me, a Martini is ONLY made with gin, and never Vodka. I stopped reading right there.