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

    • RoseFlorida

      There are good and bad bartenders, good and bad employers, and good and bad customers. Anyone who has participated in the hospitality industry knows that. One thing is for sure though – North Americans overall have a reputation for treating servers as people. In Europe and in much of the rest of the world servers are treated with contempt, as servants. This is not just in this industry. Ever read interviews of people in countries such as India who work in call centers? Americans come out on top for being polite and patient on the phone. We really do have a stronger sense of equality and respect for others in the US.

    • RoseFlorida

      The “button to call the police” slide has not been my experience. The bar doesn’t want a bad image and makes a choice, what will probably prove to be a harmless fight in the parking lot or whirling lights and sirens.
      Of course occasionally the harmless fight is not so harmless – one friend stumbled and fell on a piece of glass that cut an artery. It took a while before people realized he was seriously in danger. In another case one patron was threatened by another – “when you step outside I am going to kill you”. I suppose 99 out of 100 times that is an empty threat, still it is not a gamble most sober people would want to make.

    • KBr

      I must have missed something. When did tipping and the % of which become mandatory? I thought tipping process was based on the level of service you received. Great service = great tip / lousy service = lousy tip. That’s how I always thought it worked. I understand that servers depend on tips due to their lower wage and i generally tip around 20% but this attitude of entitlement is really annoying.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pklees Paul Klees

      A Martini is made with Gin. One needn’t ask for Gin in a Martini. A Vodka Martini is made with Vodka. Any ‘sophisticate’ knows this. So should every bartender.

    • Bardude

      You’re a bartender and there to serve the customer drinks. That’s all you are. Get over yourself. What a whiney-assed list.

    • http://www.cctours.us Casey Sellers

      I only “wave” when I have been ignored unendingly and a mere “glance” does not help.

    • Tip This

      It makes me laugh when the bartenders in this missive lay down the rules about what we can and can’t do in order to get service. Then in the next breath they demand a tip of 15% or more. I’m already paying for an overpriced drink – so if you want 15% or more than you better be doing one Hell of a job. I, the customer owe you nothing and it is not my job to pay your wage.

    • Sobertoad

      nice non combative tone to this ‘article.’ didn’t really do the service industry any favors here.. stopped at “listen closely: That doesn’t fly”