13+ Things Your Bartender Won’t Tell You

Bartenders share their secrets, tips and best etiquette advice.

from Reader's Digest
  • Loading

    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.


    Become more interesting every week!

    Get our Read Up newsletter

    Sending Message
    how we use your e-mail

    Your Comments

    • http://www.globalepmr.com/ Michael De Paulo

      If you have to request Gin in your Martini then your bartender is a dumbass. Martini’s are always made with Gin unless requested as a Vodka Martini. Anything claiming to be a “tini” that has anything but Gin/Vodka and Vermouth is not a “tini” it’s fou-fou bullshit.

    • bigballa70minus1

      The only reason to go to bars is to meet HOs, lower back tattoo means your def hitting it that night with minimal effort

    • lester jones

      I wish I knew who this bartender was so I could attack in on yelp. A bartender gives me attitude I spend the rest of my life taking his customers and business away. bartenders are our servants.

    • anonymoose

      Bars are disgusting places that create drunk drivers. Ban them!

    • Jules Julio

      It’s not a right to sit at a bar, it’s a privilege extended by the establishment.

    • Leah

      Everyone should bartend a few nights of “his” life. C’mon, really?

    • mrboz

      Note to bartenders – provide me with good courteous service and I will determine how much of a tip that you earned. Remember T.I.P. = “to improve performance”
      Once you start expecting a certain amount (15%) you can expect to receive nothing more than the change I consider an inconvenience to collect. Moreover, you can expect that I will find another bar to frequent.

      • Me

        actually T.I.P.S. = to insure prompt service.

        double checked wiki to make sure

    • rircsoad

      They forgot to add this one: If you don’t tip after your first round you WILL wait longer for your second round. You may see people order after you and get their drinks first all because THEY KNOW HOW TO TIP

      • KBr

        . . . Then watch that customer leave and go to one of the other hundreds of nearby bars.

    • anonomyssy

      They say alcoholics are an angry bunch, and from some of the nasty comments hurled on this thread, I’d say so…that said, I tar-bened for many years…left when I could no longer be kind to slurring jerks after midnight…it is an art, and really, people and their demands, nastiness and drunken foolery one must tolerate with a smile gets very, very old. Why are bartenders so harsh? Deal with mean drunks, clean up puke some punk has hurled on the bar, etc. etc…it’s hard to be nice after awhile. Knowing how to talk to anyone, from any walk of life, diffuse bombs and work a room is not an easy task! Brain surgery? NO…but how many surgeons actually have a personality? And to make a solid living one must either work very high volume, or have one.

    • DocB

      “I have the police on speed dial.” Umm…911?