13 Things Your Bartender Won’t Tell You

Bartenders share their secrets, tips and best etiquette advice.

[step-list-wrapper title=”” time=””]

[step-item number=”1. ” image_url=”” title=”Know what you want.” ] And have your money ready. 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. Don’t create a traffic jam. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”2. ” image_url=”” title=”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. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”3. ” image_url=”” title=”You want a drink made strong?” ] Then order a double—for double the price. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”4. ” image_url=”” title=”Even beer sales are slow.” ] Liquor sales in bars and restaurants were down 2.2 percent last year. But people scrimp on food first, drinks second. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”5. ” image_url=”” title=”A lot of bars have comp tabs.” ] This allows me to give away drinks. It’s smart business and helps build a base of regulars. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”6. ” image_url=”” title=”You get what you pay for.” ] 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. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”7. ” image_url=”” title=”Tip at least 15 percent.” ] If your tipping guideline is still “a buck a drink,” listen closely: That doesn’t fly if you order a $12 cocktail.  [/step-item]

[step-item number=”8. ” image_url=”” title=”Nibble at your own risk.” ] At some bars, the sliced fruit garnishes sit out until they’re gone, sometimes for days. Munch accordingly. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”9. ” image_url=”” title=”Play it cool.” ] The smoothest guys compliment a woman, then walk away. It’s very nonthreatening. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”10. ” image_url=”” title=”I have the police on speed dial.” ] And I never hesitate to call. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”11. ” image_url=”” title=”Don’t order a round of drinks after last call.” ] Last call applies to everyone—even you. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”12. ” image_url=”” title=”We’ll call you a cab.” ] 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. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”13. ” image_url=”” title=”We’re bartenders, not referees.” ] 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! [/step-item]


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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