Bar Etiquette: How to Keep the Bartender Happy
Occupational hazards are a way of life no matter your profession: doctors are required to be in the presence of the sick and dying, construction workers are on the constant lookout for falling cinderblocks, Alaskan king crab fisherman must avoid being washed overboard by a giant swell.
Sure, bartenders do not walk the same perilous lines as those people, and in fact you might call our cross to bear something closer to “occupational burdens” than hazards, but let’s not split hairs. In the service industry our burdens come in the form of recurring gripers and complainers and downright assholes.
If the food isn’t undercooked then the music is too loud or too soft, or the drinks are not strong enough, it’s too cold, it’s too bright, the people are ugly, and on and on and on.
I once worked with another bartender who preached that nobody should be able to eat out in a restaurant until he/she worked in one for at least 6 months. This comes straight from the “walk a mile in my shoes” ideology.
Imagine the compassion we would have for others if only we worked their job for awhile. I know a few teachers who would love to trade places with the psycho parents they deal with on a day to day basis.
With that said, I have never been a teacher and can only vouch for the bartenders of the world, so let’s call them unwritten rules, call it common courtesy, call it what you want, but here’s a list of bar etiquette for you and your friends to learn before you attend another drinking establishment that will make your bartender happy and hopefully get you good service:
On Getting my Attention: First and foremost, I am not a dog and I’m not a five year old interrupting you while you’re talking on the phone. Do not snap at me. This little attention-getter is second only to throwing things at me, which will get you tossed out on your ear.
On Cheapness: If you order a vodka cranberry and leave me a quarter, don’t act all befuddled when my eyes glaze over the next time you are trying to get my attention or when your next drink turns out to be cranberry juice with a splash of vodka.
I’m sorry our society has created this bizarre culture in which you tip people for pouring liquid into a glass, but they did, so if you want good service and a decent drink, abide by it. If not, enjoy your cranberry juice.
On the Strength of Your Drink: You would not go to a pizza place and ask them to bring out another half pizza for free because the one you ordered wasn’t “strong enough”. Do not order a drink and tell me to “make it a good one” or say “I can’t even taste the alcohol”.
This is not a garage sale, you cannot negotiate the amount of liquor for the price. I know how much liquor goes in a drink. If you want me to make it a good one, order a double. And if you can’t taste the alcohol, you’re either an alcoholic or you don’t tip well enough.
On Being Prepared to Order: Here’s an oldie but goody. I am whipping out drinks left and right, and while doing so I can see you out of the corner of my eye down at the other end of the bar waving and jumping up and down like a chimpanzee on hot asphalt.
I feel bad that no one has attended to you yet, so I hustle down to the other end and when I get there and ask you what you want, you turn around and ask your six friends, “What are you drinking?” They all look around and say, “Ummm, I don’t know, what are you having?”
Sorry, but I’m gone. I don’t have time to wait around while your friends all ask each other what the other is drinking. If you’re going to wave me down, you’d better be prepared for a rapid-fire order.
On Starting a Tab: When you order a Budweiser and give me a credit card and ask me to close it out, I assume you’re done for the evening. Do not come back five more times and order one drink and close it out. Start a tab. Be assured, I do not want to steal your credit card. You will get it back.
On Being a Girl: I don’t intend to offend, but seriously, girls, what the fuck? Why can’t you just buy your friend a drink? Friday night, 11:00 p.m. and a group of you walks up to the bar, orders four cosmos and hands me four separate credit cards.
This takes time to close out credit cards separately. Then, ten minutes later you are all back again. Four drinks, four credit cards, and everyone’s wondering what’s taking so long to get a drink. Guys buy rounds of drinks for their buddies. Why can’t you?
On Being my Best Friend: Just because you know me does not mean we are friends. Do not abuse your familiarity with me by pretending we shared a prison cell together so you can get a drink faster and impress all your friends because you know the bartender. I have lots of friends, but they don’t yell at me when they want a drink.
On Free Drinks: I don’t care if it’s your birthday, I don’t care if you’re gorgeous, I don’t care if your dog just died. Don’t ask me for a free drink. It’s tacky and rude to assume that you are important enough that I will risk my job so you can have something for free.
If you need some money to go out with, ask daddy for a raise in your allowance. It’s not like I come to your place of work and ask for a free root canal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’re all lovely, wonderful people, but really the only bond you and I share is the drink sitting on the bar between us.
So let’s make an arrangement: you express the type of cocktails that appeal to you, whether you like them sweet or sour or somewhere in between, and I, the craftsman, will concoct some sort of medley based on that information.
I will also provide some conversation and entertainment, perhaps lend an ear, and you go ahead and kill your brain cells and either become a happy-go-lucky drunk or a belligerent, unruly mess. I will egg you on if you’re happy and subdue you if you’re not. Your job is to be relatively civilized and respectful, and if you can do that, you just might end up with a nice strong drink.
Cheers, until next time.