How to Treat Bartenders, According to Bartenders


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How to Treat Bartenders, According to Bartenders

Hey there, chief. There's no dog here, so stop whistling.

Bartenders, they see some shit. During any given shift, they may watch people fight or fall in love. They see folks on first dates and longtime couples breaking up. Sometimes, they'll serve a guy celebrating a promotion; other times, they'll pour up for a dude mourning a lost job.

In short: Bartenders are ringmasters to some of the craziest human circuses on Earth. It's no easy task. What for the rest of us is a fun or debaucherous night out on the town for them is a job. Like any professional, they want to be treated with a certain level of respect, despite why you're in their place of employ or how much you've had to drink. We spoke with longtime bartenders to find out what drives them mad and makes them glad. The recipe for a good night out and a pleasant interaction is simple as syrup. (Sorry.)


Don't Be That Guy

Don't be a dick. There's always a guy who stands at a packed bar and snaps his fingers or waves his cash around like a lunatic. He'll call me "sweetheart" or "barmaid" and ask for my number after tipping two bucks on a round of five different types of multi-ingredient cocktails. He's the guy who needs your immediate attention but isn't ready to order once he has it. He acts bewildered that you would need to hold his credit card to start a tab and is offended you would need to see his ID. He might call names or ask to speak to a manager (you're looking at her!) if he doesn't feel properly waited on. Basically, just don't be that guy. Every person working in any profession wants to be treated with respect. Bartenders included.—Caty, 13 years behind the bar

Get Creative

Great bartenders will see you with the eyes in the back of their skulls. But not all bartenders are great. Most want you to wait patiently until eye contact is made. Be friendly but not too familiar. We are all beings on the planet, and we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, but don't you fucking dare say something sexist, racist, or anti-LGBT to or about my guests or my co-workers. If you are going to give me a nickname, be creative: "Sweet Corn Muffin," "My Pop-Topping Thunder Fop," "Whiskey Mcpourspout," and "God" are way better than "Ace," "Chief," "Bruh," or a bitingly stentorian "Hey!" I ain't gonna bore you with the standard "don't be rude" stuff. But good behavior is often rewarded in the bar: Patience and peace will get you better service, not to mention a better parking spot at the great karmic drive-in in the sky.—Brad, 15 years behind the bar

The Bar Is Not Your Personal Phone Charging Dock

Bartenders used to take care of customers in a way they don't anymore. They were your psychologist, your directory, an everyman or woman who could help with most anything while pouring drinks. That's because everyone was at the bar: lawyers, doctors, mechanics. The bartender connected people. Phones do that now, and not a night goes by when we're not asked to charge a few of them behind the bar. That's fine, happy to help. But also don't keep asking us to let you check up on it. People charge their phone for a few minutes, ask to see it, and then wonder why it's only at 10 percent. Just leave it. Aside from that, one small thing would go a long way. People could learn what it is they like to drink and order that. So many kids these days come in and order "an IPA" and then complain when it's bitter or "too hoppy." If you're not sure about what you're ordering, feel free to read about it on your phone.—Nicky, 20 years behind the bar

Illustration by Brandon Celi


Check Your Assumptions at the Door

I've been in the business 20 years, and I know what I'm doing. I'm college educated but think most customers assume I'm not. People look down at the service industry. They think you're working in it means something somewhere didn't go according to plan for you. But this is the profession I chose. Lots of us choose it. Most of the people I work with did—and they have college degrees, too. It is what I want to do, I enjoy doing it, I have fun doing it. But sometimes I definitely feel like people are looking down at me. They ask, "What else do you do? What's your real job?" This. This is my career. This is what I want to do. I have two small children. I can be at home with the kids during the day. It's important to me to be able to spend time with them. I work three nights a week and make enough money. I just wish customers understood that we are smart.—Jen, 20 years behind the bar

Here's a Tip: Tip

Tip us! Bartenders, we don't get a paycheck. We depend on tips, straight up. Even a $1 tip for a beer goes a long way. Especially when we're making sophisticated drinks, cocktails that—between measuring ingredients, shaking, replacing shaken ice with new ice, garnishing—take a couple minutes each. When you get an order of five cocktails—do the math—it's going to take a minute, so don't eye me or give me attitude, or tip a dollar on a big order like that because you thought it took too long. That can be fucking irritating and can put you in a shitty mood for the next customer. It can ruin your night because you're working so hard to please them, and you know you're going home with no money. People aren't obligated to give a tip, but would if they took a bit more time to think about how hard we're working for them.—Machi, 10 years behind the bar

Have a Dash of Common Sense

It's about treating people with decency and respect. I don't care what you do, that's what you want. I have no patience for people who have no manners or don't say please and thank you. Same goes with people who feel entitled and treat you like you're their bitch in that moment because they're tipping you. Just have common sense. Some of the things I've seen… I've seen adult people keep a cooler at their table and pour their own lemon drop martinis into our glasses. I caught them with their shaker pouring out cocktails. Would you bring your own food to a restaurant? Don't do that.—T.S., 25 years behind the bar

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