10 Things You Probably Do at Bars That Make Your Bartender’s Job Way Harder
This one is for all the bartenders out there.
All you hop-soaked heroes who brave the hordes of thirsty patrons each night to bring us a little bit of joy in times of celebration or sadness. You ask for nothing in return, except a few bucks in the tip jar and the decency to act like a normal human being while being served.
The second thing is, uh, not so easy for some folks.
Bars, speakeasies and haunts seem to turn the average Tom, Dick or Harry into mannerless monsters. The booze definitely doesn’t help.
We celebrate bartenders, many of whom are trying to make money on the side to pay off student loan or credit card debt. It’s also one of the few jobs in high demand right now that you can land without a degree.
So we want to help you help them.
It was hard getting barkeeps to talk about pub patron nightmares, because nobody wants to come off as whiny or ungrateful.
So while we’re definitely not talking specifics, here are 10 things every bartender wishes you knew before you bellied up to the bar.
1. Don’t Expect to Be the Center of Attention
It’s a classic trope: The bartender solemnly cleaning a single glass as a down-on-his-luck customer pours his heart out. Then, priceless advice that seems to part the heavens and make everything alright.
Unfortunately, life isn’t a movie, and you need to understand that a bartender doesn’t have all the time in the world to chat. Especially on a Friday night.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed connecting with people for the last 20 years of my life,” says Kristen Burnett, who tends bar at the Shamrock Pub in Sarasota, Florida. “But you have to be cognizant that we do have a responsibility to take care of everyone at the bar, and as much as we want to talk to you and get into a great conversation, we just don’t have the manpower.”
2. Closing Time Means Closing Time, Not Another-Beer-For-John Time
Closing time is pretty hectic for bartenders. They’ve got to start cleaning up and getting patrons cashed out and on their way out of the bar.
It’s not easy. And you know what makes it even harder? When you decide to roll up to order another vodka soda 10 minutes after last call.
So save bartenders the frustration of digging out and slicing up fresh limes so you can have a drink for the road. Besides, you can actually earn cash for the booze you drink if you just head to the store instead. (Tomorrow — sleep this one off tonight, bro.)
3. Your Sneaky Hacks to Scam More Alcohol Are Neither Sneaky Nor Hacks
We’re all about sneaky ways to make and save money. But here’s the thing: They have to be legit.
And those genius hacks you’ve been deploying in bars across the U.S. for free booze are, well, not.
“Less ice doesn’t mean more alcohol,” says Sarasota bartender Jeff Fralich.
The same sentiment goes for asking for a “strong” drink. You’ll get a drink, that’s it. And don’t even get St. Petersburg-based Park & Rec bartender Terrance Devon started on the fake-spilled-drink-can-I-have-a-new-one trick.
“I saw that,” he said. “I’m standing right here!”
4. Always Have a Designated Driver, For You and For Us
OK, this should be an absolute no brainer for anyone going out for a night on the town.
And while bartenders want you to make it home safe, they also don’t want you acting a dang fool in the bar. You know what we mean: falling asleep at the bar, getting too rowdy, starting fights or throwing up.
Having a sober friend there with you will hopefully keep things… civil.
5. We Absolutely, 100%, No Doubt, Positively, Totally See You There
This one hit a nerve for every bartender we spoke to, and for good reason.
Snapping, waving your wad of money or shouting the bartender’s name are all pretty lousy ways to try to get your drink faster. And don’t even start with the “I know the owner” nonsense.
“If the bar is slammed and eight people deep, believe me, I see you,” Devon said. “I can only shake so fast — I don’t have eight hands.”
6. Don’t Be All Vague — Please Just Order Something
You, a slick genius: “Surprise me.” *smirk*
Bartenders don’t have the time to guess what drink best suits your taste, nor do they have the time to beat around the bush in any way with your drink order. For example, asking for “a beer” doesn’t help.
Be specific, people!
7. When You’re With a Big Party, Be Respectful
This one isn’t just about taking over the bar and acting like it’s your personal living room just because you’re rolling deep. It’s about ordering etiquette as well.
If you’re going to order a dozen shots, make at least most of them the same one. As we’ve said before, bartenders don’t have time for foolishness, and preparing three Washington apples, a slippery nipple, a fireball shot, a lemon drop and other specialty shots just keeps other patrons waiting.
8. Unsolicited Advice is… Unhelpful
You know how frustrating it is when someone tells you to calm down during an argument? Well multiply that feeling by 10 for busy bartenders told, playfully, by customers to “slow down.”
This unsolicited advice is not only unhelpful — it’s straight up rude.
Even if you do have a wealth of knowledge on any subject re: bartending, please just keep it to yourself.
“As a craft beer tender, we don’t care how much you know about craft beer,” says Sarasota bartender Nikki Kouskoutis. “You don’t need to prove yourself or try to one up me when you’re ordering.”
9. Don’t Treat This Like a Date, No Matter How Much You Tip
To the guy who flashes a big bill and demands you give only him attention, Sarasota bartender Meghan Schell has a message: Just stop.
“Don’t treat your bartender like an escort,” she said.
It’s not only demeaning but also distracting for someone trying to help as many people as possible on any given night.
10. Leave Politics and Religion Out of It
We definitely live in some pretty divisive times when it comes to politics, and, well, just about everything.
And while it’s good to meet folks across the aisle and have a good old fashioned debate now and then, the watering hole is just not the place for it.
“I’m all for free speech and interesting conversations,” Burnett said. “But I would say leave politics and religion out of it unless you’re in an intimate conversation with someone you trust. There are other people around at the bar.”
In the end, just use the Golden Rule: Put yourself behind the bar on a frenetic Friday night. Would you want someone snapping at you or trying to talk your ear off?
Didn’t think so.
Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.