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Bar Etiquette

Bar Etiquette

 Photo by pxhere / Creative Commons CC0

Every profession in the world could list ten things they want you to know. Dentists wish women wouldn’t wear lipstick to appointments; off-duty doctors wish you wouldn’t ask questions about your aches and pains; and supermarket cashiers wish you would take items out of the basket instead of sitting it on the belt. 


Things Bartenders Want You to Know

Things Bartenders Want You to Know

Cash tips are king. It is common in America to be paid bimonthly, so bartenders have to wait two weeks to get their taxed credit card tips. Cash tips are king because it gives the bartender a little spending cash.


If a bartender asks you for a valid ID, take it as a compliment. There is a small window in life where you get to be young and beautiful, so enjoy it! Bartenders don’t enjoy taking time to check your ID because it slows them down, but they have to follow state laws and work policies in order to keep their jobs.


Bartenders lose money if not tipped. Let us say that you do not tip on your $10 drink. The sale of that drink is still reported to the government and then taxed eight per cent. The tax is taken out of their hourly pay. So, a $6 an hour bartender job can very quickly turn into a $1 an hour job. It is common for a bartender to not get a check at all.


Asking for a drink in a tall glass or with less ice does not mean you get more alcohol. It only means that you get your drink served in a tall glass with extra mixer. A drink with less ice means normal portions of alcohol and mixer with less ice. If you want more alcohol, then you will need to order a double.


Be respectful and leave the bar when it closes. "Last call" is normally given one half-hour before closing, and lights come up when it’s closing time. Bartenders have another two hours cashing out, doing paperwork, stocking, cleaning, and hauling out the trash before they can go home, so don’t add extra time for them.


When you say, “Hook me up! Make my drink strong! Make it a good one!” what bartenders hear is, “Hey, I know we don’t know each other and you could get fired, but will you please steal some booze for me?” Bars are a store and bartenders are the salespeople. They sell products owned by other people, and therefore cannot give away things that are not theirs. A person who takes things that are not theirs is called a thief. Yes, some bar owners allow a small comp tab, but bartenders use it with discretion and for valid comps—not to steal something for you.


Please do not announce, “I’m a bartender” or “I used to be a bartender” because real bartenders would never say that. Bartenders know you are in the biz by your actions.


Please stop handing over multiple cards to split your tabs when the bar is busy. If you insist on paying separately, then begin separate tabs at the beginning or do the best thing by taking turns buying rounds.

Most jobs are either physical or mental. Bartending is both. Bartenders spend their first two hours setting up the bar for the day and their last two hours closing down. Sandwiched in between they are remembering ten things in their head at all times (names, prices, drink orders, tabs, cocktail recipes, etc.), making many five-second decisions (whether you are of age, too intoxicated, safe, etc.), dealing with many personality types, and having to bend, reach, squat, and lift. It’s physically and mentally draining.



It is not the bartender’s responsibility to charge and take care of your media devices. Bring your charge cord and we will be happy to let you know where the outlets are located. On the media note: please do not push your cell phone in bar staff faces with a cocktail recipe that has more than four ingredients.



Honorable Mention

Stop being ripped off by lazy bartenders who do not give you the alcohol that you paid for.


Example #1: You order four chilled Patron Silver shots. When the bartender shakes the tequila with ice (to chill it), water melts into the tequila. All four shots will not fit into four shot glasses now, so make sure you tell the bartender you want all the extra. You paid for it, so you deserve it.


Example #2: You order a frozen drink and the bartender makes it by hand in a blender. Everything in that blender is yours, so do not let them pour the finished drink into a glass, then have some leftover in the blender. You need to ask for the leftover because you’ve paid for that alcohol.

How to Order a Cocktail at a Bar

How to Order a Cocktail at a Bar

When a bar is busy, always have your order/orders ready when the bartender approaches you. If you have questions or want to have a conversation about cocktails and choices, then let the bartender know so they can fit in the time needed to do that into their flow. The bartender may set you up with a few ideas and menu to give you a little time, then get back with you. Bartenders want to give you good service, but they also want to give everyone good service. If the bar is slow, then the bartender will be able to spend more time with you.


When you know what you want, name the liquor first and your mixer second. Also, “call” your liquor (meaning to call out the brand you want). Examples include Grey Goose & Cranberry, Jack & Coke, Bombay & Tonic, Ketel One Screwdriver, Knob Creek Rye Old-Fashioned, and Malibu & Pineapple.


Well drinks. These are also called rail or house drinks. They are the least expensive mixed drinks. When you ask for a Gin & Tonic, then the bartender is using the cheapest gin to make your drink. However, a lot of corporate bars require the bartender to up sell, so the bartender will ask you if there is a gin you prefer or if you want your favorite gin used, etc. If you truly want the cheapest Gin & Tonic, then help the bartender by asking for a well Gin & Tonic. This eliminates a lot a time and monotony for the bartender.


When ordering drinks that require details, always give the details. Examples include: Herradura Reposado Margarita on the rocks with salt; Bombay Sapphire Martini straight up, stirred with an olive and a twist; Belvedere Vodka Martini straight up, shaken with a twist; Double Glenlivet 12, neat with a water back; Hendrick’s Negroni with Aperol up; and Jim Beam Rye Manhattan on the rocks. (“Up” is short for straight up. Straight up means that it has been chilled (shaken with ice), then strained into the glass. “Neat” means that it is poured out of the bottle at room temperature.)


While the bartender is making your cocktail/cocktails, start getting your money ready. If you want to start a tab, then get your credit card ready. After delivering your cocktail, the next step for a bartender is to secure a transaction. Many have cameras on them and they are required to follow through with the transaction process.



Here are some common things people say to bartenders and ways to do and say them better.


You: What’s good? Surprise me!
 It is great that you want to try something new, but please narrow it down. First, we do not know what flavors, spirits, and types of cocktails you like or dislike. Second, we do not know if you are lactose intolerant, allergic to nuts, or have any dietary concerns. We also do not know what you are in the mood for. Are you celebrating something? Do you want something hot, boozy, refreshing, fruity, creamy, classic, etc.?

Better ways to ask the bartender include:

“I like vodka-based drinks with fruity flavors. I also love the taste of ginger, chocolate, or mint. Can you make me something tall and refreshing?”


“Can you make me something off the top of your head? I’m game for anything. The only spirit I do not like is tequila and the only other
flavor I do not like is licorice. I’d like something boozy on the rocks.”


“I’m celebrating! Can you make me something historic made with champagne?”


“I had a craft cocktail in New York City that had a spicy liqueur in it that I really liked. Could you make me something spicy with Bourbon?”


You: "Can I get a beer?"
I know they do this in the movies, but it doesn’t work in real life. Look around at the taps or glass coolers or ask for a beer menu. Most bars offer many beers.


You: "Can we get three shots of tequila?"
Yes, you can, but what kind of tequila do you want? Do you want salt? Do you want limes?

Ways to order shots of tequila include:


“Can we get three shots of Patron Silver with salt and limes?”


“We need three chilled shots of Don Julio Reposado with limes.”


“We’d like to get three shots of well tequila with no salt or limes”


What Others Say

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