What Not To Do At A Bar

Don't be this person

My experience as a bartender

Have you every had an experience in the workplace where someone, be it a customer or coworker, repeatedly does something that makes your job that much harder and more unbearable? Where did their respect and manners go? Etiquette doesn't disappear as soon as you become a customer at a bar or restaurant either. Here's how to avoid being a terrible customer (and be given better drinks!)

1. Wait your turn

Nothing can be more frustrating to a bartender than someone demanding to be served before those who were waiting patiently or worse, before the bartender is finished mixing the half dozen drinks they're currently making. All a bartender needs is a bit of eye contact to know you need something. Make eye contact, lean into the bar, and smile. Congrats! You're in the mental queue I have running.

It might take me a minute, but you'll be served and I'll be grateful for your patience. When someone yells "Hey!" (not my name), taps their empty glass, or becomes rude when I'm clearly busy, they often will be the last one served. No one wants to help a person who can't respect the fac that we're busy and doesn't understand that not getting their vodka soda two minutes faster isn't the most imporant thing in the world.

“HEY! CAN I GET A DRINK? JESUS.” – some guy who is standing in the service well (where servers pick up drinks for their tables.)
“Yes, you can. At home.” – me

2. Don't be cocky about your drink order

There are literally millions of recipes for drinks out there. Millions. I know the top probably 100 or so, then a bunch of random ones. Most have different names as well. So if someone comes in and orders a "Godfather" (amaretto and scotch), I have to roll my eyes. Just order amaretto and scotch on ice.

It gets worse when someone wants something oddly specific (e.g. Corpse Reviver No. 2) then changes the recipe or says it isn't made correctly. Nine times out of ten, your bartender will google the recipe and make it exactly to spec. Know your venue and order clearly. I promise no one thinks you are any less cool because you didn't use an esoteric name for a simple drink.

3. Be kind to other guests

Bartenders are basically glorified baby sitters. We refill your drinks, provide you with entertainment, and make sure everyone is safe and having a good time. Sometimes, the kids misbehave. I genuinely want everyone to have a great time anytime they're at my bar but I don't want them to do so at anyone's expense.

Don't steal things. Don't bully people. Don't hit on a bunch of people like a sleazeball. Definitely don't start to get physical with anyone. I've cut people off and kicked people out after one warning and have no problem doing so. Not only will you not be welcome back, everyone will think you're a jerk as well.

4. Don't come behind the bar

This is a big one. Behind the bar is strictly the domain of those who work there. It's wet, sticky, likely has broken glass, and has a lot of fast moving parts and people. For your safety and mine (mostly yours) do not come behind the bar.

Next time you're at a busy bar, watch the bartenders and barbacks move behind the bar. If they've been working together for a minute, it will be an elegant dance. If you interrupt that dance, the chances of something, or someone, breaking are far higher.

5. Tip

Tips are the livelihood of everyone in the service industry. After taxes, I don't get a base wage. Like it or hate it, the accepted norm is that prices of food and drinks are kept lower by keeping wages low, with service being rewarded by tips.

When in doubt, tip 20%.

If someone tips me less than 5%, I am actually getting nothing or losing money. I have to tip out my barback and foodrunners based on my total sales. I end up subsidizing their drink as well as making it for them.

Show your appreciation for the work your bartender puts in by tipping 20% or more. It means the world to your bartender!