25 Rules Bartenders Everywhere Want You To Remember The Next Time You Go Out Drinking

Have you ever stood in a noisy, crowded bar and asked, “What’s a guy got to do to get a drink around here?” People who work “in the industry” i.e. other bartenders, servers, and restaurant staffers, know the unspoken rules of service…but too frequently we forget that not everyone has been behind the bar. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that will keep your relationship with your bartender running smoothly. It pays to mention that a lot of these apply to servers as well.

1. DON’T fail to have your money ready

We’re waiting on you. Everyone else is waiting on us. Therefore, by the Transitive Property of Equality, everyone is waiting on you. Rule #1: Have your stuff together. Not only will following Rule #1 get you served quicker in a bar, it’s a good general rule to adopt in life. All about efficiency, people.

2. DON’t whistle. Just don’t.

You whistle at dogs, not people.

3. DON’T wave money

Oh, you’ve got a dollar! So does the guy next to you.

4. DON’T yell out the bartender’s first name

There’s something unnerving about hearing your name called out, turning around and seeing a complete stranger. That’s one of the reasons strippers use stage names. Bartender’s do too. Mine is Pixie.

5. DON’T say “make it strong!” or “put a lot of liquor in it”

Are you one of those rare people at bars who like their drinks “strong?” When you say this, it’s like you’re assuming I make weak drinks (which is insulting) and you’re assuming that I’ll stiffen this one up for my new best buddy, you. This is the best way to get a weak drink.

6. DON’T give the ever-expanding drink order

You want a Bud. I go get it. I come back and now you want a Margarita. Okay, no prob. I come back, and (oh yeah!) now you want a shot of Tequila, too. You really could have told us this all at once. See Rule #1.

7. DON’T pull the redirect (AKA the bait ‘n’ switch)

Usually used after the money wave or the whistle, this is when the gentlemen passes his turn to the lady behind him. Yeah, um, don’t do that, okay? Chances are she’s not ready, and your lame attempt at chivalry just cost you your turn. See you in thirty minutes…

8. DON’T try the confused or lost look

This is usually accompanied by the question “What kind of beer y’all got?” while looking at all the beers we have. Bars generally have their liquor bottles on display and their beer handles in the center of the bar…at a bare minimum. A lot of bars have these crazy, laminated pieces of paper with words on them commonly known as “menus.” You do know how to order in a restaurant, right? Again, refer to rule #1.

9. DON’T order “High Maintenance” shooters

Example: “Lemme get an Alabama Slammer, a Red Snapper, two Kamikazes, a Buttery Nipple and a Lemon Drop.” Usually followed by a small tip. People, these shooters are fine by themselves, but there are multiple steps involved with each one. Translation: Time Sink. You may get them this time, but you’ll probably be waited on last the next time we see your face. Here’s a clue as to whether or not you’re high maintenance; if two bartenders are working and they see you, and they flip a coin and the loser comes over to take your order, pretty good chance you’re high maintenance.

10. DON’T assume we know you’re in the band

We know, we know, you’re gonna be really famous, but you’re not there yet, tiger. Tell us you’re in the band and which band you’re in…chances are we’ll have something to talk about, since many bartenders are also in bands! It’s not like we don’t know how it is. (Oh, and our bands will smoke your band.)

11. DON’T assume we know you. Period.

Unless you’ve followed the first “Do” rule below, we don’t remember you. You are one of a thousand faces for us, and when you point at an empty glass or a beer bottle that’s invariably facing away from us, your attempt at a shortcut backfires. Please just tell us what you want.

12. DON’T apologize for sucking

Don’t apologize for not tipping. Acknowledging that you suck is not the same as not sucking. Oh, and don’t say “I’ll get ya next time.” We know all about you.

13. DON’T assume soft drinks are free

Are they free at McDonald’s? Are they free at Wal-Mart? Are they free anywhere? I blame M.A.D.D. for this myth.

14. DON’T put pennies and nickels in the tip jar

We don’t want that crap in our pockets any more than you do. We don’t have anything smaller than quarters. Have you ever ordered a drink that cost $3.17?

15. DON’T be “The Microbrew Aficionado”

Usually a pseudo-hippy who can’t tip a quarter but can’t bring himself to drink “schwag,” and who has to sample some new berry-wheat-harvest-ale that he heard about at Burning Man. “Do you have the new Vernal-Equinox Special Welcome-Fest?” “Does Anyone?” Here’s your Newcastle. Go.

16. DON’T be “The Daddy Warbucks”

Dressed in classic day-trader wear, this loud, boisterous guy smokes cigars and orders Martinis and generally exudes an air of money. Until the tip.

17. DON’T be a “Whiney Baby”

Under no circumstances should you ever whine to a bartender when asked to see your ID. Our jobs depend on them, and when we spot a fake/expired ID, don’t argue; we’ve seen and heard it all a million times before, and it will get you absolutely nowhere. If you “don’t have one” or “forgot it,” forget it; you don’t belong out on the town in the first place. That’s the law, plain and simple. Bring your ID. Remember Rule #1, from a minute ago?

18. DON’T ask me to charge your phone behind the bar

Every bartender is different about this, but if they’re busy no one wants to deal with your technology. Also, if you drink too much and leave your phone you’re going to have a bad morning. And no bartender wants you to have a bad morning.

19. DO tip!

If you tip well right off the bat, and you’re the first person we aim for every time you come up to the bar. Did you get that? Go back and read it again. The word will spread to the other bartenders and you’ll be treated like a prince. It will pay off in better drinks, and, if our bar or restaurant allows us to do buybacks, the occasional FREE one. (Note: most bars allow bartenders to do buybacks, but some corporate restaurants don’t allow this, even at the bar. Know this before you get mad at anyone.)

20. DO be patient

All you really need to do to get waited on is make eye contact. We see you, and we’ll definitely get to you before the guy right next to you waving money and whistling (see above). Remember, this isn’t insulin we’re passing out here. If you really need the drink that bad, you’ve got a problem to address, Jack. The meek shall inherit the bar.

21. DO smile.

Kindness and courtesy shall take you far in life…and at the bar.

22. DO ask me about drinks

I work in this industry…there’s a pretty good chance I know something about the wine you’re drinking that you don’t. Plus, I like to talk about my work. Cocktail bartenders and “mixologists” are particularly well-versed on liquor and the history of drinking. You might learn something and unwind at the same time. Who doesn’t like that?

23. DO ask me about the neighborhood

If you’re from out of town, one of the best ways to get insider information about a city is by spending an hour or two at a bar. I want to tell you about my buddy’s record store down the block or my favorite restaurant right around the corner.

24. DO say thank you

And please. And all those other polite words your mom taught you.

25. DO leave when the lights come up.

Don’t be that guy who’s waiting around after close for one more. I want to go to get a sandwich and go to bed. It’s the end of my work day, and I feel like you do by 7 PM at the office…possibly worse.