Ever been at a cocktail bar and gotten “the look” from your bartender? You know, the look that says “one more misstep and I’m going to muddle you into my next drink.” Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. No matter how fancy our cocktail dresses or “on-trend” our mixology savvy, we’ve all inadvertently (or vertently?) pissed off our bartenders in some way, shape, or form. (Quite possibly by mentioning “mixology.”)
In a way, the whole thing is a bit of a set up. Bartenders remain protected, sober, standing behind the professional moat of a wide bar while we patrons order alcoholic beverages from the precarious social position of a night out. On a stool. One party is getting intoxicated; the other party isn’t. If you’ve ever been a designated driver (and bless you for it), you know one of the first essential truths of alcohol: drunk people are annoying (but we think we’re terrific).
In order to spread a little more peace and love between bartender and drinker, we’ve asked a few drinks pros to (anonymously) submit some of their professional pet peeves. Not to shame us drinkers (again, it’s kind of a weighted game here), especially since most professional bartenders take the hospitality aspect of the job incredibly seriously (and most aren’t strangers to drinking, either). We just want to end the vicious cycle of pissed-off-edness here.
In that spirit, a few anonymous suggestions from some well-meaning, but slightly exhausted, bartenders on how to avoid being “that guy” at the bar anytime soon.
- “One of the major things I find super annoying when I’m behind the bar is when someone is just completely closed off to trying something new. Yes, maybe I don’t have your preferred brand of something, but we’ve got lots of other things behind the bar that we feel are really good. And we’ve tasted and tested and think you’ll really like them if you keep an open mind and give it a shot. Outside of that, basic common courtesy goes a long way for us. Patience, pleases, and thank yous. We’re almost always doing the best we can and want you to have a great time! Sometimes we just can’t move any faster.”
- “When people ask for a ‘really, really strong drink.’ First of all, you don’t know how strong the drink is going to be. I know you’re here for a night out, and you probably had a shit day at work. But we proportion these recipes pretty carefully. Really carefully, in fact. Asking for me to double the bourbon in your cocktail is gonna throw everything off, and also get you a lot drunker. So much so that when you get the bill and it’s more than you expected—because that extra dose of bourbon actually costs money—there’s a good chance you won’t understand. Try the drink by itself first. Trust me, it’s plenty strong.”
- “Please, please, please. Don’t wave your money at me. You’re not on Wall Street, we’re not trading stocks. Waving paper and shouting will win you nothing but my prolonged and possibly permanent contempt.”
- “On a purely superficial level, I’d have to say one thing that can be difficult is when I’m asked, ‘surprise me’ without any additional clarity on spirit, flavor profile, etc. There are so many different flavors and drinks out there. I guarantee there are some combinations that the guest is not going to like, even if they ask to have ‘anything’ made for them. Often just a favorite spirit and whether one prefers a citrus-based or a straight-spirit cocktail is enough to give us the right heading to put something delicious in a guest’s hands.”
- “I’d say the one that’s frustrating is when someone wants to call a particular brand and the bar I’m working at doesn’t carry that brand. Then that same guest treats this lack of a brand as though I said there’s no vodka behind the bar at all! On top of that, this same type of guest takes it personally against the bartender. It’s not their fault! There’s just no Grey Goose at this bar!”
- “It can be tough when a guest wants to discuss a drink, or talk ‘mixology’ with you for too long. I mean, it’s great, don’t get me wrong, to have a guest interested in what’s going on in the glass, or the bottle. But if it’s a crowded bar, I can’t really go into depth with you about the way mezcal is made.”
- The biggest thing for me is when people come into my bar, hand me a piece of paper with a cocktail recipe on it from another cocktail bar. And it’s not a classic cocktail. They say ” can you make me this?!” “I had it at this awesome bar down the street.” Sorry dude, but if that cocktail was so awesome down the street, then you should be at that bar having their cocktail the way that they do best. You’re completely missing what we do here, at our bar, because if you’d taken the time to notice we make some pretty awesome drinks too.”
- “Leaving your phone and wallet on the bar when you go to the bathroom. I am not in charge of your stuff. I will do my best, but I am at work and shouldn’t have to babysit your things. Be an adult and put it away when you go to the restroom.”
- “Sometimes, and this is common for most service-oriented professions, people think hospitality is some kind of no-holds-barred entitlement. Believe me, we take very (very) seriously the fact that you are a guest, and a guest of ours. But nobody is the ‘most important’ guest. Nobody is a king or queen of the bar. It’s a night out, a nice cocktail. Let’s just all take it easy.”
“Using a flash in a bar when taking a selfie, or photographing your food/drinks, it is dark, we don’t really need to see, but blinding us with a flash is painful and annoying. Also, asking the bartender about their tattoos, or trying to grab their arms while they are working. Same goes for when a guest picks up my bar tools because they are curious about it. It’s not hygienic, and we use those to pay our bills.”
- “It’s tough for guests, bars tend to be loud. Whether it’s the music or the fact that it’s (hopefully) crowded, it can be tough to talk or hear each other. But when a guest resorts to straight-up shrieking, that can kind of make the skin crawl. Whether they’re shouting at their friend or shouting at me, it kinda kills the whole vibe. Assuming it’s a cocktail type bar, not all bars are the same. But yeah, if you find yourself sounding like Gilbert Gottfried, maybe take it down a notch.”
- “Flirting is fun. Flirting is great. Flirting makes the world go ‘round. Just please, keep it on your side of the bar. I know, the trouble is, alcohol can give your confidence a boost. It does that to all of us. But you don’t know if I’m married, have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or if I’m being polite and personable as part of my profession. Not that we don’t think you’re attractive. You’re beautiful/handsome. But we’re at work. So unless the bartender gives you like a clear sign, as in road flares and traffic cones and skywriting his or her number, it’s probably a good bet to keep the…sensuality on the other side of the bar.”