I have been in the restaurant and service industry for quite a while. And over that time, I have seen a ton of things. I have seen a short Hispanic man in a frog thong dancing on stage. I have seen Chris Rock tear apart a room. I have been told I was the worst server my customer had ever had, and I have been told I was the best server they ever had. From the delightful to the horrible, you see a great deal things while you are helping people have a relaxing evening out. During my day job, if I have clients or managers roughing me up a bit, they never seem to do it with the vigor of someone who is missing their martini that they ordered “a half hour ago”. It is always a fascinating exercise in human nature to see how we are treated as bartenders.
Majority of the people in the service industry want you to have a great time while they are serving you. It is rare among the staff that I have worked with that they did not like people. Even after nights that we have run all over creation and walked out with little more than we started with, we still come back the next day to do it all over, with a certain undulled enthusiasm about making a killer tip. Or having a great night. It is fun to the point it is almost addicting. Steve Dublanica in his outstanding book Waiter Rant compared it to an addicted gambler; we always feel we are one day, one shift, one table away from a huge tip. And that comes back to why we are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure you have a great night.
I want to build a great relationship with you for that evening. Hopefully the next evening you go out as well. If you want to get the best experience you can with me (and other bartenders), here are some tips to help make this relationship work.
1. Get the bartender’s attention in a polite way. Eye contact and a smile works great. Maybe even a little wave if I seem incredibly busy. Under no circumstances should you snap or whistle at us. I am not a pet, and will come when I am called. In fact, I can find a cleaning project or two after being snapped at. Another good way to be ignored is to make sarcastic comments about how long the wait is. And calling me “Buddy” works wonders as well.
2. Be patient. I guarantee I am getting to you as soon as I am able. I will at least acknowledge your presence with a nod or a comment. On a busy night, I have dozens of drinks, customer orders, and server drinks to take care of, as well as making sure I am not running out of supplies by the time I get to your rounds. And I am hustling. While you are waiting, you can do this…
3. Figure out what you want. Do NOT, under any circumstances, start deciding what you want when I get to you, especially after a wait. You have had ample opportunity to choose. If you have a question on particular liquor, I would love to answer it. If you do not like the answer, have a back up drink. Hemming and hawing at this point is going to irritate us to no end. And maybe the rest of your party. And the people who are after your party.
4. Order all of your drinks at once. You have my attention. I have a damn good memory. You do not have to order a drink, wait for me to finish it, and then order the next drink. I can combine steps and make drinks faster if I know all the drinks I need to make at once. Most bartenders have been around for a while, and can hold a few thoughts at the same time.
5. Put your cell phone away. With the explosion of the cocktail culture, there are millions of drinks out there. Not only that, there can be variations on those drinks. So while the Mixologist app might lead you to a tasty sounding drink like the 40 Volume Lemonade, you may want to wait until you are the only person at the bar so you can show me the phone, and we have a chance to look it over. If you can see I am incredibly busy on a Friday night, order a classic, or something that the house specializes in. Not something we have to learn to make on the fly. I want to make you a drink you are going to remember for how good it is and not one that tastes like I just dumped my spill mat into a glass (which is known as an L.A. Freeway).
6. Your drink has enough liquor. The standard drink in any recipe book or restaurant is between 1.5 and 2 ounces, depending on the drink. That is what I am pouring. Like food, cocktail recipes are designed to create a specific taste. If you want to taste the liquor, you can order a double. If you do not want that much liquor, ask for your drink short or with just a splash of mixer. That will bring the flavor of the liquor forward. And by no means expect a heavy liquor taste in mixed drinks like Long Island Ice Teas or Mai Tais. Cocktails of that nature were created to smooth out the roughness of the alcohol, not ramp it up. Trust us; you will feel it, even if you do not taste it. That being said…
7. Tell us if there is something wrong. It annoys me to no end if you tell me after the fact that the drink was wrong. It was too sour, did not taste right, maybe even something as small as looking like the wrong color can turn you off. If there is a legitimate issue, no matter how busy I am, I want to fix it. Many times the fix is fairly simple. I am human(ish). I make mistakes. Again, I want you to have a good night. Bad drinks do not make a good night. Or repeat business.
8. Tip. Early and often. Even if it just pop or water, leave a little something for the person who brought it for you. We remember, and it will ensure when there is a crowd of people clamoring for a drink, your drinks may get out a little quicker. Maybe a little stronger. It is also part of the cost of doing business. Going out in this country calls for tipping the people who take care of you. Budget that into your night. And never say something like “I would tip you, but the drinks are too expensive.” We hear that you would tip us, but you are too cheap.
9. We are servERS, not servANTS. The best way to make the night enjoyable for everyone is to realize that we are human. I have worked as hard becoming a good bartender as you did at becoming good at your current career. Studied and everything. Please be courteous and treat me as another person working hard for a living, not some sort of inferior. If I ask you “How are you doing?”, please answer it with a decent response. “I’ll have a Captain and Coke” is not a proper response. Not even in the right ball park of decent responses. See point four about memory…
I am just as invested as you are in having a good night out, getting your drinks to quickly and made correctly. I look forward to seeing you out this weekend and making you something tasty to drink. I would love for this to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Cheers!