All the Questions You Have About Bartending Answered

As a young bartender who is constantly questioned if I am even old enough to pour drinks, it can be annoying when customers do not know how to customer. Do I come into your job, sit on your desk, ask for your lunch then pay you three dollars an hour? Bet not. If you are headed to the bar alone or with friends, be a good customer and please do not dance on the bar. Here are some common questions I am asked when people hear that I bartend.

Are you even old enough to drink?

Only in Ohio *wink*.

Did you have to go to bartender school?

Only if I wanted to waste $500 to do something anyone with thumbs can do: pour drinks, type orders into an electronic system and open a cash register.

What are the most common drinks?

Other than beer, I often see rum and cokes, vodka cranberry, whiskey sours, jaeger bombs, Vegas bombs and house drinks. A random Margarita, Mojito and Moscow Mule are also common—and delicious I might add.

What is your favorite drink to make?

You can’t beat the Old Fashioned.

Bartender, right. You must get paid really well, right?

Yes, and no. I make three dollars an hour plus tips. My tips must add up to federal minimum wage of $7.25. They usually equal out to $8.50 an hour, but that fully depends on tips by customers. A general rule of thumb, if your bartender seems to care about their work and gives you a smile, you must tip them. I know, it’s stupid, Europe does not have to tip but we do? Unless our government changes that stupid regulation, c’est la vie. Each night, I walk away with my tips in cash. Sometimes I leave with $100, but on bad nights I once left with $6. It all depends on who you serve and how many people you serve.

Is it hard to remember all the drinks?

At my bar, we have house specials in the system with their accompanying recipes, so I do not have to memorize them. Other classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Margarita, Mojito, Martini (which is always stirred, not shaken), Negroni, Tom Collins and LIIT are left to me. They are not hard to remember.

Do you have any skills?

Like cool mixing skills, pouring skills, computer hacking skills? Customers only want bartenders who have cool skills. I would try to be flashy, but I know my boss would tell me to stop and it may not affect how the customers tip. So, no.

Do you have any classic “bartender” jokes?

“A guy walks into a bar…. Ouch.” “Three guys walk into a bar….” I thought most bartenders had to be charismatic, but it seems only good bartenders must be charismatic. A few jokes in your inventory never hurt, especially the one about nuns.

How do you feel about straws?

Ban them all. They serve no purpose. What are you, a three-year-old drinking from a sippy cup?

Is it necessary to tip every time?

Everyone in the service industry lives off tips. Not just bartenders, but servers, valet, hotel assistants and food runners. You must tip your bartender every time, unless they are bad at their job and made your experience uncomfortable or unenjoyable.

How much is the appropriate tip?

The classic “dollar per drink” works when the bartender is busy and has a lot of orders or customers at their bar. They may receive ten orders in fifteen minutes. In this case, $1 on a drink is suitable because they may make $10 in that busy hour. Otherwise, tipping should not break your bank. BUT, do not leave us $3 on a $15 bill if you sat at our bar for three hours. Three hours to us is only $9. I try to gauge tips on either 20% or the length of time the customer was there plus the price of their bill. By this, meaning if you order cheap drinks and your bill comes to $10 after two hours, throw us a five. The 20% rule should be used if you order food or are unsure how much to tip. Another rule of thumb, if your bartender smiles, tip them. I guarantee they had to fake that smile.

What is the worst order at a bar?

A fellow bartender at Her Campus said, “On Friday nights when lots of people want drinks, you [customer] are not allowed to order anything complicated: classic drinks and beers only. And don’t hit on us.” Any complicated drink that you had to Google means we will probably have to Google it, too. If the bar is not busy, we love making all types of drinks. Do not order a Bloody Mary or Sex on the Beach when we are busy.

Worst customer story?

Bartenders are not your shoulder to cry on, unless you tip us handsomely. Then please, cry. We have to wipe down the bar anyway. My worst customer story happened on a Saturday afternoon, when a regular came in. He was an old, slightly creepy guy who started talking about his wife. He said she cut off his credit card, and this made him want to hit her. He asked if I would consider this spousal abuse. Since that was not gross enough, he proceeded to say that if I were his wife, he would be very happy. I have never been more uncomfortable at work, or in my life.

Do you like it?

Absolutely. I would even consider bartending stress relief. You get paid for making people tipsy: not something you can do at most jobs. Why else would I work at a bar, despite not knowing how much I will get paid? It is a fun job, and I highly recommend it to everyone.


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