The dos and don’ts of bar etiquette
Bartending in movies tends to alternate between skimpily clad bartenders dancing on a bar to the one guy in the background polishing a solitary glass while listening to everyone’s problems. The truth, though, is that most bartenders are highly trained and efficient professionals who are there to provide a service – and neither of those things is in the job description. Hopefully you know that … but do you know the etiquette rules of being a truly polite patron?
Even if you’re steering clear of the obvious faux pas, there are some specific “polite habits” in bars that aren’t quite as polite as you might think. And while bartenders might grin and bear it when you make these etiquette mistakes, it doesn’t mean they like it! Plus, these missteps can really get in the way of them doing their jobs. So, whether you’re at your favourite dive bar, a trendy hotel bar or a cruise ship bar, here’s what you should avoid – and what you should do instead.
Asking them to do a shot with you
This was the No 1 ‘polite’ habit every single one of the bartenders we spoke with mentioned they wish people would stop doing. “I get that you’re offering because you want to be nice and have me join in the party, but you’re on your own time and I’m working,” says bartender, Lea Miner. “If I did a shot with every customer who asked, I’d be drunk in the first hour [of my shift].” She adds that most bars have a rule about bartenders not drinking on the job, but in her experience, “it’s 50/50 whether or not it actually gets enforced.”
Do this instead: use the money you would have spent on the shot and add it to their tip. Or, says Miner, if you want to buy them a drink, tell them to add one to your tab and then the bartender can choose to drink it after their shift is over.
Picking up your drink before they give it to you
A beer on tap doesn’t require any effort beyond filling the glass, but creating a cocktail is a work of art – and that includes any final touches like a garnish. “I take a lot of pride in creating custom cocktails that don’t just taste great but also look beautiful,” says Miner, “and I want the guest to have the full experience.” However, many customers think the cocktail is finished after the liquid has been added, and while you may think you’re being helpful by taking it at that point, especially if the bar is busy, it takes away from that experience. It’s also rude, since you’re literally grabbing something that’s still in the bartender’s possession.
Do this instead: wait for the bartender to slide the drink to you, and let them present it in an attractive way, complete with napkin and garnishes.