Nightlife Etiquette: How To Treat a Bartender, According To These Bartenders

Charity Johnston

Nightlife etiquette isn’t really all that different from your basic table manners that your momma taught you. But maybe you’ve had a few drunken slip ups and have been kicked out of the bar a couple times, so listen up good now – I had a chance to interview six experienced bartenders from various party cities to provide you with brutally honest advice on how to treat them right.

Pedro Barriga, aka Peter, currently lives Pomona, California working as a partner in a beverage agency called Mr.Gold. Barriga has about 15 years of experience ‘behind the stick’ and has worked at a few LA bars such as El Dorado, Melody Lounge, and The Bazaar in Beverly Hills. He says some of the best ways to show a bartender that you appreciated their services (besides a tip) is to be kind, respectful, say please and thank you, be human, and “buy them a shot of Fernet.”

What is the Number the number one annoying/rude thing a customer does when ordering a drink? – What should they do instead?

PB: It all depends on the pace of things. When it’s busy, please don’t ask a bartender to split a check 9 ways, suck it up and get ready to pay the tab! When you go to the bar, please have your order ready if it’s busy. Time is money and no “we” don’t remember the drink you had from a year ago, only regulars’ drinks are remembered – no offense. When it’s slow enough to have a conversation, just be a human. Many bar keeps can answer questions for you like the difference in booze, types of cocktails, introduce you to something you didn’t realize you enjoyed.

Charity Johnston, based in Los Angeles, is the beverage director for The Madera Group. She has bartended and trained bartenders in LA, Las Vegas, Arizona, Florida, Kansas City and more for almost 10 years. Her bartending experience in LA includes the Warwick lounge and The Argyle Speakeasy. Johnston has also been part of TV shows such as Bar Rescue and The F Word with Gordon Ramsay.

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How should one wait to be served at the bar? Do you prefer that people wave their arm to get your attention, or glare at you until you make eye contact, etc… ?

CJ: Waving hands in the bartenders face is always a bad one…I think eye contact, and an excuse me is fine.  Usually if we aren’t looking up it’s because we are already trying to remember the 7 other drinks and or food items we just took the order for. As the bartender you should always make eye contact and let people know you’ll be right with them as soon as you can.

Richard Allison, has lived in Los Angeles for the past 16 years and just recently moved to downtown Phoenix, Arizona to help open and work at a bar called Little Rituals. He’s also the founder and creative director of Root Bitters, a bitters company. With over 10 years experience behind the bar, management, consulting, and training, Allison has a vast love and knowledge of hospitality.

What are some things customers complain about, which aren’t necessarily your fault?

RA: Music -you can’t please everyone. Music in a bar is definitely an important component and can change the mood of people quite quickly. It also makes it either a better or worse time for the staff. If the music is spot on, which most of the time it is, then it’s an all around good time. But we all don’t have the same taste so don’t be a hater to your bartender and tell them that you don’t like pop music…bare with us y’all.

Fabrizio Cannizzaro based in Barcelona, Spain works as a bar manager in a cocktail bar called The Bowery while also bartending at the Hemingway Gin & Cocktail Bar. After bartending in London for 3.5 years, Cannizzaro moved to Las Vegas to study at the European Bartender School and later become an instructor himself.

What is the best way to react when a bartender cuts you off?

FC: A bartender has a big responsibility because he is serving ethanol, which is poison for our bodies – that’s why before serving cocktails, we need to study what it is that we’re serving. So if someone cuts you off, it’s probably because you are not in the condition to drink more. The best thing to do is listen to him and to his suggestions, that probably will be ‘drink a glass of water and eat something.’

Selvarey Rum Global Brand Ambassador Brian Klemm, is currently based in LA occasionally working as a guest bartender. He has been a part of the bar programs in Los Balcones in Hollywood, the Magnolia House in Pasadena and has worked as a guest bartender in the Philippines and in Hawaii. Klemm and two friends used to run their own mobile bartending company and work events for clients such as RocNation, Kevin Durant, Fred Segal, and Vanity Fair.

How should one properly tip his/her bartender?

BK: $1 per beer or mixed drink. $2 per cocktail. If you’re ordering a damn Ramos or something of the like, throw in extra. If you got a bartender working all night, go 18% – we remember that. Additionally, if a bartender buys you a drink, take it. We do not have to give away that free drink! But if you want to tip on it, I always like to simply make up the difference on what I would have been charged plus tip.

Andre Cardoso from Amsterdam manages his own catering business and has been in the hospitality industry for 16 years. He has worked in various locations all in the hip capital of the Netherlands, including AIR nightclub, The College Hotel, venues such as the Melkweg and the North Sea Venue, and Art of Dance festivals. Cardoso can be known as a cocktail master – his drinks are seriously gorgeous and you would be crazy not to think so.

What are other ways to show the bartender you appreciated their service besides a tip?

AC: Actually communicate and mention that they are happy (genuinely) and that they appreciated the amazing service. That is, in my opinion, the only reason I do this job…Tips should be given to hospitality employees if they actually did a good job, and did their best to give you great service.

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