Should you ever hit on a bartender? What should you tip? Is there a magical signal one can use to receive instant service at a crowded bar? Julie*, who has tended bar at Improv Comedy Club on Fourth Street, The Village Anchor, Z’s Fusion, and O’Shea’s, to name a few, answered some of these questions:
So if we’re ponying up to a busy bar to get a drink, what’s the best way to catch your attention?
If you want good, faster service, be ready. Know what you want. If the bar is packed, chances are the bartenders are just focused on getting everyone served as fast as possible, and they will hate your guts if it takes you five minutes of their time to settle on a Bud Light.
If you’re ordering in a group, get everyone together, and focused, and get your money ready, especially if you’re paying in cash. Pick one person, who will actually remember everyone’s order, to go up to the bar, and maybe someone else to help carry. Find an open spot, and try to make eye contact. Smile! You know they’re busy, they know you want a drink. You all have the same goal.
Look patient and relaxed, but most importantly, look like you know what you want and you have your money ready. Keep your shoulders squared to the bar, because that eye contact and look of happily waiting your turn will usually get you bumped ahead of anyone who isn’t giving their bartender their full attention.
What was your best/worst bartending experience and why?
The absolute best was before Forecastle was bought out, because I worked my way up to bartending right by the main stage, so it’s kind of like being paid to hear music that I really love. Any time people are enjoying themselves and I’m having fun, it’s a good night.
I found fine dining to be the most difficult, but I think that’s because I wasn’t really suited to the environment. A gentleman once insisted I tell him what I didn’t like about Falls City when it first came out. Eventually I caved, and told him that in addition to being a lager, which I’m not fond of, it kind of tasted like the inside of an aluminum can. He was the owner of Falls City. I didn’t work there much longer.
What constitutes a good tip? Do you prefer credit card tips or cash? Is it a percentage? Should we tip based on how hard the drink is to make?
Let me begin by saying at pretty much any bartender is making 100% of their wages through tips. So if you are out, enjoying your evening of entertainment, someone else is working for your benefit. I feel like a dollar a drink is a good rule of thumb for most wine, beer, and simple liquor/mixer cocktails. If you’re paying a tab instead of rounds, go for 20%. 15% can be acceptable if you are super low-maintenance and kind and are ordering PBR tallboys with minimal muss or fuss. 10% means you overshot your budget and now I have to suffer for your choice of 9 shots for your friends.
Here in Derby City, know that Mint Juleps Old Fashioneds are a pain in the ass. And [they] taste like sugared, minty bourbon, which a large number of people like much less than they would expect. If your bartender has to shake, muddle, or stir anything to make your drink, it’s definitely worth an extra dollar. Mojitos are worth 3 dollar tips. If you want to know why, look up how to make one.
Good bartenders love their craft and work very hard for you for long hours. They definitely appreciate and notice kindness and kind tipping as an acknowledgment of a job well done. Cash tips are usually more appreciated because it’s easier to tip out a bartenders supporting staff, without going into a long diatribe about tip pools, tip sharing, and a bunch of other tax nonsense.
Should a patron ever hit on a bartender? How can you show interest in a bartender without being a jerk?
I think most bartenders are flirty, and enjoy flirting, or they shouldn’t do the job. The most important thing to remember if you want to hit on a bartender is that you, and your friends, are probably drunk. They are probably not. Generally… keep it witty, complimentary, and light-hearted. And short. Remember, time equals a bartender’s money.
If you really think you would like to spend more time with your bartender as a person, and not as a last-ditch attempt to get laid, you can try to communicate this. Do not get a large cadre of your friends to suggest that you look like Shia Lebouf or anything like that. If your pickup line sounds similar to “You are very pretty” and that’s it, you’re probably better off not leaving your number. Bartenders will ask if they want it, usually.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen bartending?
I was opening a bottle of wine for a table of six women, who had already had two other bottles.All of a sudden, one of them bursts out “I’ve never had an orgasm!” and began crying. That was bad. The wreckage of the Waterfront after Forecastle is astonishing. Just a carpet o cups, glowsticks, and human filth.
Most drunken fools look and sound the same.
*not her real name
Stay tuned for part 2!