When you go out tonight, remember that your bartender is the gatekeeper to your good time: He or she will see every move you make, and how you act could ultimately affect the speed of your service. We asked real barkeeps to reveal the common blunders that tick them off the most—and what you can do to make sure the drinks stay flowing all night.
1. Fumble your order.
“When the bar is jamming, time is precious,” says Tad Carducci, bartender and cofounder of New York-based beverage consulting team Tippling Bros. Don’t roll up to the bar with, “So, um, one Jack and Coke, a . . . what bourbons do you have? A . . . hold up, what do you guys want again? Ok, two Bud Lights, a white wine. Do you guys make like, classic cocktails and stuff or . . .” Bartenders allot an appropriate amount of time for every transaction—after all, they work on tips and want you to be happy with your selection. But when you don’t have your order ready, it’s inconsiderate and you become a nuisance, Carducci adds. Plan ahead of time.
2. Order a wild card.
“I can’t tell you how many guys come in and try to order the strongest and most expensive drink we offer in an attempt to impress their date,” says James Wright, bartender at Chicago’s Barrelhouse Flat. While we’re all for trying new libations—after all, how else are you going to find your signature drink?—picking something that sounds manly doesn’t mean it’ll taste good. “Guys order an Old-Fashioned or a Sazerac, and then end up cringing at every sip, and their date can tell the drink is too strong for them.”
Since mixologists want you to enjoy their creations—and you want to make a good impression with your date—ask for a menu if you don’t want your usual. A bar’s signature cocktails are tried-and-true, cringe-free concoctions, so choose one with your go-to liquor and flavors to live on the edge without quite as much risk.
3. Hold your money at eye level.
This habit is normally well intentioned: If the bartender sees a $20 bill in your hand, he knows you’re ready to order and will pay quickly. But waving a creased bill will turn his attention away, says Carducci. It makes you seem condescending and impatient instead of prepared. Plus, bartenders assume you’ll be ready to order and will pay quickly when they get to you—and waving money around will just add time to your wait.
4. Parade PDA.
When you’re out with a fox and feeling bold from booze, the bar may seem like the perfect place to turn up the heat. But save it for the bedroom: “There’s a time and a place to make out with your date, and it’s not in front of bar patrons,” says Griffin Elliott, bartender at Chicago’s Sepia. It’s tacky, and you’re also taking up prime real estate for other customers who just want to get a drink.
5. Call the bartender “pal” or “chief.”
Save the pet name for your pooch. “Just because we’re serving you, it doesn’t make us your servants,” says Bill Anderson, of Vie in Western Springs, Illinois. “We’re professionals, and addressing us like this is belittling.”