How to not suck

Notes from a bartender


This advice can be applied to so many more situations – at the doctor’s, the vet’s, even in class, remember: be considerate, be patient. You’re not the most important person in the room.

Reid Grunewald, Lode Writer

Three years of bartending at the Dog gave me some insight on a lot of things. I learned how to be busy for five hours straight, how to initiate conversations with strangers (“hi”), how to tell people to leave, how to say “no” to friends, and how NOT to fix a broken urinal (yikes). But the most important thing I learned is how to not be an annoying little shit when ordering drinks. 

Seeing it from the other side and having to deal with drunk assholes all night really makes one realize that it is not okay to be a drunk asshole. The least you can do is be drunk and courteous. The bartender is your friend, they give you the thing you came to the bar for, they clean up your puke, they sweep up broken glass, and they call you a cab when you need to get home at the end of the night. They deserve to be spoken to with respect, not only because they choose whether or not you get to stay in the bar, but also because they’re working hard and have to watch everyone else party while they stay sober and drink coffee at 11pm. This is not too much to ask, and most people are very kind to bartenders, so thank you for that, but some need to understand a few things; I will list them for you now. 

First of all, the bartender can see you. You don’t need to prop yourself up on a chair or wave your cash over the bar. That’s how drinks get spilled. Also, you just went to the back of the queue, so relax, and God help me if you shout your order at them without being asked. Bartenders have to watch the entire bar, including the people sitting at tables and the front and back doors; they know who’s been waiting and are trying to serve everyone fairly. Wait your turn.

This should go without saying, but please do not go behind the bar and do not reach over to grab anything. The bar is a sacred barrier between order and chaos. You are chaos. You may think your bartending experience allows you a little leeway, but it does not. You don’t work there and you’re not clocked in.

As far as stacking glasses goes, unless you’re at the KBC or know how a bar carries their glass, don’t stack them. For instance, pint glasses at the Dog can be stacked, but short glasses cannot because they crack more easily.

If you’re trying to order weird shots: just because one bartender made you some obscure, convoluted shot last week does not mean another one will know how to make it. If someone asked for a drink I didn’t know how to make, I’d ask them what’s in it and if they didn’t know, I’d look it up. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it was gross and they wasted $8. 

There are some more “don’ts” but those are the main ones. It basically comes down to being polite and patient. 

Here’s who will get served before you if I’m bartending: my friends and coworkers, people who tip well, and the guy who I know is just getting bottled beers. It is what it is.

Here’s how you can be served quickly if you’re not not one of those people – a good tip right off the bat will give you priority for the rest of the night. Yes, it’s a bribe, and no, it’s not frowned upon. Know what you want, order quickly and have your money ready. Pretty easy. Saying “thank you” goes a long way, too. 

That’s about it. The main thing is empathy. It’s easy to get cranky as a bartender and sometimes they are a little rude, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate kindness. You put in a little extra effort to be a better patron and they’ll put in a little extra effort to be better bartenders.