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The 7 Habits You Pick Up Bartending

by Melissa Allen Feb 8, 2019

We all develop certain behaviors thanks to the influence of our work — nurses tend to wash their hands more often than is necessary and firefighters check the stove buttons a little too often. Bartenders are no exception. Over time, we carry the things we repeatedly do at work into real life. From knowing exactly how you like your Negroni to refusing to split a check, here are seven habits you pick up bartending.

1. Having extreme selective hearing

Like Pavlov and his dogs, bartenders are trained to listen for certain sounds and respond accordingly. It can be the sound of the front door opening, the printer printing out a drink ticket, or a bar stool sliding back. When you hear it, you stop what you’re doing and spring into action. On the flip side, we’re also experts at tuning things out, particularly the sounds of bar guests’ conversations.

2. Always being prepared for any situation

When you’re bartending, you never know how busy your bar will be because every night is a little different. The absolute worst thing you can do is to assume that it’ll be a slow night. Because if you do, a sudden rush will leave you scrambling. For this reason, we always prepare to be busy. We carry this spirit of preparedness into all areas of our lives. A simple trip to the beach means packing three different types of sunscreen, a book, a magazine, a frisbee, a flask, and a giant bottle of water.

3. The ability to order clearly

The biggest pet peeve of busy bartenders is indecisive guests. We’re happy to offer suggestions but at the end of the day, just pick something already! So we try to remember this when it’s our turn to order things. Be direct, clear, and try to order everything at once. The more customizations and additions, the more likely it is that the staff or kitchen will make a mistake.

4. Knowing how we like our drinks

On a related note, one of the perks of being a bartender is having the opportunity to develop your palate. Bartenders know how to order martinis, for example, because we know how we like our martinis. We have to bite our tongues when we go out with non-bartender friends because they’ll ask five questions just to order one drink.

5. Having respect for expiration dates

The Department of Health is a bartender’s “He Who Shall Not Be Named.” We religiously check expiration dates on juices and milk because the one day that you forget to is the day that the DOH does a surprise inspection. In our everyday lives, when we visit friends and their fridges are full of expired condiments and old milk, it’s enough to cause a mild panic attack.

6. Being a radio dictator

When you bartend, music is your fuel. A bad song can cause your energy level to crash and derail your flow. You always need to be in control of the playlist. This trait isn’t as attractive, however, on road trips and at house parties. We have to remember that not everywhere is our bar.

7. Never splitting checks

That doesn’t mean that we won’t all contribute money to a check, but a table of bartenders will never throw down six credit cards to split the bill. Either we all chip in cash, Venmo each other, or take turns treating our friends. We know how annoying it is for a server or bartender to have to split checks on multiple cards, so we try to avoid that situation as a point of pride.

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