Photo: Paul Vasarhelyi/Shutterstock

6 Secrets Bartenders Want You to Know About

by Melissa Allen Apr 5, 2019

Bartenders keep a lot of secrets for bar guests. From those deep confessions that come out after a few drinks to the number of different dates you bring in every week, we’ve got your trust. We rarely, however, are as open with our guests about our own secrets. Welcome behind the curtain, here are six secrets bartenders want you to know about.

1. You don’t need to buy us shots.

The impulse is sweet, but if it is the kind of bar where we can take shots with a guest, it’s the kind of bar where we can pour our own shots. If we want to do a shot with you, we will. That said, we do appreciate the thought, but don’t be offended if we turn it down.

2. A lot of bartenders don’t really care about cocktails.

There are some bartenders who are truly at the peak of the industry. They are knowledgeable, creative, and care deeply about their craft. On the flipside, there are just as many, if not more, who couldn’t care less about the difference between a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned. That doesn’t mean they won’t make you a good cocktail. But it does mean they might not be open to a lengthy discussion about amaro with a guest.

3. For some of us, this is our “real job.”

One of the most common questions that bartenders get is “what do you really do?” In some ways, it shows a customer is trying to form a connection and get to know you. But their question, while seemingly innocent, undermines the work that we do. Some of us are professional bartenders, and that’s it. And even if we are actors, photographers, or yoga teachers, we don’t always want to talk about that part of our lives while we are working. The best approach is to let information about our lives be revealed organically.

4. We kind of hate it when our friends visit.

Having a job where your friends can visit you while you work can be a great perk. But it can also be very distracting. When we are busy, we feel guilty because we can’t give our friends any real attention. And when it is slow or we’re tired, we just want to close early and go home, but we often feel obligated to entertain our friends.

5. Closing time is not a suggestion unless we say it is.

On occasion, we pull the gates, lock the door, and let our friends hang out after hours. But in general, closing time is closing time. For bars with bouncers, this is easier to enforce because the bouncer will round up the revelers and show them the door. But at a restaurant bar, if it’s midnight, the kitchen is closed, the chairs are stacked, and the music is low, it’s time to go.

6. Our ability to give out free drinks varies greatly based on where we work.

Every bar and restaurant sets their own policies on buybacks and comps and enforces them with varying degrees of strictness. As bartenders, we have some power to use our own discretion, but if the bar is particularly rigid about free drinks, we may not be able to offer anything, even if we think it is appropriate. Ultimately, management dictates how much freedom a staff can have.

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