Ever wonder what your bartender is really thinking when you order you order that annoying-to-make mojito? Or what annoys him or her the absolute most? Or what you can actually do to get on his or her good side—and maybe even score a free drink? Read on, because we’ve compiled the top secrets your bartender will never tell you directly. And if you’re tending your home bar, be sure to brush up on the 20 Cocktails Everyone Should Know How to Make.
Asking for “light ice” means a weaker drink.
You may think you’ve been getting more bang for your buck by requesting a drink with “light ice.” But chances are, your bartender’s just putting more juice in. “It doesn’t change the fact that I always pour the standard 1.5 oz. of liquor,” says one barkeep. If you need an idea on a stiff drink to order, try out any of the 7 Orders Guaranteed to Impress Your Boss.
Asking to “make it strong” means nothing.
Yes, your drink tastes stronger—but that has nothing to do with APV. According to one bartender, he just dips the straw in pure alcohol so the first few sips are extra potent.
This is code for “ugh, I’m not making that mojito.”
“‘We’re out of mint’ directly translates to, ‘I don’t want to make your … mojito,'” says one bartender. Instead, order a classic daiquiri. It’ll hit a similar flavor palette—refreshing rum—and is a lot easier to make.
You’re not tipping enough.
They hate it when you wave your money.
And it will only prolong your wait. “We see you when you wave your money at us,” says one bartender. “We just ignore you and serve the person who is standing patiently and not huffing and puffing.”
Eye contact is the best way to get their attention.
“Eye contact is key,” says one bartender. “From far away, I can make eye contact, and with a gesture, ask if you’re ready for a refill.”
Vermouth goes bad.
Vermouth, a key ingredient in many staple cocktails, is a grape-based liquid. And like another grape-based libation (that’d be wine), it’s perishable. So before you order a Manhattan or a martini—or any other drink with vermouth—see if you can spot it behind the bar. If you can see the bottle, order something else; chances are it’s been out for a while. On the other hand, if you can’t, it’s likely because the vermouth is tucked away in a fridge—in which case, you’re totally fine to order a drink with it.
They have a “comp tab” for valued customers.
“A lot of bars have comp tabs, which allows [us] to give away drinks,” says one bartender. “It’s a smart business move and helps build a base of regulars.”
They’re happy to make connections.
Making eyes with someone down the bar? Consider asking the bartender if you can buy them a drink. “I phrase it like that because I like to check in … before. Maybe they don’t want company, maybe they’ve had too many,” says one bartender. “But most of the time, it’s a yes, and they move down the bar to thank their benefactor.”
You should keep your tab open.
It’s tempting to close your tab after every round. But for every time you close and reopen your tab, that’s another piece of paperwork your barkeep has to do at the end of the shift.
If you’re drunk, that next beer is non-alcoholic.
Even if you don’t realize it. According to one bartender, if you’re visibly drunk and order a beer, you’re just getting a nonalcoholic one—on the house.
It’s OK to send a drink back exactly once.
“I think bartenders are always entitled to a mulligan,” says one mixologist. “I hate to watch someone pull a series of tortured faces if they aren’t enjoying something.”
They eat your leftovers.
According to a bartender from a luxury hotel resort, your leftover food isn’t going to waste—some bartenders scarf down the scraps in times of dire starvation and busy lines.
Stand away from the service area.
On almost every restaurant bar, there’s an area where drinks are put up for wait staff to bring to seated patrons. Don’t try to order your drinks there. You will not be served.
They live off your tips.
Though the hourly wage varies from state to state, one thing is consistent: Bartenders make less than minimum wage. As such, they live off gratuity. Don’t be a jerk—even if your server was. (Everyone has bad days; show some leniency.)