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50 Signs You Are a Bad Bartender

I’ve been reading Waiter Rant and the good Waiter has posted a couple of good articles: 50 Signs You’re Working in a Bad Restaurant and 50 Signs You Might be An Asshole Customer. These posts inspired me to write one for bartenders, since I’ve worked with more bad bartenders than good ones. Your not a bad bartender if only a few of these apply, but you might want to think about modifying your work habits. Please feel free to add to the list by leaving a comment.

1. The term “quality” never crossed your mind, people only drink to get drunk, right?
2. To make a great drink requires the use of 151 proof rum.
3. Pissing off the servers is your nightly entertainment.
4. Running the dishwasher without soap doesn’t concern you.
5. You jam bottles into the ice bin and scoop ice with the glass.
6. You think the floor drain is a sink so you dump your shaker on the floor.
7. You think short pouring is good because it makes the bar more money.
8. You steal tips from your co-workers.
9. You think expiry dates on juices and milk are guidelines.
10. The only reason you bartend is for free booze and cheap girls.
11. When someone tips poorly you assume you did nothing wrong and that the guest is an asshole.
12. You think sour mix is a direct substitute for real lemon or lime juice.
13. You don’t know what bitters are.
14. You huff and sigh when somebody orders a drink you don’t like.
15. Your theory on drink making is: more sugar equals better drink
16. When somebody orders a $100 snifter of cognac you expect a $20 tip.
17. You don’t know what a snifter is.
18. Washing your cocktail shakers is done once, at the end of your shift.
19. Your goal is to have sex with all of the servers of the opposite gender.
20. Your goal is to have sex with all of the servers of the same gender.
21. Your breasts are more important to making tips than your brain.
22. When asked about a cocktail on the menu, you read from the menu to give the answer.
23. You think Rose’s lime, sour mix and lime juice combine to make a better drink.
24. You haven’t washed your work cloths for weeks and just leave them under the bar.
25. The blender is your favourite bar tool.
26. Sticking your finger in a drink to taste it doesn’t concern you.
27. You use your hands as ice scoops
28. You wash your hands once per shift, at the end of the night.
29. Using a three day old slimy lemon wedges doesn’t raise an alarm bell.
30. You spend more time talking to the servers than the guests at the bar.
31. Everything you talk about has sexual connotations.
32. You call in sick because you have another hangover.
33. You drop limes on the floor and can’t be bothered to wash them.
34. You think the bar is yours and drink whenever you feel like it.
35. Getting drunk or high, while working, is normal.
36. You put a lime garnish on single malt scotch.
37. The only drinks you know have sexual names.
38. A 60 year old lady asks for a nice cocktail and you server her a 1-800-Fuck-Me-Up.
39. You break a glass in the ice well and decide it’;s nothing to worry about.
40. You strain fruit flies out of the liquor then put the liquor back on the bar.
41. You carry around a fly swatter and kill flies while people eat.
42. When it gets really busy, you go for a smoke.
43. You chastise people for their drink orders.
44. You “borrow indefinitely” from the till to pay your rent.
45. You make the drinks “strong” without charging appropriately.
46. You fish fruit flies out of the draught beer with the tip of a straw.
47. You treat your bar-back like dirt, but expect exemplary service
48. The solution to every problem is: just add bitters
49. You develop a “god complex” just because you are a bartender
50. You think you are an elite bartender and ignore guests request because you think you know better than they do.

Please feel free to add to the list by posting a comment. I’m sure I could do another 50 if I really thought about it.

44 Comments on 50 Signs You Are a Bad Bartender

By Michael on March 24, 2007 1:53 PM

When a customer orders two shots of Patron, chilled, you shake two shots of Patron with ice for so long that you can fill three shot glasses with it, and then give one of them to your boyfriend while charging the customer full price.

By jimmy on March 24, 2007 6:38 PM

48, 49 and 50 aren’t true?

Just kidding, good post, Darcy!

By joflow on March 24, 2007 10:04 PM

Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s site is great for Bartending do’s and don’ts:

By Bananatree on March 25, 2007 6:31 PM

So true!

47. You treat your bar-back like dirt, but expect exemplary service

You have no idea how many times I’ve heard “I didn’t make any tips, so I will tip you out better next time” (usually the bartender lost/drank the tips and leaves me in gutter)

By donbert on March 26, 2007 12:34 PM

Have you seen the “you might be a cocktail geek if…” thread on eGullet? Not sure if there are 50 but very amusing.

By Jeffrey Morgenthaler on March 27, 2007 4:51 AM

Now, come on, Darcy, tell me you haven’t done #40 before. I know you’ve got a bottle of banana schnapps back there from 1994 that’s been strained at least once!

By TED ORSSTEN on March 28, 2007 12:35 PM

How about NOT paying attention or IGNORING a customer who needs a drink? I experience that far too frequently,and consider that among the hughest of bartendings cardinal sins.Too many young bartenders think all customers just want to look at them or talk with them.I go to a bar for a drink:whatever happens after that-will happen,but I won’t be there if I’m not getting my drink as needed.

By Jessie Jane on March 29, 2007 10:17 PM

51. You serve our friends first, no matter how long other customers have been waiting.

52. When you’re in the weeds you never look up.

53. You fail to survey the entire room on a regular basis.

54. You let the drunk creep at the end of the bar harrass the woman sitting by herself trying to read her book.

55. When your beer pours foamy you just let it run from the tap, instead of checking your lines or gas.

56. You don’t know how to check your lines or gas.

57. You don’t cut enough fruit for the night shift (if you’re an opener).

58. You leave your dirty shift-off dishes in the sink for the opening bartender (if your a closer).

59. You fail to ring out and/or re-bleach your bar rags regularly.

60. You can’t be bothered to wash the soap/sanitizer/lipstick all the way off your glasses.

Oh, I could go on and on…this is fun! Thank you for such a great post.

By Dave C. on March 30, 2007 2:31 AM

Ok, I always thought #19 was a perk. Here’s some others to add to the list.

61. You skim from the till and leave the other bartender holding the bag.

62. You split the tips jar 60/40 but tell the other guy it was a slow night.

By Kathleen O. on April 5, 2007 3:02 PM

Hey Darcy,

# 46 happens all the time where I work.

By Steph K. on May 20, 2007 11:26 AM

61. You forget that you are supposed to listen to your customers problems and personal drama, and instead, share yours.
62. You bad mouth competitor establishments.
63. You bad mouth the owner, fellow employees and while you’re at it, customers.
64. You play pool, video poker, darts, etc. while you have customers at the bar. (“I’ll be right with you!!!”)
65. You are too busy text messaging or talking on the phone to notice you have thirsty customers.
66. You get ticked off if customers don’t graciously thank YOU.

By Andy on June 7, 2007 7:35 PM

These are all true and can happen in any bar anywhere in the world. The No.1 sign of a bad bartender out of all of them would be ….
If you see any of your fellow bartenders committing any of the above you do nothing.

By Jeff on June 21, 2007 12:07 AM

67: Can’t be bothered to make up more bar lemon…just use the lime. It won’t matter.

68: Never put a bottle back form whence it came

Great list…make a crappy bartender you know read it. The world will be a better place.

By Jeff on June 21, 2007 12:07 AM

67: Can’t be bothered to make up more bar lemon…just use the lime. It won’t matter.

68: Never put a bottle back form whence it came

Great list…make a crappy bartender you know read it. The world will be a better place.

By eviltwin on June 21, 2007 1:34 AM

im a barback and the whole barback not getting tipped is no joke . ive worked at 6 other bars/ nite clubs and usually make about 10 percent but i bust my rear for what i get. this new place i work at i got 14 dollars in 2 nites and both nite each bartender banked over 400 per nite!!!!! i dont care so much as to get the money but a simple thanks would of been nice

By RayT on August 1, 2007 12:12 AM

First of all, Darcy – I adore your blog man, it’s AWESOME! I’m studying bartending all the way here in the land down under, and found this whilst researching for an assignment. Any tips for a young aspiring bartender..? Feel free to email any tips to me, thanks!

By Darcy O’Neil on August 1, 2007 9:42 PM

Hey Ray, thanks for reading. The best advice I can give is to treat the job as a profession. Even if it’s only your job until you graduate. You’d be surprised at how many opportunities open up when you act like a professional. A lot of interesting people come through bars, and trust me they’ll notice you when you act professional. It could open up a whole world of opportunities.

By stella kim on August 18, 2007 1:35 PM

69: you pour single handed long island iced teas.
70: you drink whatever you over pour.
71: you wipe down the bar right into the icebin/ speed rack/ and/or beer bin.
72: you never have a pen/ lighter/ and/or bottle key and bother the other bartenders on your shift all day/night.
73: you look up drinks in front of customers.
74: you don’t know how to make a drink so you just wing it or ask what color it is.
75: you bum cigarettes off of customers.
76: you constantly butt in on your coworker’s regulars.
77: you don’t cut people off when they’re clearly swallowing back their own vomit to muster up the breath to ask you for another.
78: you don’t wipe down your bottles.
79: you bail at the end of the night to get out of stocking beer.
80: you substitute a milk ingredient with bailey’s or kahlua.

By stella kim on August 18, 2007 1:48 PM

oh, and one last thing……

not stirring and/or shaking a drink (ex: long island, sex on the beach, etc.) that is supposed to be mixed well.

By kandis on September 17, 2007 6:53 PM

this was great, I just started a bartending job (my first one) and I am really excited about it…I’ve noticed something’s I’ve done on here, and now that I think about it everything makes sense…thanks soooo much!!

By tipsy texan on October 1, 2007 1:47 PM

81. When you don’t know a drink, instead of looking it up or asking how to make it, you just say you don’t know how to make it.
82. While washing bar glass in a 3-comp sink, you don’t even pause in the sanitizer long enough to let it do its job
83. You regularly serve drinks in glasses with women’s lipstick marks on them because you don’t do a thorough job washing glasses, and don’t check the glass before making drinks
84. You switch to plastic towards the end of the night even though you have plenty of glasses, just because you don’t want to wash glasses anymore.
85. Instead of offering a welcome greeting you just point or nod, or maybe say, “Yeah?” as a way of taking a customer’s order.
86. When I tell you exactly how I would like my martini made, you still rinse and dump out the vermouth and shake the shit out of it because that is the only way you know how to make it. You may even ask me “What kind of vodka was that?” even though I called a gin.

By Bartender B on October 19, 2007 3:12 PM

These are great, most of which I can honestly say I am not guilty of.. a few of them.. yes I have done, but realized at the time I would rather not do that, but had no choice. Such as looking up a drink in front of a customer. Some I can’t believe actually happen, like picking flies out of the beer with straws. ewww.

To the 18 yr old wanting to become a bartender at 21. Best advice other than learning drink recipes is look up some videos, watch how other bartenders work. If you are intending to serve in a night club, learning a few sauve tricks sure wouldn’t hurt either..

As to pouring a one handed long island.. HAHAHAHAH even on my first night I was pouring all 5 liquors at the same time. Its impressive, and definitely faster and more efficient!

By bartending on October 28, 2007 11:37 AM

How about you stock your shelves for a big night on the day of the event while bartending the event. Great list! Some bartenders need to read every bit of this list.

By BartendingBear on November 23, 2007 11:58 PM

#0 (Cardinal rule broken) – You leave bottles within reach of customers.

By jackie on December 2, 2007 4:33 AM

Readings all this is really helpful…I’m a new bartender and getting my first job is scary because I want to know everything but I know it takes time and experience.. I am glad though that none of these things have crossed my mind to do.. In my opinion I hate when I meet bartenders that say that the quality of the liqour does not matter. A house liqour and a ultra premium are the same…are they crazy or is it just me?

By kaylosia on December 4, 2007 9:31 AM

#81 – you go on and on about cocktails, but once off shift all you drink is rum or bourbon

#82 – When asked what the most imaginative and groundbreaking cocktail you’ve ever seen is, you reply with something that ends in ‘-collins’, ‘-flip’, ‘-sour’, ‘-fizz’ or any of the other myriad suffixes attached to formulaic cocktails

#83 – You use glass cleaner/bleach/antibacterial spray interchangeably and preferably add them all together and label them ‘the widowmaker’

#84 – You serve the same drink to every single person who asks you to pick a drink for them, no matter how different their tastes

#85 – every drink on your cocktail list involves either lemon and sugar, bitters, or is some hideous concoction labelled ‘a [insert tacky name] martini’

By Jessica on January 21, 2008 4:34 PM

9. You think expiry dates on juices and milk are guidelines.

I’m new in the industry, so I was just wondering if anyone can tell me what this means? I guess I just don’t understand because in my head, I thought I was supossed to use expiry dates as a guideline to whether its good or

By Mark on April 21, 2008 2:22 PM

The most common tricks are juggling a bottle or two, throwing ice cubes or garnish (lemons, limes and such) and catching them in the glass or shaker. Tossing straws so they land in the glass is also common. How is it, good or bad?
Btw, nice posting ,Thanks

By Rahim on May 15, 2008 2:40 PM

Woww… in the states, you have to be 21 to be a bartender? I’m in Canada, I’m 18, and I’m gunna be a bartender at a hotel in June

Question: How the hell to you pour a long island iced tea using 5 bottles at the same time? I can do 4… because you need 1/4 oz of gin, tequila, triple sec, and rum (so it’s the same amount)… but you need 1/2 oz of vodka, and I don’t understand how you can pour different amounts with the same hand :S


By Darryl on September 12, 2008 6:59 AM

You’re a bad bartender if:
You use grenadine to make your cocktails taste good.

By Tales from the Bar Side on October 4, 2008 5:22 PM

Those who work in multi room/multi level clubs…

Leaving your dishes, garnishes, sticky bottles, an icky bar rags for other to find after being closed for two (2) days.

Stop! Do not pass Go.

…and your pass has been revoked!

By Azz on October 20, 2008 5:19 PM

Jessica, I think the point is that you’re supposed to toss it after the expiration date (or if it smells funky prior) and treat it as a rule, rather than not really caring whether it’s after the expiration date and using it anyway if you need it.

By RPMcmurphy on October 27, 2008 3:56 PM

#101 – You have to look in a not-even-a-Mr.Boston-no-name book to make an Old-Fashioned

By Dominik MJ on October 28, 2008 2:49 PM

I like number 40 – one guilty pleasure of my past!
And I am vurnerable to number 43 – and I swear: most bartenders are!

#102 – Grasp i-n-t-o clean or/and dirty glassware!

By Jen on November 8, 2008 5:05 PM

This is scary!!
I’ve been tossing around the idea of becoming a bartender for just a little while now, and reading these entries makes me both scared to become a bartender and scared to go out for drinks anymore! 🙂
I know it depends where you go – I have good friends who have been bartending for years and I’ve heard their horror stories as well. Clearly I’m going to have to become less of a germaphobe if I’m going to make it as a happy bartender.

By “Nean on November 10, 2008 12:07 PM

*You come to work late beacause you know your partner bartender will be there on time then b*tch beacause your shifts are cut.

By John on December 20, 2008 3:15 AM

How about these:
You come in to your shift 20 mins. late and immediately get on your cell phone for the next 10 mins. to “help drum up some business by calling my friends”;
You’re constantly 15 mins. late because you are not getting along with your spouse/significant other and feel the need to have a ‘talk’ right before work;
You can’t take out trash or get ice because that’s a ‘guy job’;
You don’t rotate product when restocking because that would require kneeling down on an ‘icky’ floor;
You leave empty liquor bottles on the shelf so when the next shift’s BT grabs it he has to find the backup;
You’re oblivious to the 6 people that have been sitting in the stools next to your 2 girl friends because you think that your friends will tip you better on the $10 tab you’ve given them than whatever the 6 ppl. can possibly muster up;
You top your Margaritas with Sprite because ‘that’s the recipe’;
You make a White Russian in this order: kahlua, layer it with half and half, then layer that with vodka, because ‘that’s the recipe’;
When in doubt, Rum And Red!!;
You think that ‘a little bit of brown on the edges of your lime wedges is fine- after all, they’re still mostly green’;
You refill your speed pourers daily with new on top of old and only wash them when they ‘look dirty’;
You rinse EVERYTHING in cold water because your fingers are too sensitive and it’s the same as hot anyway;
You over-serve a customer because ‘he SAID he was taking a cab home so I thought that was ok’;
You don’t card someone because ‘dude- he was going bald and I thought I saw some gray in his hair’ (actually happened to one of my BT’s and the kid was 19);
You don’t understand why a dull knife is actually more dangerous than a sharp one;
You think that flaming shots are the shizit!;
When people ask you for a ‘nice red’, you give them the $15/ glass red automatically with no questions;

Trust me- after 20 years as a BT, I could go on. These are just the more recent ones that I’ve had to deal with, and these newbies are getting harder to train. BUT… my BIGGEST pet peeve is this:
When a customer is leaving and paid out, the first thing you do is scrutinize the tip while they’re still there and maybe even comment about it. THAT is MY biggest no-no. I ALWAYS thank them as I leave the CC slip or change, ask them to come back and see me, then put the slip or change away w/out looking (unless they comment on it). We BT’s that have our shit together don’t have to look- we know! We’ve done our best to provide excellent service, and if the tip isn’t up to par, it’s not us, so move on to the next person and wow the crap out of them!

By MissMeaghan on January 13, 2009 11:08 AM

#103- you think the bar doubles as a liquor store and sell 6-packs and bottles “to-go” for customers-at whatever price you dream up. Very much against the law in states-like in CT where I was a server and caught the bartender selling booze on Superbowl Sunday to folks that missed the liquor store.

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