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9 Tips for Getting the Best Service at the Bar

Bar etiquette is practically as easy as remembering the Golden Rule. We collected pointers from nine bartenders across the U.S.

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Attractive bartender girl in the white apron holding in her hands two steel cocktail shakers at the bar counterMaksym Fesenko/Shutterstock

Be Friendly

It’s no surprise that a sour attitude isn’t going to get you anywhere in life, especially not in a bar. (It’s the same in a restaurant, too.)

“The best way to get great service at any bar is to be kind to the staff and to the guests around you–bartenders notice when people wait patiently in busy moments,” says Miranda Breedlove, bar director at Good Fortune in Chicago.

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Bartender pouring fresh cocktail in fancy glassMaksym Fesenko/Shutterstock

Know What You’re Going to Order Before Getting to the Bar

If the bar’s packed, it’s best to have your drink order in mind before approaching the bar. “As important as your order is, it isn’t any less important than the hundreds of other orders and drinks I will be making all night,” says Joey Biñas, bar manager at Bootlegger in San Diego. And if you need a menu, grab one so you’re not hemming and hawing while you have the bartender’s attention. Find out what your bartender wishes you’d stop doing.

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Young male bartender holding a bottle while standing behind the counter of a trendy bar taking drink orders from customersmavo/Shutterstock

Be Specific When Ordering

Even if you’re going off-menu, ordering a drink shouldn’t be complicated. But it is OK to go into detail. “Using terms like refreshing, savory, fruit-forward or even boozy really helps us narrow down the drinking experience you’re looking to have,” says Jake Bliven, lead bartender at International Smoke San Diego. Here’s the trick to ordering (and drinking) beer.

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We meet oktoberfest. Hand of bartender pouring a large lager beer in tap.Master1305/Shutterstock

Be Patient—You’re Not the Only Customer

Have you ever walked into a bar that’s half-full and wondered why your bartender hasn’t stopped to take your drink order yet? It’s because they’re making drinks for the entire place. “A simple smile and eye contact or friendly wave will go far,” says Camille Cavan, bar manager at Quaintrelle in Portland.

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Female bartender pouring to the measuring glass cup with ice cubes an alcoholic drink from steel jigger on the bar counter on the blurred backgroundMaksym Fesenko/Shutterstock

Want to Try Something New? Have an Idea in Mind

“The bartender’s favorite drink to drink or make might not be what you enjoy, so rather have an idea of what spirits you enjoy and use that as a jumping-off point,” says Amanda Streibel, a longtime bartender and mixologist at Strip House, which has locations in NYC and Las Vegas.

Interested in learning more? Here’s your guide for effortless food and drink pairings.

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Group of young people sitting in a cafe and talking.Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Ask the Bartender About His or Her Day

Bartenders are people, too. Don’t forget to treat them as such.

“If it’s not busy, ask the bartender genuinely about their day,” says Mark Phelan, bar manager at Revival Café Bar in Chicago. “A bartender takes pride in taking care of their guests, but it can be a refreshing change and an opportunity for connection when that care is reciprocated.”

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Ordering drinks in bar. Purchase and payment.Just dance/Shutterstock

Have Your Payment and ID Ready

This will make things much easier on your bartender. The bartenders at Dacha in Washington, D.C., have a pro tip for when you’re out with a group: “Buy rounds for each other. Splitting payments is a time-consuming pain for everyone.”

Worried you’ll spend too much? This is how to save money when you go out.

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Two Dollar Tip Left For Bartender in Rustic Bar. Brent Reeves/Shutterstock

One Word: Tip

“You don’t have to overtip, but if you are buying more drinks or rounds later, a reasonable tip will keep you in good standing,” says longtime bartender and author Johnny Welsh. “A lousy tip will get you placed on the non-urgent list of customers.” It’s also simply rude to not tip or tip well below average. See what else your bartender won’t tell you!

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Smiling bar patron ordering drinks from a female bartender mixing cocktails behind the counter of a trendy bar ; Shutterstock ID 1131328592; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHmavo/Shutterstock

Don’t Name Drop

“I’m going to treat you well regardless of who you know,” says Stephan Jurgovan, bar manager at Band of Bohemia in Chicago. “If you sit down and immediately start blurting out who you know or where you work, this is what I am hearing: ‘What do I get for free?'”

Tabitha Britt
Tabitha earned her master's degree in Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism from the The New School. She enjoys writing about food, fashion, and other lifestyle topics (especially potato-related news). In her spare time, she likes to check out hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Brooklyn, try out weird new foods, and drink a ridiculous amount of coffee.

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