10 Things Your Bartender Wishes You’d Stop Doing

Updated: Jul. 18, 2022

You want to keep your bartender happy! Here's what to avoid doing.

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Close up details of barman pouring vodka cosmopolitan cocktail in martini glass;
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Going out for a night on the town? We’re all about these classic cocktails. But keep in mind that while you’re having fun with your friends, some things you’re doing at the bar may not be so fun for your bartender. To be a good patron, stop doing these 10 things when you’re at your favorite watering hole. Your bartender will thank you!

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Man with drunk face sit alone at bar counter. Hipster holds glass with alcoholic drink and money, ordering more drinks.
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Waving Cash at Them

You may have heard that showing cash gets you served faster, but it’s not usually the case.

“In a busy bar, the bartender is keeping a mental tally of who’s next,” explains longtime bartender Ian Cliffe, who’s worked in both New York City and Milwaukee. “Look for eye contact or the nod—your bartender will let you know they see you.”

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Barman hands pouring a lager beer in a glass.
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Asking for a “Beer”

You’d be surprised at the number of people who go to the bar and simply ask for “a beer.” Since the vast majority of bars have more than one beer choice, you’re going to need to be a touch more specific. To help you out, here’s the best craft beer from all 50 states.

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Female bartender pouring cocktail drink in the glass at bar counter
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Asking “What Do You Really Do?”

Some patrons assume bartending is a side gig, but for many, it’s a serious full-time job. That’s why asking questions like “What do you really do?” can be rude.

“Sure, some bartenders are working through school,” says Cliffe. “But don’t risk insulting your bartender’s career choice.” And who knows? You may even be insulting the owner.

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Leftover food after party
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Putting Your Napkin in an Empty Glass

It might seem like you’re helping, but it’s tough for bartenders to fish soggy napkins from the bottom of a glass. “Please, leave the napkin on the bar/table,” says Cliffe. You don’t want to tear up labels or coasters, either.

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Expert barman is making cocktail at night club.
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Sending Back “Weak” Drinks

Most drinks call for precise measurements, and your bartender knows exactly how much alcohol it’s supposed to have. (You can master mixed drinks, too.) For a stronger drink, it’s best to ask for a double or an extra shot.

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Portrait of female bartender mixing a cocktail drink in cocktail shaker at counter
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Hitting on Them

It’s no surprise that most bartenders don’t appreciate being asked out while they’re working. If you really had a connection, wait until it’s slow or the end of the night, be polite and accept “no” for an answer. (Be sure to leave a nice tip!)

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Group of friends are in a bar celebrating on of the women's birthdays.
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Asking for Free Drinks on Your Birthday

“If you’re a regular, you will probably get something,” Cliffe explains. “And if the bar you are in is a ‘birthday bar,’ definitely ask! But if it’s not your regular spot or a birthday bar, I’ll probably smile and say, ‘Oh, happy birthday.'”

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bearded man in crowded bar watching something
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Ignoring Greetings

“I’m not sure how a greeting translates to, ‘What can I getcha?’ but it inevitably does,” says Cliffe. “In a busy bar, take this as a clue that the bartender knows you are there and will come take your order soon.”

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Bloody Mary Cocktail
Shutterstock / Ramon L. Farinos

Eating from the Garnish Tray

You really don’t want to put your fingers directly in the fruit tray. It’s unsanitary and sure to annoy your bartender and the other patrons. But you can always ask for extra olives!

(Psst… Here are 10 things that bug your restaurant host.)

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Colorful cocktail on top of the bar in Italian restaurant.
Shutterstock / Arina P Habich

Ordering Your Group’s Drinks One by One by One…

When you’re ordering for a group, try to order all your drinks at once. “This is important in a busy bar,” says Cliffe. “Bartenders know the best way to get two Old Fashioneds, a couple drafts and a gin and tonic made as quickly as possible.”