5 Surefire Ways to Piss Off Your Bartender, According to Bartenders
The consumption of alcohol has been America’s go-to stress-release method/crippling societal problem since its nascent days. This predilection for the sauce has produced a massive business centered around providing sufficiently dark spaces to imbibe in after a grueling work week, and with them, a profession marked by an open ear and quick hand with a swizzle stick. A bartender can make or break the quality of an entire bar, no matter how many cool tin signs or carefully curated playlists the owner can come up with.
Given that your local bartender is heavily in charge of the direction of your night and access to the fluids you crave, it’s always in your best interest to be a patron they don’t dislike. Now, if you’re someone who thinks it’s a dead-end, skill-less job that should be honored to serve you as a supplicant, you’re likely beyond help. Continue explaining to embarrassed last dates that “tipping is optional” and enjoy your spit-based cocktails. For the rest of us, we’re out here trying not to become the villain at our local watering hole.
With that in mind, I asked some experienced bartenders about orders that are a quick one-way ticket to a protruding forehead vein. It should be noted that most of them said that they were happy to make whatever a customer wants — there’s just a few orders that either serve as a warning sign, or they’d much rather were something else entirely.
Anything You Order Like An Asshole
Before we get into any particular recipes, one consistent refrain was that it’s not always what you order, but how you order it. Of course, it’s understood not to curse out anybody and to tip, but there’s some other twists that are a quick way to furrow a brow. One bartender called out what they considered the “non-drink,” when, after desperately flagging the bartender down as if they’ve crawled directly out of the desert sun, they want to know things like, “What do you like to make?” Or: “I don’t know what goes good with tequila.” Especially at a busy bar, your very first foray into the world of tequila might be better handled by Google.
There’s also a couple “classic” “funny” quips that are better left in your brain, like the classic “and make it strong,” which, ironically, seems like a good way to greatly diminish both the alcohol in that drink and your access to subsequent ones. There was also a specific reference to “a beer and a smile from you,” which the bartender added happens, “I shit you not, regularly.”
At least three of the bartenders I talked to bemoaned the mojito, mostly due to the screeching halt the finding, fetching and muddling of fresh mint brings the entire bar’s operation to. One said, “It’s so much work, and they’re not even that good.” Flavored mojitos seemed to be even a step further, as no busy bartender has much interest in assembling an improvised fruit salad while other customers are waiting, another explaining, “If someone asks what flavor mojitos we have, I immediately hate them.” Another put it more succinctly: “Mojito, I gotta find mint and crush it up, go fuck yourself.”
They added frozen drinks, which do reside in the realm of the mojito in energy, “anywhere outside of a beach bar.” Another bemoaned the popularity of frozen drinks resulting in people expecting things like daiquiris to always come in fruity Slurpee form, having made many a daiquiri (rum, lime, simple syrup) only to have it sent back when it’s not an umbrella-topped iceberg.
One constant it seems is that trying to impress your bartender with your esoteric drink knowledge is more than likely going to backfire. One bartender had harsh words for attempts at twists on the classics: “The trend of subbing out alcohol in a Manhattan and Negroni for tequila or mezcal is gross and does not improve any drink. There is a reason these drinks have lasted 100-plus years.” Another proposed a punishment for self-styled mixologists, “A drink the customer has made up that they’ve named after themselves. That should be automatic community service for a year.”
He also provided a brief rant on what he considered the ultimate try-hard drink, the Vesper: “It’s a bad drink — three parts gin, one part vodka. That’s an insane ratio. Plus Lillet, which most bars don’t refrigerate, so it’s oxidized. It was famously created by Ian Fleming (who wrote James Bond), a guy who was not a bartender. Pretty sure he looked at his bar cart when he was stuck and made it up without trying it. It’s scientifically bad. There is no way of making three parts gin and one part vodka taste pleasant, yet the worst type of dude keeps ordering them as if they’re doing me a favor or as if I’m impressed that they discovered a made-up drink.”
It’s one thing to muddle mint when it’s at least for a storied cocktail like the Mojito. It’s a whole other thing to be saddled with a labor-intensive process to produce something that comes straight off a TGI Fridays menu. One bartender called out Mudslides, and shared my confusion that anyone is ordering those anywhere that doesn’t have required uniform flair, especially at upscale locations: “It’s a blended chocolatey creamy drink. No one has made one since the 1990s. But I’ve been asked a handful of times.”
Shirley Temples were also singled out, particularly because, as one bartender explained, “It’s a cocktail, but because it’s non-alcoholic, people think it’s a soda and generally don’t tip well.” The equally saccharine spread of “weird shots” like lemon drops, kamikazes and the like were also grumble-inducing, as I can imagine putting other orders on hold to make a series of sippy cups is not a bartender’s favorite use of their time.
Long Island Iced Teas
Finally, we look at the undisputed king, a drink that has such a reputation that every mention of it was preceded by either an “obviously” or an “I’m sure every single person has already told you this, but…”: That messy, disgusting, sick-brown night ruiner, the Long Island Iced Tea. Not for its difficulty or inconvenience, but generally, for the red flags asking someone to mix gin, vodka, rum and tequila in a single glass raises. A sampling of the (many) negative opinions:
- “It’s five different liquors, it’s gross. If you order it, you probably got in the bar illegally.”
- “Because I don’t touch mops.”
- “You better bet your bottom dollar that ‘I won’t throw up in the sink’ drink is gonna get a stiff upcharge.”
The Ramos Gin Fizz was a close second.
A universally agreed upon pain in the ass, heavily due to the inclusion of texturized egg whites, but one that’s rarely seen, like an obnoxious Bigfoot. If you are truly in this world to cause pain, though, it will absolutely ruin a night.
Thanks to contributing bartenders Jericho, Sean, Sam, Margot, Channing, Daniel, Andrew, Eddie, Alex and Gus.