How to get treated like a bartender
May 22nd, 2014
07:00 AM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

A few weeks ago I was sitting at a bar when they announced last call. Service stopped. Twenty minutes later, two bartenders I know came rolling in. “Oh, man, the bar is closed,” I said. “Last call doesn’t apply to bartenders,” my friend replied. Sure enough, the guy behind the bar sprang into action for them.
Since then, I’ve become obsessed with getting bartender treatment. And I found the perfect team to help.
Meet some key ladies from Speed Rack. The raucous all-girls bartending competition, where women make drinks at lightning-fast speed and judges pick the winner, isn’t just an awesome party: It also raises money to fight breast cancer ($160,000 so far). Miss Speed Rack USA 2014 is Caitlin Laman of Trick Dog in San Francisco (big applause); Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix are the Speed Rack founders (more applause). I asked them for help.

What’s the best way to get a bartender’s attention?

Lynnette Marrero: The wrong way is snapping your fingers, yelling or any other disruptive activity. The people who stand out are the ones who look ready to order, and have their card out ready to start their tab.

Ivy Mix: Smile and try to make eye contact. Do not whistle or wave your hands over your head like a lunatic. The calm person who looks nice and smiles is surely going to get better service than that impatient anxious guy who just needs his drink!
What’s the best way to make a bartender be your friend?

Caitlin Laman: Be nice. We are likely overworked and under-slept. Additionally, anyone that makes me laugh heartily gets serious points.

Mix: Just be nice and accommodating. And—talk to us! In the age of the smartphone, it’s become a rather lonely job, where people at the bar just stare into their LCD screens. If anybody starts chatting—about anything—at my bar, to me, it makes my day.

What’s the best thing to order in a fancy bar so you don’t sound like an idiot?

Laman: A daiquiri or gimlet if you want something citrusy and slightly refreshing. An old-fashioned, Manhattan or Negroni if you want something boozy and slow-sipping. These are great, go-to classic cocktails that bartenders love to make. But don’t be afraid to order beer or wine at a cocktail bar. Relax, and drink what you want.

What’s the best thing to order in a dive bar, besides beer?

Marrero: I order a gin and soda with extra limes (or lemons, during the lime crisis).
Mix: I always go white wine spritzer. Delicious, refreshing and exceptionally hard to mess up. Or Campari and soda.

What do you do if you don’t like your drink?

Laman: I may get some flack from my peers here, but you shouldn’t drink it. In San Francisco, you pay anywhere from $9 to $13 for a cocktail; in New York City, up to $20. You should enjoy your drink. That said, don’t just blindly order. Ask us what we think you’ll like—that’s what we’re here for. We want you to come back and hang with us (provided you were nice); you’re less likely to do that if you’re paying for a cocktail that you don’t want to drink.

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Best Cocktail Bars in the U.S.
Best Speakeasies and Cocktail Lounges
Best Bar Food in the U.S.
Best New Bars in the U.S.

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A life in waiting
Give a snarky quip (and no tip) and thy receipt shall end up on the internet

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Filed under: Bars • Content Partner • Etiquette • Food and Wine • Service • Sip

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. janetwillson213

    Learned a lot about this. I will try to follow. But I dont know how I behave when I am drunk too much.. hahaha..

    September 10, 2014 at 11:01 am |
  2. miscreantsall

    Stupid article!!!

    Be ready to order and pay!!!!!!!!!

    If the bartender is male and you are a beautiful female you will be attended to first……….everyone else will wait!

    If the bartender is female and you are an attractive and polite male you will be attended to first………everyone else will wait!!!

    And that's the truth!!!!!!!

    May 24, 2014 at 11:20 am |
  3. Nicole

    Her answers were way off! How do you get the bartenders attention? Put your money in the air. Big misconception, bartenders don't want to be your friend but they might be your buddy. Dive bar is not a good term, most neighborhood bars are frequented by regulars who take care of their bartenders. Jason hit it on the head, don't flirt and TIP!!!

    May 24, 2014 at 12:35 am |
  4. Jason

    All of their answers were WRONG. New York. Tip. NEVER ask what they like (or worse "What's good?"). TIP a LOT. Do not waste their time and yours flirting/trying to make them laugh. TIP A LOT. A DAQUIRI? Order 2 ingredient drinks MAX (Vodka Soda, Gin and Tonic, Rum and Coke). TIP A LOT.

    May 23, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
    • Lemme Guess...

      You're a bartender. In New York. And you want tips.

      May 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
    • Jim

      I'll order what I like, and tip according to the service rendered. Sorry but I'm the customer and the bartender is there to serve me, not the other way around. Don't like that? I'll take my money elsewhere.

      May 23, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
      • bldrrepublican

        "I'll take my money elsewhere"

        And that's just exactly what you'll need to do with a slightly arrogant attitude like you have. You'll spend more money AND time in covercharge/parking/fuel than simply waiting and knowing precisely what you want...

        May 24, 2014 at 12:36 pm |
    • thegambino

      Yeah...if I'm going to tip a LOT, then I am going to ask for the drink of my choosing even if it exceeds 2 ingredients. I certainly would be aware of situations where the bartender might have a line wrapped around the bar, but if it's just me in line or maybe one or two people behind me, then a multi-ingredient cocktail is not out of the question or unreasonable. What do you want, a $10 tip for throwing a shot of vodka in with a glass of cranberry juice? Get over it already.

      May 23, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
  5. Juergen

    Sot and a beer in a dive bar. Depending the selection, maybe a vodka on the rocks with a piece of lemon.

    Manhattan where you think they could make a good one.

    Asking a bartender what I should drink is counter intuitive. Shows them you're a dummy.

    May 23, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
  6. LastCall

    So how do you get "treated like a bartender" and served after last call? I thought that was the point of the article...

    May 23, 2014 at 11:55 am |
  7. Leslie Anne


    May 23, 2014 at 8:48 am |
  8. JellyBean

    Nice read, thank you. The dive bars I've been to serve draft beer and simple shots.

    May 23, 2014 at 8:02 am |
  9. Sapphire

    Common misconception: dive bar = hole in the wall. Such is not the case.

    May 23, 2014 at 6:43 am |
    • Ally

      I would include hole-in-the-wall bars as a part of the dive bar category. From urban dictionary: A well-worn, unglamorous bar, often serving a cheap, simple selection of drinks to a regular clientele.

      May 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
  10. Carn E. Vore

    Gin & soda and a white wine spritzer in a "dive" bar? I'd bet $200 neither of these two have ever been in a real dive bar.

    May 22, 2014 at 10:35 pm |
  11. Ally

    Any of the "dive" bars around me are no place to order wine. It's tough to find a dive without an open bottle collecting dust for a few weeks. You don't want 'that' glass of wine.

    May 22, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
  12. Vic


    May 22, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
  13. pmmarion

    I go to a "dive" bar. My local VFW. Finest kind of people there. Don't order anything fancy. Most patrons drink beer. Me I like Bourbon and 7 $2.5. Beer on tap is $2, bottle (no cans) beer $2.5, Top shelf $3.25 to $6 depending. My VFW has a local liqueur license so the public is welcome. It is truly a place where "Everybody knows your name."

    May 22, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
  14. Jeff

    White wine spritzer or gin in a dive bar? I think my definition of dive bar and their definitions are two different things. Any dive bar I've been to, either of those things would get you at best a very quizzical look, and at worst get you laughed out of the place...

    May 22, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
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