In recent days, we’ve talked a great deal about bartender/customer etiquette. There’s a right way and a very wrong way to do things when it comes to respecting your local bartenders and servers. Everyone can agree that screaming “bartender!” is a really bad look. So is pounding on a table. Or waving money (especially in nominal denominations!).
Thankfully, there are a handful of great options to guarantee you don’t go thirsty (and you don’t look like a jerk). Steven Staney, general manager of Sombra Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi likes to keep it as simple as possible. He says that customers should stick with the old tried and true.
“Raising a hand and keeping it raised works,” he says. “It’s an easy way of signifying that the guest needs something.”
Meanwhile, Christian Clotter, bartender at The Chester in New York City, has a great example of what not to do.
“One time, I had a bar guest actually throw a lime wedge at me to get my attention,” he says. “So… I guee that works too.”
It’s not a particularly fine line between throwing a piece of citrus and patiently holding your arm aloft. Still, we wanted to give you options, so we decided to ask some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the best ways to get their attention.
Ask About Interests
Alexander Carlin, beverage director of Infuse Hospitality in Chicago
I love when people ask about what I’m passionate about outside of the industry. Let’s talk about Bon Iver’s new album, or what’s on exhibit at the MOCA, or cereal. Also- origami. That stuff is hard!
Smile At The Bartender
Miki Nikolic, bartender at The Double Dealer in New Orleans
I’m a simple man. My favorite customers smile when they order a drink, remain patient while I’m making it, and say thank you when I set it on the bar.
Show Them Respect
Cody Henson, beverage director at The Alida in Savannah, Georgia
Just walk in the door and be respectful. Be respectful to the staff and to the other people at the bar. We’re all here to have a good time.
Have A Good Attitude
Hjalmar de Boer, food and beverage manager at Conrad New York Midtown in New York City
Be friendly and nice to your bar/restaurant staff. They work on the days no one else wants to work, for most, it’s their passion and they are proud of it, and, too often, patrons look down on hospitality staff. Who knows? If you are nice and friendly, the next round may be on me.
Hold Cash, Don’t Wave It
Allie Pochodzilo, bartender at The Chester in New York City
Cash. *Laughs* “Anyone holding out cash is sure to get a bartender’s attention. Additionally, if they are being patient, smiling, and maintaining eye contact without staring too hard; to me, this seems like a patron who will be a quick and pleasant interaction.
Have Positive Body Language
Sophie Burton, beverage director at Politan in Chicago
It’s about open, positive body language. If I see a customer smiling, I usually really want to get to them. Bars can be chaotic, noisy, and, on occasion, negative spaces, but seeing someone having a nice time, smiling, happy to be there – that sort of vibe is so welcome. When you smile, the world smiles with you.
Ask For Lesser-Known Spirits
Kieran Chavez, beverage director at Boqueria in New York City
I love when guests ask for a specific, lesser-known spirit. This usually clues me in to someone who is genuinely interested and appreciates quality cocktails. Everyone asks for Hendrick’s or Sapphire. Ask me for something more distinct. Ask me for rum other than Bacardi, and let’s get talking.
Casual Head Nod
Olivia Duncan, bar director at Galit in Chicago
In a positive light, they can always get my attention with a casual head nod. I get it, they get it. I’ve acknowledged them, and they me. I will be there as soon as I am able. In a negative light, by snapping, or yelling to me or our bartenders. This is a way to get my attention for sure, but it is generally a bad move, as it shows a lack of respect for the bar and its employees.
Zachary Blazek, general manager at Commons Club in Chicago
Patiently waiting, with payment and ID ready, and make appropriate eye contact (don’t stare me down). I’ll for sure notice you and if you aren’t next, I can let you know I’m coming right back to you. Any sort of waving, tapping, shouting is a deterrent. Standing with your back to the bar, singing with friends, and then turning around expecting a drink doesn’t work.
Natasha DeHart, founder and master blender of BENDT Distilling Company in Lewisville, Texas
Patrons can smile, say hello, acknowledge the presence of their server or bartender. Those are all amazing ways to get service.
Ask How The Bartender Is Doing
Daniel Sedora, bartender at Time Out Market in Miami
I could not express more gratitude towards a guest that asks me how I’m doing today. It’s just amazing. Kindness and manners go such a long way and those who express them make it better.
Make Eye Contact
Andrew Lamkin, lead mixologist at The Alex Speakeasy in Washington, DC
A smile and eye contact go a long way. When I’m on the rooftop bar and its three or four deep, the calm and collected (pleasant) person is going to get a drink before the hyped-up, credit card waving bro. If you’re on your speakerphone and want my attention, you might just want to palm me 50 bucks. Forgiveness comes at a price.
Learn A Bartender’s Name
Alex Pendergrass, bartender at Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island
The best way to get the attention of any bartender is to use their name. This can’t always be achieved when visiting new bars, but I like to ask another team member – server, busser, manager. It makes that much more of an impact on you as a service professional and is the best way to get their attention during the rush.
Just Be Kind
Leah Stumbo, bar manager at Bar Moxy in Nashville
By being kind. It’s oftentimes the simplest acts, it can feel like people forget that bartenders are real people doing their jobs and appreciate kindness.