Q. Will this lesson help me get a bartending job?

A. Yes. Absolutely. All of these common questions and statements from your bar customers happen on a daily basis. Having a general idea of what you’re going to be asked during a routine shift can be quite helpful.

Q. Will any of this stuff be brought up during the interview?

A. Probably. The interviewer could ask you any number of questions concerning the below. Yes, you’re inexperienced, but you might be asked a couple of things about this stuff just to get you talking and see how you would react to different situations.

You’re going to get some doozies. Questions from your customers, that is. Or some really strange statements. Believe it or not – it gets fun. You might get tired of the same old questions, but experienced bartenders know how to handle them perfectly.

You can do a search on YouTube and find all kinds of people doing interviews and providing lists of what customers will say to bartenders. I think those lists are great – and funny. But how should you, really, respond to these questions or statements?

It’s one thing to just give you a list of these questions. It’s another to provide professional answers and solutions. I’ll hook you up here.

Experienced bartenders develop their own “style” when answering these questions. You are not an experienced bartender! You should probably concentrate on giving a polite, professional answer – and stay out of trouble. At first. So, that is what I am going to focus on here in this lesson. Down the road, with a little experience, you’ll get really good at this!

In all honesty, many of the responses that I’m going to suggest that you use ARE NOT RESPONSES THAT I WOULD USE! From many years of experience, I (and all experienced bartenders), have developed really good ways of effectively answering these questions. Through experience, you’ll be able to evaluate the “real” reason many of your customers ask these questions – and respond appropriately.

What I have done here is list all of the questions and statements and then provide a good response that you should stick with if asked about that particular situation during the interview. Simply use a slight variation of what I suggest and you’ll be in safe territory. Or, use the responses word-for word – but don’t sound robotic!

Let me be perfectly clear: The bar’s “House Policy” will dictate how you respond to many of these questions and statements. Until you become very familiar with how the bar owner wants you to react, remember to keep it simple and professional. Follow my examples of how to respond to these questions and you’ll be just fine.

And, don’t forget, the type of bar you’re working at will also dictate the tone of your answers!

One last thing: I know that some experienced bartenders are going to take this course – or get their hands on it somehow. Bartenders will argue all day long about how to respond to all of this stuff. There are tons of responses – some very different from what I’m going to reveal. That’s OK – but understand that you are a very new, inexperienced bartender. Stick with the professional response for now – that’s what the interviewer is looking for.

Let’s get going here. I think I’m up to over 100 of these, and they are in no particular order. Believe it or not, I have personally heard almost all of these! At this time, I am going to give only a “professional” response to these customer questions and statements. Maybe down the road I’ll add in how a really experienced bartender in a crazy busy bar would possibly respond. Funny stuff.

That idiot spilled my drink – can I get a new one?

This happens all the time. Someone spilling someone else’s drink – and the customer asking for a new one. You really have no choice here but to replace the spilled drink. You’ll get used to the “usual suspects” whom this seems to happen to all the time.

House policy will dictate what you’re supposed to do. Most bars will allow you to replace the drink at no cost. The bar owner sets this policy – and you better know it!

“Oh no! Sorry about that, buddy, what were you drinking?”

You want to see my ID? Are you serious?

This usually comes from someone who turned 21 in the last year or so. Resist the urge to put them in their place, and stay professional. I’m not even go to tell you how I, personally, would respond to this!

The response here is fairly simple: “Yes I am, young man! We ID everyone who looks younger than 40.”

What’s Cheap?

You’ll get this a lot. Really, this customer really doesn’t know what they want. And, admittedly, they’re cheap. Again, stay professional and offer them maybe something on special at the bar that night.

“I make a great margarita, and they are on special tonight – $3.00. I’d be happy to whip one of those up for you!”

Are you kidding me? This bar doesn’t have Corona Lite?

Probably a demanding sort of customer, and believes that since Corona Lite is his favorite beer – everyone should like it and bars should carry it. Get used to this – it could be a certain type of whiskey or red wine that they call for.

“I’m very sorry, sir, but we do not carry Corona Lite. We have regular Corona – or would you care for a Bud Lite?”

Can you make me a fun drink?

Tall Green and Orange Cocktails

This type of customer simply doesn’t know what they want, and, in my opinion, are happy to be “out and about” enjoying themselves.

Experienced bartenders hate this question, and come up with some really great answers – many of them not so nice. Stay professional.

“I sure can! One of our most popular drinks is a house specialty – the “Roaring Red Drink.” If you’re looking for fun, this is the drink to have!” I know this sounds a bit cheesy, but that’s what you’re dealing with here.

Can you turn down the music?

Bartenders may or may not have control over the music volume levels. Either way, the bar manager knows what the proper level should be. Hopefully. Simply saying, “I don’t have any control over that,” is a bit rude – and doesn’t solve the issue.

Try this: “Yes, it does seem to be a bit loud, but most of our customers tend to like that volume. I’ll have the manager take a closer look” That’s it.

I’ll have a gin and tonic with 5 limes.

This is something that you’ll also get a lot of. Extra pineapple slices, 4 olives, a napkin with a handful of cherries. Ugh.

Go with the flow here. If it’s not outrageous – go ahead and comply. Sometimes the bar manager will address this situation in the “House Policies.” Experienced bartenders have some really great responses, but you, as a new bartender, need to stay professional and follow the policy.

I’ve observed bartenders do some really crazy things here: charge them more for the drink, short pour them just because they ticked them off, or simply say, “No dice, buddy! Lemons are expensive these days!”

“Coming right up!” Or simply throw the manager under the bus with something like “The bar manager has put a limit of only two extra cherries per drink.”

Jack and Coke. Make it strong.

Another thing that you’ll get all the time. These customers are simply playing the big shot – trying to impress the people around them. The problem is, many bartenders fall for this and DO make it stronger than normal. Don’t do it! I won’t tell you what I would do.

A good answer: “Strong is my middle name, Buddy!” Of course, you’re going to pour as you normally do.

The key here is to know what the house policy is – and what your fellow bartenders are doing in this situation. You’ll get that down pat after only a few shifts.

Experienced bartenders can get over the top in this type of situation. Personally, I had numerous responses to these requests. Some not very professional – but truly satisfying!

Side Note: Resist the urge to “short pour” these customers or give a rude answer. I go over short-pouring and over-pouring in the previous Section: House Policies. As a new bartender, you have to be nice. There will be plenty of time to develop your own “style.”

“We pour a very good drink here, sir, and all of us bartenders make them the same way. I can certainly pour you a stronger drink – but it will double the cost of the drink.”

I used to be a bartender.

Yep. You’re going to wait on a lot of “ex-bartenders.” Most of the time, this is just a harmless statement, and your customer is trying to establish some comradery. Break the ice, so to speak. Go with the flow.

Keep it simple:

“Nice! Did you enjoy it?” Or, “Used to be? Why would you ever quite bartending?”

Is this your real job?

Many experienced bartenders take this as an insult. It may be, sometimes, but it could also be simple curiosity. Always take the high road!

“Yes it is. I’ve been bartending for three years now and just love it.”

Experienced bartenders have a field day with this. Eventually, you’ll come up with some really good answers.

Surprise me!

This is an indecisive customer – but very agreeable. However, NEVER just “surprise them.” Always make a suggestion – and then make the drink.

I fell for this a couple of times very early in my bartending career – never again! Too many times they won’t like the drink – and demand something else.

“I make a great strawberry margarita – how about one of those?”

Beer me!

Regular costumers will shout this out all the time. Beer them! You know what they drink, so just go with the flow.

Personally, I have never found this irritating, and really don’t understand why some bartenders have issues with this. Of course, if you do not know the customer, and have no idea what kind of beer they prefer, ask them, “What flavor, Dude?”

*Side Note: Refrain from calling customers “Sport.” They don’t like it. I don’t like it. I don’t know why – it is what it is.

“You got it, John!” Or, “Draft Sam Adams OK?” Or, for your really good, regular customers, “Warm, in a dirty glass?”

Do you have any diet drinks?

I don’t get this question too much any more. It’s my understanding that vodka is the lowest calorie alcohol at around 100 calories per 1 1/2 ounces. Stick with that.

Stay professional, and avoid any insulting responses. You know what I mean. Unless it’s your buddies or regular customers trying to get a rise out of you.

The answer, of course, “We certainly do – how about a Michelob Ultra?” Or, “How a bout a vodka diet coke? That’s only about 100 calories.”

Can you make me something without any calories?

This question always threw me. Really? You’re out and about, in a bar, and you want a zero calorie drink? The reality is, you can make some pretty good suggestions here.

Again, resist the urge to say something smarta**. Think about how you can help both the customer – and the bar. Please – avoid saying something like, “Water has no calories!” You can always come up with something you can charge for.

“Sure, how about a cherry New York Selzer? There’s no alcohol in it, but it sure is tasty – and no calories!” Or, “How about a bottle of Perrier?”

Can you make me something good?

Another question that drives experienced bartenders nuts. I have overheard bartenders respond with some really good, not-so-nice answers here. Hilarious stuff.

Stay professional, and stick with the basics:

“I sure can! How about Stoli martini on the rocks? We sell a ton of those!” Or, “We have one of our most popular drinks on special right now – the Flugelbinder Spritz. How about one of those?”

Do you know how to make a martini?

This question is probably coming from one of your buddies. You know what to do there. However, believe it or not, many of your customers are simply not familiar with bars and how they work. This is normal.

Of course, you could be dealing with a real smarta** here. Experienced bartenders can sniff that out in a millisecond. A good response:

“I make a great Absolute martini. How about one of those, on the rocks, with a couple of olives?”

Are there any calories in Brandy?

The answer, of course, is YES! There’s about 100 calories in 1 1/2 ounces of brandy.

Your customer many be on some sort of diet – or simply watching their sugar intake which is very common these days (In which case, I don’t know why they would order brandy!) Be nice and try to be helpful.

“Yes, there’s about 100 calories in a shot of brandy. I like brandy, and usually drink it with plain soda to keep the calories down.”

Did you go to college?

Did you? Answer honestly. This can be tricky, as sometimes you’ll get that customer who is trying to belittle you by asking this question. It usually comes from someone young and currently in college. Or, one of your regular customers or buddies trying to give you a hard time. Give it back.

Ask for their ID again. No, I’m kidding. Stick with being upbeat and answer the question honestly – you can’t go wrong. Here again, experienced bartenders get really creative with this.

“I sure did. Got a degree in engineering. How about you?” Answering with something like this will lead to a lively conversation.

Hey Dude. You take care of me and I’ll take care of you.

You’ll get this a lot. Basically, the customer has no idea how a bar operates. Or, they’ve had success with this request in the past with dishonest, unscrupulous bartenders. Or, they’re an overbearing ass****.

Either way, you need to know how to handle this situation – properly:

“We take good care of all of our customers here, sir.” Leave it at that. You know what’s he’s asking for. He knows what he’s asking for. You aren’t falling for it. Resist the urge to short-pour him!

Experienced bartenders have their own ways of dealing with this situation. I know I do. And, I’m not exactly “nice” about it. With experience, you’ll be able to analyze this customer quickly and provide the appropriate response.

Hey! (Snapping fingers or whistling)

Ugh. I know that experienced bartenders will simply look at the customer – and then ignore him. That’s what I usually do; however, you are not an experienced bartender, and if the interviewer asks you how you would handle this, simply say something like:

“I see you sir, and will be with you in a moment.” Leave it at that – for now.

Can you make me something sweet?

Five Colorful Cocktails in Different Glasses

This is a very common question, and, yes, we can certainly make you something sweet. Try to take this question as a simple request. Remember that many people simply are not familiar with how a bar works – or what it offers.

Or, they’re not used to drinking and may only be in the bar with their friends or waiting for a table in the dining room. Many people are just not drinkers, so you have to help them out a bit.

“I sure can! How about a Pina Colada? It’s made with plenty of pineapple juice and coconut and is very sweet.”

I brought four people here tonight. How about a free drink?

You’ll get many variations of this question. Get used to it. You will have customers that are constantly trying to get a free drink from you. Or free food. Or expect you to over-pour for them. Don’t fall for it.

“Nice try, buddy! We’re really glad you enjoy the bar enough to bring people here, but we’re not allowed to give out free drinks. I’d like to give everyone a free drink every time they come in here – but you know the deal.”

This is my fourth drink. Isn’t the fourth one free?

This is just another way to torment the bartender and try to get a freebie. Again, don’t fall for it. Always smile, and say something witty. Besides, they’re probably just joking around.

“I wish! In fact, maybe the policy should be a freebie for every third drink! I’ll have to talk to the manager about that!”

Are You single?

Yep. Everyone who has worked behind the bar will get this question. A lot.

Just smile and answer the question honestly. Experienced bartenders have some really good comebacks for this, but you should keep it professional and simple when you first start bartending.

For those of you looking for hook-ups, you know what to do.

A good response: “Not at this time – I have a wonderful girlfriend.” Or, something like, “I’ve been happily married for many years now – and love it!”

Did you go to bartending school?

Not a real common question – but you will be asked this now and then. It usually comes from someone who is genuinely interested in becoming a bartender. Answer honestly and move on. You’ll probably get a follow-up question or two.

Of course, one of your buddies or regulars may ask this now and then just to be a smarta**. Or, the question comes from a real jerk trying to impress his date or jerk your chain.

“Yes, I did – many years ago. It really helped me get the basics down so I could get my first bartending job.”

What should I have?

Obviously, a very indecisive customer. Help them out. Experienced bartenders have some really good answers to this – stuff you shouldn’t use when you first start out. Or in the interview.

“Well….I can help you with that. Do you like beer or mixed drinks? I make a great frozen margarita – or, we have have Sam Adams draft on special right now. What’ll it be?” Remember that you’re there to help your customers make decisions. Be nice – and professional at all times.

What’s good?

Ouch. One of a bartenders’ most hated questions. Resist the urge to be a smarta**. Again, the response should be short and helpful.

“We have the best Apple Martini’s in town here. How about I whip one of those up for you?”

Hey man! Not a lot of ice, OK?

Another thing that you’ll get a lot. Stay calm and professional – and make the drink with about half the ice you normally would. DO NOT add extra alcohol! Again, experienced bartenders have come up with a lot of hilarious responses. Some not so nice.

This “gentleman” is probably trying to “clue you in” to make the drink stronger. Don’t fall for it. Of course, some people genuinely want less ice – knowing that the drink will be weaker overall – and they’re fine with it. With experience, you’ll easily be able to distinguish between these two types of people.

Assuming that it is a legitimate request, I always asked something like, “No problem – would you like it in a tall glass?”

You have to respond with something! Assuming that the customer is an arrogant pain, say something like, “Would you like your screwdriver in a short glass?” That makes them think.

Can you make me something fruity?

Answer this question like you would previous questions – polite and helpful.

“I sure can! I make a great Mai-Tai. Lots of fruit juices and garnishes.”

Is your fruit fresh?

Yep. You will get this once in a while. I have heard some really funny responses to this. Stay professional. And, keep an eye on the quality of your garnishes!

“It sure is! Cut it myself an hour ago.”

My son is thirsty – do you have any apple juice?

Apple juice seems to be the preferred drink for “out and about” parents with their kids. I guess it’s healthier. Comply, of course, unless your bar does not carry apple juice. Obviously, you’re working at a bar (or section of the bar), that allows parents with kids to be in there.

“You sure can! Would you like me to add a cherry to it?”

If your bar does not carry apple juice (or any other product asked for), always offer an alternative.

How much should I tip you?

A somewhat curious question. And weird. However, the question may be coming from a tourist or someone from another country. You just never know.

“If my service met your expectations, then the normal amount is 15 – 20 percent.”

Or, “whatever you want, Dude.” Which is what I hear from other bartenders – but doesn’t really answer the question, does it? Note that the customer is asking a specific question here, so response #1 above is probably best.

If it’s coming from a smart*** regular or one of your buddies: “You should be leaving your car with me as a tip for all the crap I have to put up with.”

I know the owner.

You’ll get this once in a while. Context is important here. You may be in the middle of a conversation with the customer and it just happens to pop up. “Yeah, I was in here the other day and met Bob the owner. He seems like a nice guy.” Harmless.

On the other hand…

You will get people playing the “big shot” role and try to influence your pouring habits – or whatever. Or, they’re trying to impress their companion.

A good response: “Nice! She’s a great gal, huh?” Short, sweet, professional. If this customer tries to influence your normal routines – don’t fall for it. Always be professional and follow house policy.

“I understand, sir, but we require all of our customers to provide their credit card before running a tab – and Bob has not informed me that you can run one without a credit card on file. I’m sure it’s OK, and if Bob wishes to comp your tab he can certainly adjust everything later.”

Will you please change the music?

If the music is coming from the house sound system, then, yes, it’s easy to change the music. You have no control over a jukebox, although I’ve known bartenders who send a regular customer over there and unplug it for a few seconds. Not that I would ever do that.

“Yes, we could liven things up a bit here. I’ll check with the manger and see what she can do.”

If you’re in a rockin’ nightclub with DJ’s – good luck controlling them!

I don’t see a coat check. Can you keep my coat back there behind the bar?

No. Of course, say it in a nice way. Unless you’re in some sort of fine-dining establishment or ritzy nightclub – there will probably NOT be a coat check. Bar owners DO NOT want to be responsible for people’s lost articles. Neither do bartenders.

“I’m very sorry, ma’am, but our policy specifically states that bartenders are not allowed to to safeguard our customers property. I know it’s a little cold out tonight, but might I suggest keeping it in your car?”

The above is not the very best solution, but more and more – bar owners are moving in this direction. Of course, some bars allow it – and it drives bartenders nuts. Follow House Policy.

I bet you drink a lot.

“I sure do. I start at 8:00 every morning and stop at bedtime.” Geeeezzzzz.

A good response: “I’ve been known to have a cocktail or two.” Leave it at that. The question is designed to knock you off your toes and get a response. Don’t fall for it and stay professional. Or, if you don’t drink – be honest and tell them that.

Unfortunately, bartenders have a reputation for drinking. Drinking a lot. Interestingly, in my personal experience, I have found that a good 50% of the bartenders I have worked with don’t drink at all – or drink rarely, and never behind the bar. And, in my very subjective opinion, I believe that less than 10% of the bartenders I knew and worked with throughout the years might have had a “problem.”

True Story:
I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating – in case you missed it.
During my twenties and into my early thirties, all I did during the day was surf and play basketball up and down the coast of Southern California and Mexico. Roller-blading, 2-man volleyball leagues, frisbees, etc. The beach scene.
At night I was bartending in raging, crazy nightclubs. I went from drinking almost every day (and, yes, behind the bar, too) in those years to never drinking behind the bar – to eventually not drinking at all by the time I was 36.
Life changes. Priorities change. Don’t fall into the trap that you have to drink. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH NOT DRINKING!

Have you seen that Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail?”

Or, “That’s not how they did it in that movie Cocktail!” Yuck. Surprisingly, I have heard this many times. I guess a lot of people watched that movie. I did – and loved it.

A good response: “I sure did – great movie!” Leave it at that and wait for follow-up questions. You’ll get them.

Side Note: I think “Cocktail” was a great movie. Their technical advisor also did a pretty good job. There’s a lot of things in that movie that perfectly depict the life of a bartender – and bar situations. And, there’s a few things that are a bit unrealistic. Overall, a great movie, and I have future plans to do a video “critiquing” all of the nonsense going on. Fun stuff.

What’s your Twitter handle? I’d like to follow you.

No. Of course, it’s your decision, and if you get along fine with the person, go ahead.

If not….

A good response. “I’m very sorry, but I keep my personal and professional lives separate.”

Or, “Sorry, but I’m not on Twitter.” You might then get a follow-up question about Facebook, Instagram or Tik-Tok – or something. It’s totally up to you.

Draw me one!

Kind of old-school, but you will get this – usually from your regular customers. Nothing wrong with this, and I have a hard time believing that it upsets my fellow bartenders.

A good response: “You got it!” Short and sweet. You’ll develop your own unique responses to this in good time.

What do you mean you have to hold my credit card?

This is not unusual at all. Remember that this person has probably never worked in the Food & beverage Industry. Or, they know fully well that almost all bars operate this way and they’re just being a pill. Be firm!

You have to be firm here. The bar’s House Policy will most likely REQUIRE you to get that credit card up front. Do it. No exceptions!

A good response: “Yes, our policy is to secure payment before starting any tabs. We do except cash if you prefer that.”

True story:
I had a bar customer one time flat out refuse to hand over his credit card – yet demanded I make him a round of drinks. His logic? He stated that he had had dinner at this bar and restaurant many times, and the food server never asked for his credit card until he was finished with his dinner. So, why did I now need his credit card up front?
When you think about it, it does make some sense. Anyway, I really thought that he was just jerking me around – but learned he was dead serious.
My response: “I see your point; however, ordering drinks in a busy bar is a bit different, and our House Policy specifically states that no tabs are allowed unless a credit card is on file.” Long story short – we went back and forth for a while until I tired of it. Threw the manager under the bus, and never saw the guy again. Later on, the manger came up to me and said, “Thanks a lot, Mark.” Oh well.

Hey! (Waving bill)

I absolutely hate this. So does every single bartender that I have ever known. It’s almost as bad as someone whistling or clapping to get my attention. Almost.

A good, professional response: “I see you, buddy, and will be with you in a moment.” Sometimes a look and a gesture works just as well.

I’m not even going to tell you what us experienced bartenders do in this situation. You’ll learn.

Can you make me something special?

This one always throws me. A special what?

The correct response, of course, is something like this: “I sure can! Our house specialty drink is a five-fruit Mai-Tai – and I’ll float a bit of Bacardi 151 on the top to really get you going.” Something like that.

Again, experienced bartenders have some really good comebacks. Stick with something like the response I recommended above and you’ll be just fine.

Don’t I look 21?

Probably one of the most common questions you’ll get from the early 20’s crowd. Or minors. Careful here, as I have found that a good percentage of times the person is a minor with a fake ID trying to charm and throw me off guard.

A good response: “You look very young. Either way, we make it a point to card everyone 40 and under.” Short and sweet.

I heard a bouncer say one time, “Dude – I card my grandmother when she comes here.” True story.

Really? You’re going to card me?

See the above. I’ll also mention that with customers like this – give that ID and extra-special look.

What’s good?

Ouch. Another question that bartenders absolutely hate. You’re simply dealing with an indecisive customer – or someone who is really not all that familiar with the bar scene.

This can be especially frustrating when you’re in the weeds. If I’m very busy, I’ll always suggest something that’s quick to make – but not real basic. Always.

“We make great Long Islands here. How about one of those?” Yeah, I know. You may say that this is not a quick, easy drink to make. Actually it is – all the liquor is right there in the well. And, it comes with the “premium” price tag.

Can you make me something fun?

To this day, this question probably confounds me the most. What does this even mean? Believe me, us experienced bartenders really get creative with our answers here.

“Sure – strong drinks are always fun. How about a Long Island Iced Tea?”

Why don’t you guys have a coat check?

Another question you’ll get a lot. No, we don’t have a coat check. There are a lot of variations to this question.,

Bar owners simply do not want to take responsibility for their customers personal property. Period. Neither should you.

Simply say something like, ” I’m very sorry, ma’am, but House Policy forbids us from caring for personal property. Might I suggest making a quick run to your car and keeping it there?”

Of course, they could have parked blocks away – and this answer really does no good at all. Keep it simple – but be firm.

Can you charge my phone for me?

No. This is another request where House Policy will dictate your response. Just be polite.

“I’m very sorry, sir, but we are not allowed to do that because of liability issues. It can get very wet back here, and I’d hate to ruin your phone!”

Will you watch my coat while I go to the restroom?

And just how are you able to do this? You’re busy, and have no time to watch over personal belongings. And, please, do not offer to keep it behind the bar while they’re away.

I might add that some Bar Owners have no problem with this. If there’s room, and a dry spot, they consider it good customer service. Go with the flow.

“I’m very sorry, sir, but as you can see I’m very busy and would hate for someone to walk by and grab your coat without me knowing. Are you here with a friend that could watch it for you?”

What is your favorite drink to make?

Ugh. Be polite and helpful.

“I guess that would be any type of margarita. We get a lot of compliments on those here, and they’re pretty easy to whip up.” Something like that.

Give me the cheapest beer you have!

Most bars will have two or three price points for bottled beer and the same for draft. Pick one – but make sure you let the customer know what you’re going to pour them. Draft beer is almost always cheaper than bottle beer.

“Our draft Coors Lite and Bud Lite are the cheapest beer we have at the time. How about one of those?”

Can you watch my purse while I’m on the dance floor?

This is the same as watching coats or phones. Don’t do it!

Will you take a picture of us?

I never had a problem with this – unless I was busy. I think that it’s just great customer service to snap a quick picture. Obviously, your customers, for whatever reason, are having a good time and want a memory. Go with the flow.

“I sure can! Take a couple steps to the right for some better light and I’ll get a good one of you!”

Or, “I’d be happy to – but can you give me a couple of minutes until I catch up? I’ll be with you in a moment.”

How come you’re not smiling?

All bartenders are guilty of this – me included. Sometimes we’re so busy and concentrating on the job at hand that we go into a zone. No worries.

On the flip side, many customers still don’t get it that you’re performing a service. this is your job. It’s tough for anyone to smile 24/7. However, if you get this comment a lot – maybe it’s time to evaluate your demeanor.

“You caught me! How’s this?”

I’m on his tab (pointing out to the north forty)

Never fall for this. Of course, you will have those couples (or groups), where they informed you up front that they want everything on one tab. That’s fine. However…

Bartenders will run across this type of situation quite often. Simply verify who is actually paying the bill (you should have their credit card on file behind the bar), and ask them if this is OK. Many times it is.

This can lead to those “Hey Dude! This can’t be my tab – I never ordered all of these drinks.” You don’t want that. Be very careful here, and verify everything.

Make it strong, Dude!

Another statement that you’ll hear all the time. You can handle this any number of ways, and it really depends upon the type of customer. Experienced bartenders know how to handle this, and context is everything. Sometimes the customer is just joking around. If it’s one of your Buddies – threaten to short pour them.

“All of our drinks are strong, my man!” Or, “Coming right up!”

I usually just ignore the request and pour the appropriate amount.

Don’t you know who I am?

“No, I don’t.” You really have to bite your tongue on this one. I always wanted to come back with something a little nasty (and sometimes did), but try and stay professional.

“No, I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced.”

“Mick Jagger?” “The Easter Bunny?”

What’s your Wi-Fi password?

There’s nothing wrong with this question. Wi-Fi is everywhere, and many bars now offer it free to their customers.

Just give them the password! Or, “I’m very sorry, but we do not have Wi-Fi here.” Simple.

Can I get your phone number?

Yep. You’ll get this a lot, and, for sure, don’t be afraid to say no. Hey, I get it – many of you are getting into this business for hook-ups. More power to you.

“Sorry, but I keep my personal and professional lives separate.”

Or, “My Mom won’t let me have a phone.” Experienced bartenders can be very creative.

Margarita. Make it weak.

Believe it or not, you’ll get many customers ask for a weak drink. They just don’t like the strong taste of alcohol – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or, they may be the designated driver.

Side Note: I word on “Designated Drivers.”

I have had customers come up to my and say that they want me to pour all of their drinks that night on the “short” side. Sure – no problem. Why? Maybe they’re driving, or, most likely, they’re really not drinkers and just want to play along with the crowd or their friends. To each their own.

True Story
At a busy nightclub I was working at, we had a very good regular customer named Patrick. He drank “tall” Bacardi Coke – two limes. Nice. He came in 3 or 4 times a week and wanted his first drink very strong. I’m talking REALLY strong. About 3 ounces.
He always stayed for a few hours and had multiple drinks. The thing is, he also wanted us to pour the rest of his drinks that night very weak. What did we do? We did exactly as he asked. Over the course of the night, and 6 – 8 drinks, his overall liquor consumption averaged less alcohol, per drink, than 6 – 8 regular pours.
My point? You’re going to get all kinds of unusual requests. If the bar’s House Policies permit it – go with the flow, and try to accommodate all of your customers.

You’re the bartender – it’s your choice!

There’s really nothing wrong with this request. I know that it bothers some experienced bartenders, but you just need to come up with a “pat” answer.

“That’s what I like to hear! How about a strawberry margarita on the rocks? We sell a ton of those.” Keep it simple, and what this really does is force the customer to make a decision. Most likely, they’ll then tell you exactly what they want.

Your music sucks! Can you change the channel?

I’ve always felt that if a customer hates the music that bad – they should go to another bar. But that’s just me. See what I have to say about this in the very next question.

Can you play a song for me?

“No, but I can sing one!” This question usually comes from someone a little “tipsy.” Or, they’re kind of new to the bar scene and just don’t understand how everything works. Or, they’re just trying to be a big shot.

And…you’ll get this a lot. Yes, a lot. Just be nice and professional – and at least give the impression that you’re taking their request seriously.

You’ll find that many of your customers frequent your bar based on the music playing. It’s a great way for the Bar Owner to help control what kind of customers he gets. Lots of controversy about this – and I’m not going to elaborate.

Most bars have either a jukebox or background music. Or live music. Or a DJ. Or karaoke. Sometimes it’s all of the above. It’s all over the place. Management controls the background music. Either direct them to the jukebox, or respond with something like…

“I’m very sorry, but our music is piped in from the managers office and it’s pretty well baked in as to what is played. I can, however, check with the manager and see if she can change it. What kind of music are you interested in?”

You’re really just being nice here. The manager is probably NOT going to change anything – but you performed your duties well! Again, experienced bartenders come up with some hilarious answers.

Why do you have that on the TV?

This question isn’t as common as it used to be,. Almost all bars have multiple TV’s. However, you will get that customer who will demand the the TV closest to him be changed to whatever he wants to watch.

Obviously, try to accommodate them. Unfortunately, I have seen arguments escalate between customers – especially when it comes to sports. And, these days, if your bar is showing a partisan news channel – watch out!

Honestly, I always did what I could to accommodate everyone. If things got out of hand I would through the manager under the bus. Yes, I just suggested that.

When will you be on this side of the bar?

Obviously, this is just a “pick-up” line. Go with the flow.

For those of you who have a significant other – this gets old. Take it in stride (and as a compliment), and be polite.

Can you drink behind the bar?

Another question you’ll get all the time. Obviously, if it’s against the law in your State you say “No.” If your bar does not allow it – say “No.”

Many times you are asked this question because the customer wants to buy you a drink. If drinking is allowed – then go for it.

Why aren’t you smiling?

“Can’t you see I’m working here – and very busy?” Please – don’t say that! Experienced bartenders can get pretty nasty in their responses.

All bartenders are guilty of this. All of us. We can get in that “zone” when it’s busy and start really focusing on the job at hand. We simply forget that we’re on display here.

Take it as a learning moment and check your attitude.

Can I buy you a shot?

Sure – if it’s legal and allowed. It’s pretty much the same as asking if you can drink behind the bar.

I covered this in a previous lesson, but sometimes the bar will allow you to charge the customer for a drink and then partake after your shift is over. Know you bar’s House Policies!

Moderation, my friends!

Last call? Isn’t it a little early?

“Just how drunk are you, Buddy?” No, go with something like:

“Yes it is. Time flies when you’re having fun, huh?” Keep it simple.

What’s the Wi-Fi password?

It seems that every establishment has wi-fi. Not just bars and restaurants. If you have wi-fi, and House Policy dictates that you provide your customers with the password – then by all means accommodate them. No big deal.

Sometimes you’ll get customers complaining. Oh well – it’s not something you have any control over.

“I’m very sorry, ma’am, but we do not have wi-fi for our customers here.” Short and sweet.

I’ll take care of you. Trust me.

They want a strong drink. Or a freebie. What they’re really saying here is, “Hey Dude! Will you rip off your boss and give me a good drink? I’ll make sure to give you a good tip.”

All this is is another “big shot” throwing their weight around. Trying to impress someone. Experienced bartenders have some really good responses to this. If asked about this in an interview, say something like…

“We take good care of all out customers here, sir.” Short and simple.

I, like many bartenders, can get very creative here. “Sir, it’s my job to take care of you – not the other way around.” Or, here’s my favorite:

“You got it, Buddy. How about I short pour all of the customers you see standing around you just so you can get a free drink. Sound good?” No, don’t do that. Not yet anyway! You’re going to get really good at dealing with this type of customer.

Many times, I would respond with something like, “I’m confused here, sir, can you explain to me what you’re really asking her?” Put them on the spot.

Or, “You got it, Buddy. I’ll pour you a strong one – but your girlfriend is only going to get a float of booze to make up for that.”

Did you put any vodka in my drink?

Similar to the above. Again, someone playing the “big shot” roll. You’ll get tired of this, but try and stay professional.

I have mentioned before (in other lessons), that if you DO add liquor to the drink – you lost. You’re admitting that you may have poured a weak drink. Never do this! On the flip side (which I always disagreed with), your House Policy may dictate that you add a little floater to the drink. I have worked at bars (very few of them), that had this policy – and hated it.

“Yes, I did, Sir. I poured an ounce and a half just like all of our drinks here.” That’s it – say no more. Of course, you’re probably going to get some feedback – go with the flow, but do not add any more liquor unless you charge for it.

What if they demand more liquor? Simple. “I’d be happy to pour you another shot, sir, but I will have to charge you full price for it.:

Here’s another thing to consider: When I was in this situation, and they did request an additional shot (and pay for it), I would pour the liquor into a shot glass and set it next to them. Let them add it to the drink.

Never take a sip of a customers drink. Never dip a straw into the drink and “evaluate” it for potency. Never.

This drink is really weak – here, taste it!

Same as above.

Hey! Not so much ice!

Same as above – with a few differences. Many times the customer simply wants more of the mixer. They are fully aware that less ice will weaken the taste of the drink – and they’re fine with that.

On the other hand, there are a lot of “new” people to the bar scene. they just don’t understand bar etiquette and policy yet. They actually believe that you will pour more liquor if there is less ice.

I always kept it simple: “You got it, Buddy.” Leave it at that and pour the normal amount. Simple. Here, we are assuming that the customer just wants more mixer and is not asking for a stronger drink. He may think you’re pouring stronger – but you’re not and leave it at that and move on.

Or, you can say something like, “No problem! Would you like your drink in a shorter glass?” Many times, they’ll agree to that.

True Story
I once had a guy come up to the bar and order a vodka martini: “Hey Dude. I’ll have a vodka martini up with two olives. Don’t chill, shake, or stir. Just pour the vodka into a martini glass.”
Of course, I had a pretty good idea of what was coming next.
I poured the required amount of liquor (2 1/2 ounces), directly into the martini glass, added the two olives, and said, “Here you go – that’ll be $7.50.”
The guy says, “Hey man. I think you poured me a little short here.”
I responded with, “No, I poured 2 1/2 ounces – just like we do with all of our martini’s.”
“Well, why isn’t the glass full? I paid for my martini in a martini glass and it’s not filled up. You short-poured me!”
Being a very experienced bartender, and recognizing a grifter when I see one, I wasn’t so nice:
“Is this your first time ordering a drink in a bar, sir? If you’re dissatisfied with the way we make our drinks here, I can always pour you plain soda for the rest of the night.”
And before you (the reader), say something like, “Maybe he was very new to the bar scene and simply didn’t know how things work,” think again. Experienced bartenders know when they’re being yanked around.
The point here, is that some customers will try and game the system. You’ll get very good distinguishing between naïve customers – and grifters playing the big shot and trying to rip you off.

This is one of the few times that I’m going to give you some great “comebacks” to questions like the above, as well as “weak drink” “hook me up,” etc. Responses that experienced bartenders are known to use:

“Sorry about that. How about I pour your drink in a tall glass and fill it to the top with liquor?”

“This is my first bartending shift, so could you tell me exactly how much liquor you would like?”

“Your choice. Keep the drink in you had – or exchange it for the drink I really want to pour you.”

I lost 4 quarters in the jukebox. You need to reimburse me.

The same happens with video games, vending machines, and pool tables. Go with the flow.

Yes, most times it is legitimate. Follow House Policy and reimburse the customer – but make sure it’s written down somewhere. You need to account for this money so the bar can be reimbursed by the vending company.

If it keeps happening, to the same individual or group – you may have a problem. You, or the manager, should probably give the machine a quick once-over and test it. You may have to call the vendor for repairs.

If it appears to be in good working order – let the manager know.

Hey man! You’re not making my drink the right way!

Stay professional “I’m very sorry, sir, but this is how we make martini’s here. However, I’ll be happy to make it any way you want.” Short and simple.

Of course, you will run across that know-it-all trying to impress someone. Go with the flow, but remember to use something like the above response during your interview.

This is another situation where experienced bartenders can get very creative with their responses. Some not so nice.

No way this is my tab. I didn’t order all of these drinks.

This is a tough one – and I always hated dealing with it. You run into problems when there are multiple bartenders and cocktail servers – and your customer is moving from place to place in the bar.

House Policy is going to dictate how you handle this. Some bars may have their bartenders get the customer to initial each charge. That sucks, but sometimes necessary.

There’s usually two types of customers who do this: The really drunk ones – and the ones trying to rip you off.

“The total is correct, sir. I have been very careful to add only the drinks that you ordered. You have been here for a few hours, and sometimes our customers lose track on just how many drinks they order.”

Just be honest and diligent. If it escalates – throw your manager under the bus.

Is this really your real job?

This is usually a little “dig” at you. You will get customers from all walks of life – so be prepared for some condescending remarks.

Some people are asking a legitimate question – many people are genuinely curious about bartenders. For those customers not in the food and beverage industry, bartending is a very interesting and kind of “weird” profession to them. A good answer:

“It sure is! This is the best job I’ve ever had and I just love it.”

Just try to stay professional – you’ll know if they’re yanking your chain or not.

Does your girlfriend have a hard time with you working here?

The customer is probably on a “fishing” expedition. Just laugh and answer honestly – and with something witty. No big deal.

For those of you into hook-ups this is a green light.

How much do you make?

We have discussed in previous lesson how you should neve talk about money. The same applies here. Simply say something like:

“I do very well.” Short and simple.

Do you claim all of your tips on your income tax?

Believe it or not – I have been asked this many times. Your response:

“Of course I do.”

You got a really nice ass!

You know what to do. For this, and related questions, you have to decide just how far you let customers go. I never had a problem with this, but these days many people can get extremely offended.

By the way – I would not recommend you say this to any of your customers!

Great legs! How do they wrap?

Same as above. Remember that bars are usually not very politically correct. Most of them, that is.

And, a friendly reminder that you’re going to hear things in a bar that you certainly wouldn’t working in a cubicle somewhere. Of course, I bet there are some office workers out there that would disagree.

Hey Pal/Buddy/Sweetie/Honey!

This is nothing more than just annoying. I have seen bartenders go off the deep end when called something like this. It’s just what people do.

Yes, they’re trying to get your attention. Give them a quick look and ask how you can help. Nothing more – nothing less!

Don’t you know who I am?

Ouch. There are some really great comebacks to this question. Some not so nice. Another big shot trying to curry favor.

Just say something witty. “Mick Jagger?” Or, “Obi-Wan-Kenobi?”

Experienced bartenders hate this statement. They hear it all the time, and, again, have some very witty come-backs. Take it easy on these customers when you’re first starting out.

Today is my birthday. How about a free drink?

Many bars do offer a free drink if it’s your birthday. Follow House Policy – and check their ID.

You will get many customers trying to pull this off – even if it’s not their birthday. Don’t fall for it, and, again, don’t be afraid to check their ID.

A good response: “Well, congratulations! Let me check your ID and we’ll fix you right up!”

Or, “Nice try, Buddy. Wasn’t it your birthday last week?”

Do you like your job?

An innocent question – most of the time. “”I sure do! Best job I’ve ever had!”

Of course, I’ve seen customers ask this when the bartender wasn’t too friendly. Don’t be one of those bartenders!

We’d like separate checks. Can you split it four ways?

“You sure can!” That should be your response. All bars are different. Some won’t allow it – but that’s rare.

There’s no other way to say it – this is a pain in the ass. Personally, if I’m out and about and someone in my party wants a separate check – I verbally assault them – in a nice way.

Yes, we all know that it’s a simple matter to add and subtract. For most of us. I also understand that some people may need a separate receipt for tax purposes. Be polite and go with the flow.

Hook me up, Dude!

Another statement that experienced bartenders really have fun with.

“Hook you up with what? Are you looking for a date?”

Side Note: I think, down the road, I’m going to add really good responses that bartenders use for ALL of the questions/statements in this lesson. For entertainment purposes only.

Again, this is just another customer trying to get some free stuff. You’ll get used to this, so say something like:

“We hook everyone up here, Dude!”

Do you ever give out your phone number?

“Yep. Just not to people like you.” No, don’t say that!

This is another case where it’s totally up to you. Obviously, you’re being hit on. Evaluate, and make your decision!

I bet people hit on you all the time.

Another pick-up line. You make the call.

I don’t see why you can’t charge my phone.

Some people just can’t seem to take “No” for an answer. House Policy will dictate this. Same as the next statement below.

And, please, don’t ever charge their phone behind the bar. Did I do it for customers? Yep. I’m the bartender, and can make executive decisions whenever I wish. Sound arrogant? Yep.

You should have phone chargers available for your customers!

A good response: “Yes, that would be nice, but management has decided not to provide them at this time. Maybe down the road.”

It astounds me the number of people who don’t keep their phones charged. There’s chargers everywhere: In vehicles, small hand-held portable chargers, etc. Wise up!

“Do you know any bar tricks?

“No.” Or, “I know a few of them – the same ones that many other bartenders perform.”

There are slow times, and many times customers will show YOU some pretty nifty bar tricks. Go with the flow, as some are very interesting.

Can you make me a flaming drink?

“I sure can, but the Bar Manger is opposed to starting fires.” Leave it at that.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with maybe lighting that floater of Bacardi 151 – but be careful. The problem here, is that customers will take it upon themselves to light things up. I’ve witnessed small “mishaps,” and am a true believer in no flaming drinks.

Yes, you may work at a bar that promotes this sort of thing. Nothing wrong with that, but make sure your boss (and the bar owner), are onboard.

Why don’t you flip any liquor bottles around?

“Because my manager doesn’t want us wasting booze and breaking bottles.” That’s a pretty good standard answer, but here’s something better:

“Boy, I really wish we could as I practice all the time at home. However, at this time, my boss really doesn’t want us doing this.”

Tom Cruise in “Cocktail” really started this “fad.” There is a scene in that movie where he’s flipping bottles and you see liquor flying all over the place. Folks – it’s gonna affect your liquor cost! And, in my opinion, endanger your fellow employees and customers.

Make me your best drink!

This is very similar to a previous statement we covered. There’s really nothing wrong with this question, so go with something like:

“You got it! I make a mean Stoli Martini. How about one of those?”

The key here (as with other statements like this), is to name a drink. Your customer will either agree – or tell you what they really want.

What time do you get off work?

Another pick-up line. Unless it’s your significant other calling you. You know what to do.

You have to be very careful here. There’s a lot of really “strange” people that frequent bars – and you never know what they’re up to. Safety first.

Do you know how to make a Gin and Tonic?

Many times it’s just a regular customer or friend giving you are hard time. However…

You’re going to run across many people that are new to the bar scene. Or very young. If I were asked this question in a serious manner – time for an ID check. Just be polite and professional.

If it’s your Buddy, “Yep, for you it’s tonic with a float of gin. No lime.”

Could I have some extra cherries on a napkin?

Aaaahhhh… the smorgasbord. You’ll get this a lot. Or, a handful of limes. Or extra slices of pineapple. House policy will dictate your response. Follow it.

The real danger here is customers putting their hands in the garnish tray. I once had a customer reach over the bar and take some strawberries off my cutting board. Ouch.

You really have to keep an eye on this. Many bars no longer place the garnish tray on top of the bar (by order of the local Health inspector), near the bartender’s well and the cocktail server’s area. This leaves all garnishing the bartenders job – which is very inefficient and slows you down. It is what it is.

But, what about that customer who asks for “extra” stuff. Again, you want to be nice, but olives, cherries, strawberries and pineapple can get expensive. Adding ONE extra olive or cherry is no big deal, but I have seen some bar owners and managers go absolutely berserk over this and put policies in place where the bartender has no option. One cherry per drink!

You need to come up with a pat answer: “You sure can – we allow one extra cherrie per drink – here you go!”

What’s your favorite drink to make?

A harmless question. They’re usually just looking for guidance, but some people really get a kick out of sitting close to the bartender’s station and watching. They’ll ask all kinds of questions. No big deal, and stay polite and professional.

“I really like making Old Fashioned’s as they require that special bartender’s touch.” With an answer like that – expect follow-up questions.

I need to use the restroom. Will you save my seat?

Regulars are very familiar with bar etiquette, and will never sneak in and take someone else’s seat. Regulars, that is. Others aren’t quite so polite.

Hey – I get it. Customers wait to get that coveted seat at the bar and they want to keep it. Most people see a drink sitting there, maybe some money, and instinctively know that someone is sitting there.

The fact is – you really can’t “save” someones seat. However, I have no problem informing customers that “I’m very sorry, sir, but that seat is taken.” There’s really no problem with this, and most people understand and move. Easy.

Where are all of the TV’s?

Some bars don’t have a lot of TV’s. These days, customers are so used to seeing television’s everywhere that they expect all bars to have a ton of them. Not so.

“I’m sorry, sir, but at this time the Bar Owner just wants two TV’s on the floor.” Leave it at that.

What’s cheap?

Another question you’ll get – a lot. Yes, some people are really watching their budget these days. It’s no different than going to a baseball game and asking for the cheap seats at the counter. Stay professional and polite.

A good answer: “We have margarita’s on sale right now for $2.95. How about one of those?” Or, “If you like draft beer, all of our domestic beer is only $1.75 a glass for the next hour.”

Resist the urge to really go after them as experienced bartenders have a tendency to do: “The liquor store around the corner has 12-Paks on sale for $10.00.”

I never really had a problem with this other than when I was extremely busy. Always have a “pat” answer ready to go.

What should I have?

Another indecisive customer. Many times they’re just looking for some attention. This question simply tells me that this customer is in no rush. They’re pretty much oblivious to what’s going on around them – and have no idea whether you’re busy or not.

Have that pat answer where you suggest something quick and easy – and then move on. If they really seem deep in thought, just say something like, “I’ll be over there making some drinks, so just give me a nod when you’re ready to order.”

Do you like your job?

“Yes, I love it. Best job I ever had.” Leave it at that.

This is another question that’s coming from left field. Maybe the customer noticed you’re not smiling. Or, they genuinely asking because they’re interested in the bartending profession. You’ll neve know until you get some follow-up questions.

Can you play a song for me?

Regular customers know better than to ask this question. If you were a DJ – well then, I guess you can play them a song. You are not a DJ!

Point them to the jukebox. Or, if the music is piped in from the managers office, then simply tell them that your bar plays a certain genre and you have no control over what can be played.

Do you have any diet 7-Up?

Diet this. Diet that. Most bars carry a diet cola and a diet Sprite or 7-Up. That’s it. Yes, some bars have two or three soda guns with tons of sodas and juices, but you’re probably not going to work with something like that.

A good response, ” I’m very sorry, Sir, but we carry diet Sprite. Will that be OK?”

What is the best night to come here?

“Every night here is the best night!” This is a good response – and stick with it until you get some time under your belt.

The problem here is that you don’t really know what they’re asking. The best night for what? The busiest night? The best night for pick-ups? The night you have “live” music? You have no idea wht they’re asking here – really.

I always said something like, “The best night for what, Sir?” I have heard some of the most outrageous comebacks from experienced bartenders. Really good stuff!

Can you make me something that’s not too sweet?

“I sure can. How about a nice strawberry daiquiri?” Answer the question and provide a solution. Easy.

I’ll take a beer.

“You go it. What flavor?” Try and get them to make the choice. If not…

“We have domestic and imported draft and bottled beer, Sir (Pointing at the beer tappers or the display of bottled beer on the back bar). Leave it at that, as they’ll end up making the decision.

Do you make drinks that cost less than two dollars?

Again, there are a lot of people on a budget. My answers were hot and cold – depending on how busy I was.

During normal hours, I don’t think you can get a drink or beer for under two dollars these days. And, you’ll even get people asking for a drink that’s under one dollar! Resist the urge to laugh. A good response:

“Well, we have all of our plain soda, juices and coffee for $1.95. Can I get you one of those?”

“This isn’t 1985, Pal!” No – don’t say that! Unless it’s one of your Buddies or regulars.

When can I see you on this side of the bar?

Just another pick-up line. As with all situations like this – be very careful.

As you have heard me say many times in this course, if you’re into hookups, you hit the lottery in this profession.

What’s good here?

Nothing to worry about here – just another confused customer with too much time on their hands. Unfortunately, it seems like they show up when you are the most busy!

This is another one of those situations where you should have a pat answer. Stay professional, and help them out:

“Our margarita’s are really popular here. How about I whip up a strawberry one for you?”

Can you make a flugelbinder with a bruised cucumber?

The customer heard about some obscure drink that he ran across somewhere (who knows where – maybe TV), and is playing the bigshot. Ouch – and experienced bartenders sniff these people out real quick.

Of course, many times it’s just a wannabe bartender or someone trying to impress their date. You’ll get used to it.

If a customer calls out a drink that you have never heard of, simply say, “I’ve never heard of that drink – tell me what’s in it and I’ll whip one up for you.”

And, I’ll just bet you, they’ll give you a hard time about not knowing the drink:

“How long have you been a bartender?’

“Is this your first night bartending?”

“Didn’t they teach you that in bartending school?”

You, as a new bartender, should just laugh along with them and say something like, “Yeah, I guess I missed that class in bartending school.” Suck it up – and bide your time for when you get a little more experience and Bar Managers let you handle this in your own way.

Again, experienced bartenders have great comebacks to this question. I sure did – and they weren’t so nice.

How much alcohol did you put in my drink?

Or, “How much alcohol do you put in your drinks here?” Be honest:

“We pour an ounce and a half for all of our drinks – a little more for on the rocks for martini’s and specialty drinks.” Leave it at that.

Expect some follow-up questions – maybe. Some of your customers are just genuinely curious. Others monitor their alcohol intake in case they’re driving. There could be any number of other reasons.

Do you have any aspirin?

(Or Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, etc.). Back in the day, many bars stocked a huge bottle of aspirin behind the bar. Those days are long gone, as no Bar Owner wants the responsibility of dispensing any kind of drug.

And, yes, aspirin is a drug. Your bar probably doesn’t have aspirin available for their customers. Simply say, “No, I’m very sorry, Sir, but we don’t carry aspirin for our customers.” Leave it at that.

And, NEVER offer to give them a couple of your own pain relievers. Never.

Do you have anything that won’t give me a headache?

This is a good one – and you might be surprised to hear it quite often. This is just another example of an inexperienced drinker or bar customer. Really, “not drinking” would probably do the trick, but you don’t want to say that.

What the customer is really asking for here is a specific type of drink that “doesn’t cause headaches.” Well, there is none, and most rational people understand this.

Have a pat answer ready to go:

“I never get headaches, so I’m unfamiliar with the process of avoiding headaches.” Or, maybe, “I’m a beer drinker and never get headaches.” Something like that.

Do you have anything that is gluten free?

I’ve never been asked this question, but know that other bartenders have. There are many people who have issues with gluten, so this, in my opinion, is a very legitimate question. Go with the flow.

Side Note: I wanted to get to the bottom of this gluten and alcohol thing, so I went down the rabbit hole. Generally speaking, distilled spirts (vodka, gin, whisky, brandy, rum, tequila, flavored spirits, cordials, and liqueurs), and wine have no gluten. Beer and almost anything with malt do have gluten. And, most juices, sodas, and sports beverages are gluten free.

A good response: “We sure do! Stay away from the beer, and stick with some wine or a mixed drink as they are pretty much all gluten free”

Further Reading: Here’s a link to some really good alcohol and gluten stuff: National Celiac Association

Make it extra strong!

Happens all the time. Most experienced bartenders (especially when they’re busy), just nod and proceed to make the drink like they always do. Nothing wrong with that.

The customer is simply looking for a deal – or playing the bigshot.

A good response: “All of our drinks are strong, Sir. Would you like your drink in a short glass or maybe on the rocks?”

If it’s one of your Buddies – threaten to short pour them.

Important: All bars are different! Some Bar Owners are notoriously cheap, and insist on pouring only one ounce of liquor per drink. Maybe an ounce and a quarter. Ouch. I have worked for people like this – and it sucks. You’re going to deal with weak drink complaints on a daily basis.

The reality here, is that you’re stuck with House Policy. You just have to suck it up, and have a pat answer:

“I’d really like to pour your drink like both you and I probably would in our homes – but it’s not my booze, and the owner insists that we pour this amount.” This isn’t the greatest answer in the world – but it’ll do. You’re probably going to get a few not so nice comments.

I always made it a point to periodically remind the owner that we’re getting a lot of “weak drink” complaints. They either change their pouring policy – or they don’t. It’s their call.

Tall glass, just a little ice!

Same as above – but with some differences. Again, the customer is probably looking for a deal, but there are times when this is a legitimate request. With experience, you’ll get to know the difference.

The important thing to remember here is that you always pour the same amount of alcohol.

Can you put some extra whiskey in that?

Same as above. A good response:

“I sure can, but I’ll have to charge you for a double. Is that OK?” Simple and to the point.

Do you make a good (fill in the blank)?

Your answer, of course, should be something like…

“I sure do. I’ve been known to make the best Long Island Iced Teas in the city! How about I hook you up with one?” Simple.

What’s strong?

Most of the time, this is a legitimate question. The customer is simply looking for the biggest bang for his buck. Offer them a common strong cocktail like a Long Island or a Martini. Be specific! Or, maybe something like…

“I make a great Rum Collins with a floater of Bacardi 151. How about one of those?”

Of course, charge them extra for the floater! And, the key here, like many other questions you’ll get, is to have a quick “ready to go” answer. You’re busy, man!

One of my favorite drinks to offer: “How about a double shot of Jack Daniels with a beer back? That’ll get your heart started!” Boom – and that’ll; be $15.50!

They make a drink called a Orange Thingamajig in Los Angeles. Can you make that?

Many times this is a legitimate request. You’ll get a lot of people from out of town who are familiar with the hottest drinks in their area.

A good response: “I’m sure I can – what’s in it?”

If they know the ingredients – go ahead and make it for them. You’ll probably never make the drink again during your career as a bartender. I heard a bartender say onetime, “I’ve forgotten more drink recipes than I know.” That’s probably true.

Of course, sometimes it’s a smart*** playing the bigshot. Just stay professional and go with the flow. You might get some snide comments about your ineptness, but be cool until you get some experience – and House Policy allows you to dig back a bit.

I had this blue drink one time but can’t remember how it’s made. Can you make that?

Similar to the above, but this is almost always a legitimate question. Yes, it’s a little annoying to get this question when you’re in the weeds – but here we are.

Try to narrow down the choices, so a good response could be:

“Well, it probably had Blue Curacao in it. Do you remember if it had tequila or rum in it? I could make you a Blue Long Island Iced Tea or maybe a Blue Hawaiian – which is fruity with vodka, rum, and pineapple juice. We sell a lot of those.”

Just try to be helpful – and professional.

What would you order if you came in here?

You’re busy – keep it simple:

“I love margarita’s, and we make the best ones in town. When I’m off duty – that’s what I drink.” Short and sweet.

What’s in this?

This question can easily be either a complaint – or genuine. Maybe the leader of the pack ordered a round of shooters and someone in the party wishes to know what they’re drinking. No problem with that, and happens all the time.

Other times, it’s a passive aggressive way (indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them), to complain. You’ll get very good at knowing the difference.

A good response: “It’s a Kamikaze shot. Vodka, Triple Sec, and a little lime juice. Do you like it?”

Why aren’t your olives stuffed with garlic?

Or cheese. Or pimentos. Or whatever. A nit-picky customer with too much time on their hands. A good response:

“Good catch! Probably a shortage of garlic.” Or, a better response:

“I really don’t know, Sir. We’ve never had any sort of stuffing in our olives, and our customers seem to prefer it that way.”

Do you make a good margarita?

A legitimate question, and here’s a good response:

“I sure do! My specialty is a frozen strawberry margarita made with Patron. How about I whip one of those up for you?” Short and simple.

What do you think of my date?

Ouch. If this isn’t a loaded question, I don’t know what is. It’s almost as bad as “Do these jeans make my butt look big?”

You’re on your own here! I guess that doesn’t help you too much. I would simply say something like, “She seems nice!” Leave it at that.

Is this a good place to pick up girls? (Or guys)

What kind of bar are you working at? Based on my experience, any bar is a good place to hook up with people. A decent response is something like this:

“I’ve met a lot of really interesting people since I’ve worked here. I’m sure you will, too.”

Experienced bartenders can get really creative with this.

Do you hook up with a lot of women here?

Same as above.

Can I come in and wait for the bar to open?

House Policy will dictate your response here. Most bars and restaurants have a very strict policy about this.

But, what if it’s 20 degrees below zero and only 10 minutes until opening? You make the call.

Can I wait in here after you close for my ride?

Same as above. But, what about safety issues? Again, House Policy will dictate your response, but you have to be careful here.

As a bartender, I never made this decision. As a manager – I did. I always made the decision based on safety issues. What if the person was simply setting you up to rob you? Something to think about, and have the manager make the call.

The law states that you cannot serve alcohol at certain times. If you’re not serving this customer any alcohol – is it a big deal? I don’t think so, and there’s probably not going to be a law enforcement agency in the country who will bust you for this. Let’s not lose our compassion.

Dude! Your restroom is really messed up – someone needs to clean it.

Yep – messy restrooms are part of the bar business. Usually, the bar will have a person that is designated to keep the restrooms clean. Managers should also be checking them out on a regular basis.

I have run across some real nightmares here. Projectile vomiting, graffiti, intentional physical damage – you name it. And, if you think the men’s restroom is worse than the women’s – think again.

Alert the manager. Immediately.

Do you know who I’m with?

Another bigshot. Stay professional.

“No, I didn’t see you come in – who are you with?” You really need to keep it low-key here. “I’m here with your boss.” “That’s nice. Great guy, huh?”

Experienced bartenders know how to handle this situation really well. You’ll learn.

What kind of bar doesn’t carry Corona Lite?

“The best bar in town, my man!” No, you probably shouldn’t say something like that – yet. Try this:

“We rarely get calls for Corona Lite, and we have limited space here. I will, however, make a note of it and let management know that we’re getting requests.” Nice and simple.

Sorry, Dude. I’m really hammered.

Too funny. I’ve heard this more than a few times.

Whenever someone tells you they are “really hammered,” you really have no choice but to cut them off. Offer them a coup of coffee or maybe some food. Or, call them a cab.

The issue here is whether or not someone else sitting at the bar overhears this. Who’s sitting at your bar? Maybe law enforcement of some kind? You simply cannot serve someone more alcohol after they just admitted they were overly intoxicated. Never!

Experienced bartenders will argue about this issue all the time. What if they live just around the corner? Doesn’t matter. What if they aren’t driving? Doesn’t matter. What if their Buddy says they will keep an eye on them? Doesn’t matter. What if she’s your good friend? Doesn’t matter. What if it’s your boss? Doesn’t matter. Cut them off!

Do you know anyone in here who sells weed?

Or blow. Or Mollie. Or crank. Or whatever. Another goodie here, folks. It still astounds me that people are so open to asking this question – but they are.

Yes, I have run across situations where the bartender was dealing drugs. Unfortunately, it’s an ugly thing this whole drug issue.

I don’t think I even need to say this, but – your answer to this question should be an emphatic “No!” Bars serve food and alcohol. Not drugs.

A good, standard answer: “Sir, our license allow us to sell food and alcohol here – not drugs. I do not know of anyone selling drugs here, and if I did I would alert management immediately.” Boom.

Bartender’s choice!

I used to really hate this. Oh well. But – remember that some of your customers are really outgoing and don’t care one way or another what they’re drinking. It’s a bit rare, but just stay professional and offer them something:

“You got it Buddy! A shot and a beer coming right up!” Most likely, they’ll stop you right there and order something specific.

What kind of job would you really like to have?

Another passive aggressive question. This question usually comes from a customer trying to impress someone in his party. Stay professional – for now.

“I was thinking about becoming a rocket scientist. What do you do?”

Is your wedding band real?

Is it? This is just another pick-up line. You know what to do.

“It sure is! Been married for three years now, and loving every minute of it!”

And, yes, I know of a few bartenders who wear a “fake” ring because they’re tired of the pick-up lines. You make the call.

Why isn’t my wine glass full?

Most wine drinkers know that a glass of wine is 5 – 6 ounces. Knowing this, some will still try to get a heavy pour. Newcomers just don’t know – and believe that the glass should be filled to the top.

I could go into a whole lesson here on how wine should be allowed to “breath.” But I won’t as there is some really great stuff out there on the internet.

You’re going to run across some really knowledgeable wine drinkers out there – and knowing your wine really helps. In fact, if you’re working a a fine dining establishment – you better know your wine!

Side Note: Asking for “strong” drinks isn’t the only thing you’ll contend with. Pouring wine to the top of the glass, draft beers with no head – you name it. There are plenty of customers out their “looking for a deal.”

You should have a very simple pat answer ready to go: “Wine is not meant to be poured to the top of the glass, Sir, and we pour 5 1/2 ounces for all of our glasses of wine.” Something like that.

Hey man! I don’t need a head on my beer!

A draft beer with a nice head on it is very appealing – and helps with beer cost. For those cheapskates out there – not so much. You really have no choice here but to pour their beer with no head. This is another situation that experienced bartenders will argue about.

Ask your fellow bartenders or Bar manager how they deal with this, as House Policy will dictate your response.

Get used to this – it happens frequently. The same customer will probably switch to hard liquor later on and order a tall Gin ‘n Tonic with little ice. You know the deal!

I know you called last call awhile ago – but can I get another round anyway?

Careful with this. Experienced bartenders WILL bend the rules here. You are not experienced! For those of you just starting out…

The obvious answer is “No, I’m very sorry, Sir, but we’re not allowed to make any more drinks after last call.” Keep it simple. You might get some pushback – don’t fall for it.

Surprise me!

Same as “Bartender’s Choice,” above.

Why won’t you open the door? It’s almost opening time!

This is usually coming from someone in a hurry to get lunch – and doesn’t have a lot of time. If you’re bartending during lunchtime at a busy bar, be prepared for two – three hours of mayhem. Fun stuff – and one of my favorite times to be behind the bar.

On the flip side, there could be any number of reasons for someone trying to get into your bar early. Maybe it’s cold outside. Maybe they have the shakes so bad and need a drink immediately. Yes, this happens a lot.

Obviously, 11:00 means 11:00. The manager is most likely responsible for opening the door, so you’re in the clear. A good response:

“I’m very sorry, Sir, but the manager will open the door at precisely 11:00 unless it’s an emergency.”

True Story
I was working a a very busy nightclub that also had a great lunch crowd. Because of some scheduling conflicts, I worked the day shift for about six months. We opened at 11:00.
I always got there about 10:00 to get ready for the day. Normally, a bartender is given about a half hour to set up in the morning, but this place was so busy, and I was responsible for cutting fruit, making juices, stocking, etc., for the night shift, that I needed that extra time.
One day, right when I arrived at 10:00, one of our regulars knocked on the door and wanted in. He lived in this huge trailer court across the street where a lot of senior citizens lived. Many of these people were our regular day customers.
I figured – what the heck – the liquor license allowed us to start serving as early as 6:00 am if we wanted – so there was no violation there. I though it was no big deal to pour him a bourbon water and let him nurse that drink while I set up the bar.
Word got out, and one thing led to another. Soon, I had 10 – 20 regular customer senior citizens showing up at 10:00. They never had lunch (most of them, anyway), and were simply there getting their morning fix I guess.
What did I do? I created a “Senior Citizen Happy Hour.” Reduced drink prices between 10:00 and 11:00. It got busy! (and, yes, this all happened with the Bar Owners’ approval.)
Needless to say, the Bar Owner realized that we could make a lot more money opening up at 10:00 instead of 11:00 and instituted the change. I now started my shift at about 9:15 to get ready for the day, and NEVER AGAIN OPENED THE DOOR FOR BUSINESS BEFORE THE NORMAL TIME!

What’s that? (Points at who knows what)

Simply answer the question. Easy. They may be pointing at some bar paraphernalia or something like that. Or, they’re pointing at a drink you just made.

“That’s a Blue Hawaiian. Tasty and fruity. Would you like one?” Simple, and stay professional. Answer their question!

Will you call my house for me?

Yep. This doesn’t happen quite as often (in fact, it’s pretty rare these days), because of cell phones. However, you will get that tipsy customer who’s not where he’s supposed to be at this time (home).

I would never call someones home. Please – do not get involved in this. A good answer:

“I’m very sorry, Sir, but our phone is for business only. If you do not have a cell phone, there is a pay phone back by the restrooms.” Stay professional and keep it simple.

Are you an actor?

I have never been asked this question – but know plenty of bartenders who have. It’s usually those good-looking guys and gals that get this question.

I worked in Southern California for many years, and it seemed like there was a whole lot of people trying to be actors, models, writers, etc. Many of them tend bar to pay the bills.

Get used to it: There are many people out there that just don’t understand that bartending is a great profession. Lots of money, flexible schedules – and a great time. You MUST have some other career aspirations!

A good response: “No, I’m not. I have a much better time tending bar!”

Hey man! You’re supposed to listen to my problems!

No, I’m not. There are many people out there that are complainers. Their friends aren’t listening to them – so now it’s your turn.

Yes, you will run across some real “downers” out there. Issues arise when they start bothering your other customers with their problems, and just seem to go on and on. You may have to intervene, but usually these other customers will handle it by themselves.

I always tried to take a genuine interest in all of my customers. It will depend on how busy your are, but just try to be attentive – and nice.

Shaken, not stirred!

Martini’s can be shaken or stirred. Or on the rocks. Many times, your customer is quoting a line out of James Bond movies just to be cute. Go with the flow, and make the drink as they request. Simple.

You will hear this now and again, and experienced bartenders have a whole slew of answers to this request. You’ll learn.

Do you make minimum wage?

Never discuss with your customers how much money you make. Never. This includes wages, salary, and tips. A good response:

“The boss is very generous, and takes good care of all of us here.”

I used to be a bartender.

Good for you! Most of the time, this is simply a harmless statement – and they probably were a bartender at one time. Believe me, there are a lot of ex-bartenders out there.

I always treated this statement as a “breaking the ice” statement. A good response:

“That’s great! How did you like it? Where did you work?”

Is this what you really want to do with your life?

Another passive aggressive question coming from a big shot. Depending on how busy I was, I usually answered with a short “Yep!.”

There is no need to go any deeper with your response. And, be very careful if you’re gong to respond negatively. I’ve heard something similar to this response many times:

“Yep. It’s much better than being a lifetime ***hole.”

Really? Last call already?

Another harmless question. People get caught up drinking and having a good time. Don’t read into this, and have a pat answer ready:

“Yep. Time flies when you’re having fun! What can I get you?”

What job are you really trying to get?

Similar to a couple questions back. The customer is just trying to get on your nerves a bit. Don’t fall for it.

“Rocket scientist.” “Surgeon.”

Aren’t you supposed to shake that martini?

Nope. Hopefully, you asked the customer how they would like their martini mixed. The problem here is that you’re probably going about your business making drinks for other customers and a big shot inserts his two cents.

Stay professional, and respond with something like, “Martini’s can be made any number of ways, Sir, would you like it shaken instead of stirred?” Or…

“No, not in this case. The customer requested it on the rocks.”

That’s not how you make a Manhattan!

See the previous question.

Unfortunately, I have observed many brand-new bartenders out and about hitting the bars and playing the know-it-all. Don’t be one of those bartenders!

All bars are different! They may be known for making a drink in a very specific way – and their customers expect that.

Where’s my pineapple wedge?

Many fruit drinks require a pineapple wedge as a garnish. Most bars do carry pineapple – some don’t.

I have worked at bars where the Bar Owner supplies just the basic garnishments. Not good, but it is what it is.

“I’m very sorry, Sir, but we’re out of pineapple until the produce order comes in. How about a couple of cherries?” Not the perfect response, but you’re kind of in a tough spot here. I really disliked informing the customer that we don’t carry certain items – whether it’s a type of beer, liquor, wine, or garnish.

This is gonna happen a lot of you’re working banquet bars.

Ask your boss why they don’t supply certain items – and use that to inform your customers.

This doesn’t look like the coffee I get at Starbucks!

No, it’s not. When it comes to a plain cup of coffee – what you see is what you get.

Most bars supply plain ‘ol coffee. Cream or sugar with that? However, many bars are now carrying flavored creamers – which is nice.

OK – that’s it for now. I’ll probably add more down the road.

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