Behind the Bar To Your Health

5 Things You and Other Drinks Professionals Can Do to Develop Healthier Drinking Habits

Maddy Peters

Working in the booze business can be hazardous to your health. Late nights, long shifts, constant stressors, not to mention the fact that liquor is never more than an arm’s length away, can all take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. In a job where it’s not easy to say no to a drink, a person is forced to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol. These are five tips for developing better drinking habits in your bar job.

1. Sleep More and Move Around

“Many times, there’s one small change we can make to our lives that, in turn, impacts everything else,” says Danielle Repetti, a personal trainer and nutritionist in San Francisco. “For bartenders, it’s usually sleep or daily movement. Try implementing a habit where you get a 45-minute walk or exercise class in prior to a shift. Or maybe you’d prefer to focus on getting eight hours of sleep the night before a long weekend shift.” Repetti points out that getting enough sleep can positively influence decision making on the fly by decreasing stress and upping patience, helping to set bartenders up for success before, during and after a shift.

On the movement side of things, Repetti says that getting a workout in “will also reduce stress, give you a healthy dose of feel-good hormones and create less of a need for other stress-relieving substances.” Making a habit out of putting your health first, she says, will continue to make you feel good about your choices and thus make it easy to keep the momentum going.

2. Drink More Things That Aren’t Liquor

Having nonalcoholic options on hand is essential, according to New York City brand ambassador Chelan Finney, who recommends drinking no fewer than three nonalcoholic beverages per day. “I don’t always like drinking plain water, so all the options are essential for me,” she says. “I always have cold brew, iced tea and club soda in the fridge. I try to always use vitamin C packets and electrolyte tabs. These are great pre- and post-workout for staying hydrated.”

If you’re challenge-motivated, try making hydration a game while you’re drinking. “For every drink I have, I drink a glass of water,” says Victoria Canty, a brand ambassador for Lo-Fi Aperitifs in Los Angeles. Hydration is, of course, the key to overall health, so why not use your drinking habits as a catalyst to up your water intake?

3. Don’t Drink at Work (Unless There’s a Purpose)

Setting simple rules for yourself––such as not drinking at your workplace, whether on shift or not––are theoretically easy to stick to given their black-and-white nature. Try reserving your time at work as your personal nondrinking periods and see what effect it has on your day-to-day after a week or two.

“In 2013, I quit drinking on the job,” says NYC bar veteran Pam Wiznitzer. “And often on the days or nights that I work, I choose to not drink afterward. This balances which days I choose to engage in a few glasses of wine or cocktails and those on which I stay sober. It also brings an appreciation for the times when I go out to bars or to my friends’ homes to have a tipple. It’s not only great for my health but also for my financial health, too.”

Caitlin Castellano, the general manager at BlackTail in NYC, challenges the idea of drinking at work by questioning the culture of entitlement that accompanies it—i.e. why some of us feel we’re owed a drink post-shift. “I had one rather poorly made shift drink one time, and it made me flip around and question why I was even having it in the first place,” she says. “I’m now at a venue where we don’t allow drinking on or after shifts, but when I was at one that did, after that experience, I totally changed how I went about it. If you are going to partake in an alcoholic shift drink, make it purposeful. Have a drink from the menu you’re unfamiliar with, maybe one that doesn’t get ordered much, so you can figure out how to sell it. Or from a management perspective, I love using that as an opportunity for a bartender to give me something they’ve been working on so we can chat about it.”

4. Cook at Home

At Pouring Ribbons in NYC, general manager Brooke Toscano says that a constant topic of conversation among her team is their daily diet. Being on the same page about healthy eating, she says, has made all the difference. “Being healthy for yourself is the goal, but doing it alone is an uphill battle,” she says. “Having a group of friends who keep the same views as you is one of the most helpful things beyond just going through the steps. It inspires you and holds you accountable.”

Toscano says that meal prepping can make things easier on yourself and ultimately change your view on living a healthy lifestyle and can lead to making better choices when it comes to drinking.

5. Rethink the Celebration Shot

It’s important to not only drink responsibly yourself but also allow everyone within the community to drink responsibly as well,” says Stevie Gray, an NYC bartender. “I’m fortunate enough to be able to tell my bartender I’d prefer an apéritif instead of a shot of [inexpensive whiskey]. This is not an option that some of my guests even know they have until I present it. Making space for people to imbibe a little slower (or not at all) but still be a part of the fun is the most important part of my personal practice of responsible drinking, and I think it could enrich the community.”

“I believe in fostering a bar culture where all employees are on the same page that it’s our job to facilitate our guest’s experience, not join it,” says Castellano. “We don’t need to do celebration shots with our guests, even if they’re industry visitors. Also, stop making shots your go-to gift for industry guests. We can do better!”