There’s no easy way to say this: A bad bartender can ruin an otherwise fine night. Nobody wants to be faced with an inattentive, surly or drunk bartender—it’s just no fun.
To be fair, being a good bartender is a very hard job. You need to not only mix a fine drink and pour a proper pint but also make small talk, handle crowd control and clean up all kinds of spills. It’s a constant juggling act of different tasks. And that’s not to mention all the bad stuff patrons pull on a nightly basis.
While the number of competent bartenders across the county has grown exponentially over the last decade, sadly there are still many incompetent ones out there. So in order to help raise the bar, we’ve been noting the bartender behavior that bothers our nearly 400,000 Facebook fans the most over the past few months. You just may be surprised by their responses.
There are plenty of times during the week when bars are quiet, and it’s understandable and perfectly reasonable for bartenders to chit-chat and catch up during those periods. But during happy hour and other peak times, the focus should be on the customers and making drinks. There are few things our fans hate worse than trying to butt into a conversation between two bartenders to order a drink.
While even the best bartenders in the world will occasionally have a shot or sip a drink during their shifts, a bartender should never get plastered while on duty. It’s a hard enough job to do while sober, let alone after one too many tequilas or Fernet-Brancas.
One thing you should never see your bartender do is use a glass to scoop ice out of the ice machine. It can easily break or chip, sending glass shards into the cubes. And since glass and ice are, well, clear, it’s nearly impossible to remove the shards without emptying out the whole machine. If you do see this happening, it's probably better to order a beer in a bottle or can—and to pick another bar next time.
Yes, drinkers sometimes ask for questionable drinks, complex cocktails and obscure recipes. But flat-out being denied does not sit well with our fans. If a bar stocks the ingredients needed, it should make the drink whether or not the bartender personally likes it. And if the bar doesn’t have the right ingredients, the bartender should recommend a similar drink that the patron might enjoy.
While we are usually concerned about what goes into a glass, a few of our fans were bothered by bartenders touching a glass’s rim. The proper technique is, of course, to always handle a glass by the stem or base, unless you’re rubbing a citrus wedge on the rim to coat it with salt or other spices—and even then, only fruit and not fingers should touch the rim. (New York bartender Franky Marshall demonstrates excellent technique in the photo at left.)
We’re all guilty of checking our phones when we shouldn’t, whether it be at work, in a movie or at a family dinner. But as with any other job, bartenders shouldn’t be on their personal phones making calls, texting or on Facebook during a busy shift. The one exception is, of course, looking up a recipe for a drink they’re not familiar with.
Everybody deserves a break during his or her shift. But some of our fans have noticed bartenders taking very frequent smoke breaks and, if you can believe it, leaving their bars unattended. That, of course, should never happen.