The Service Bar

9 Ways You’re Pissing Off Bartenders

Bartenders have a lot of power. They control the fun. Everyone wants to be their friend. Any given night they can get people drunk, laid or arrested. Also, they monitor the flow of alcohol, which means if you want to keep your whistle wet it pays to stay on their good side. So mind your P’s and Q’s and try not to piss them off! Here is a list of things you should avoid doing if you want to stay in your bartender’s good graces:

1. Waving your money around to get their attention – There is a fallacy that bartenders are more responsive when they see you flashing cash across the bar. This isn’t a strip club, Broseph. In most cases, obnoxiously waving money around will make the bartender perceive you as pushy and he or she will probably continue to ignore you. If they can’t get to you right away, it usually means they’re busy. Keep your money in your wallet—try flashing a smile instead.

2. Ruining top shelf spirits with unworthy mixers – Macallan 18 and Diet Coke? Really?? Really. You might be spending more money on drinks but your money can’t buy the bartender’s respect. Okay, okay—we know your banker friends will be impressed when you order your dirty martini with Stoli Crystal but the bartender serving you still thinks you’re a douchebag. We understand that calling for higher quality spirits helps circumvent the hangover-inducing effects of drinking from the well but sometimes respect comes with a price.

3. Insisting on complicated cocktail garnishes – You ordered a martini not a Greek salad so chill with the extra olives and cucumber slices, Hendricks Boy. We know you like to drink your vodka on the rocks with three ice cubes and five lime wedges so you can squeeze them in one at a time then ask for simple syrup and custom-make your own special little gimlet but it’s annoying. Just because we’ll do it for you, doesn’t make it right. Don’t even get us started on asking for blue cheese-stuffed olives. No, we don’t have them. No, we’re not going to make them for you.

4. Criticizing pour levels – In every watering hole, some drunken barfly will always blurt out, “You call that a drink?” when his Dewars-on-the-rocks arrives looking a little skimpy. Bartenders don’t set the measurements, management does. If you want more booze, order another drink (or ask for a double). If you don’t like the pour, go to another bar. But wasting energy giving your bartender the business won’t help the situation. It will only injure the relationship you have with them going forward. Ordering hard liquor in a wine glass isn’t going to make your drink bigger either. Nice try.


5. Having unrealistic expectations for virgin drinks – It’s not a coincidence that the word mocktails contains the word “mock.” The bartender will try to hide his or her disdain. It won’t be easy. Asking a bartender for a virgin cocktail is like asking a sportscar salesman to recommend a nice ten-speed bicycle. Maybe they’ll cut some slack for pregnant women, but otherwise if you’re looking for something fancy without alcohol most of the time you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

6. Ordering Cosmos – We don’t care if it’s your mom’s favorite drink. The Cosmopolitan is an outdated cocktail that tastes like powdered Crystal Light pink lemonade mixed with vodka. Sure, one day in the future it might be considered retro and cool, but right now it’s tacky and 90’s. Servers and bartenders—unless their restaurant is adjacent to a mall—will look down on you for ordering one. We need to move on. We did it with Hootie and the Blowfish, and we can do it with the Cosmopolitan.

7. Talking about “ABV” or “IBU” when you order a beer – You’re the only one who cares. It’s just beer. Unless you’re drinking in an establishment that specializes in craft brews, the bartender doesn’t give two shits about the alcohol content or bitterness quotient. Most bartenders can’t tell the difference between pilsner and lager. If you ask for something “sessionable”—you should be cut off immediately. Order a Heineken and shut your pie hole, dude.

8. Staggering drink orders – When you’re with a large group of people, try your best to order drinks as a round instead of in a million fragments. Bartenders can get annoyed when your group is constantly running them around, one mojito at a time. If you show sensitivity to their needs by consolidating your drink orders, they will return the favor by being more attentive. Maybe they’ll even buy you some shots.

9. Lingering with empty glasses – Real estate at a bar is a valuable commodity. Camping out after you’ve finished drinking inhibits your bartender’s ability to monetize those seats. So don’t sit there taking up space with your watered-down, whiskey-soaked glass of melted ice. Order another drink! If not—for the love of God—stop hitting on drunk Cougars.

The Service Bar

Angostura: The King Of Bitters

Take a poll of modern mixologists asking the few essential ingredients a bar cannot live without and you’ll likely find Angostura Bitters at the top of most lists.  Despite evolving trends in cocktail culture, Angostura has endured and its production methods—almost 200 years later—have remained faithful to the original.  The diminutive bottle with the oversized paper label is ubiquitous in every serious cocktail bar and every amateur’s stash at home… but what is it? 

The recipe for Angostura Bitters was developed by a German Doctor, Johann Siegert, who was a Surgeon General in Simon Bolivar’s army in Venezuela.  He created his tincture, “Dr. Siegert’s Aromatic Bitters”, to treat soldiers with upset stomachs.  Siegert originally produced the tonic for sale in 1824 in the town of Angostura where he was based in Venezuela, now known as Ciudad Bolivar.  In 1875, commercial production of Angostura Bitters moved to a plant in Port of Spain, Trinidad not long after Dr. Siegert passed away.  It continues there today.

Why does that label hang over the edge like that? Why does that label hang over the edge like that?

So, why doesn’t the label fit right?  When Dr. Siegert’s two sons took over the production of their father’s bitters they decided to enter them into a competition.  One brother was responsible for designing the bottle and the other would be responsible for designing the label.  Without consulting each other, the labels and bottles produced were ill-fitting and did not adhere properly.  By the time they realized the mistake, it was too late.  Though they lost in the competition, a judge suggested that the awkward label could make the product more memorable and a useful tool for marketing.

The ingredients that make up Angostura are closely guarded. There are only five people at the plant, called “manufacturers”, who are responsible for preparing the secret ingredients that go into Angostura production.  Many of the ingredients are flown in from England.  It is bottled at 44.7% alcohol by volume diluted with water, brown sugar, and caramel coloring.

The Pisco Sour

Popular classic cocktails that traditionally contain Angostura are The Old Fashioned (whiskey, bitters, muddled orange, and sugar), The Manhattan (rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters), and The Pisco Sour (topped with a few swirled dashes of Angostura).  Though there are many new upstart brands of bitters emerging with boutique ingredients and flavor combinations, Angostura continues to be the most popular brand of bitters in the world.  It’s impossible to imagine any bar without it.