20 Things Local Bartenders Want You to Know

By: 
A.J. Rathbun
Poppy bartender Veronika Groth

Bartenders are so awesome. They serve you drinks, they have stories a-plenty, and they tend to dress snazzily. But what would they tell you about bartending, bars, drinking, and cocktails if they didn’t have to go make four more Ramos Fizzes? Well, now you can find out, as I asked four of our favorite local drink slingers what they’d like the people to know (we’ll take it for granted that one should always tip well and be a decent human being at the bar). Here are their answers. Oh, and it should go without saying, but go visit each of the first three folks on the list at the bars listed. And watch for the last one sitting next to you at one of those bars.

Andrew Friedman, Liberty
1. Your bartender wants you to try something new. We probably like what you chose, but please feel free to ask us our opinion on another option.  Because we spend a lot of time with bottles and cocktails, we know our way around them, and we may be able to introduce you to your new favorite spirit or drink.

2. Your bartender wants you to talk to the people around you.  Bars are a proven social experiment, and everyone’s experience is bettered by knowing with whom we’re drinking.  Great spirits and drinks are best shared with a good story and new experience.

3. Treat yourself. It should be no shocking surprise that a more highly-priced spirit is probably a bit tastier. No, it’s true!

4. On that note, ask for a taste of a spirit that you’ve never tried before.  If the bar and bartender are half-decent, they’ll love to pour you a bit.

5. Introduce your friend to the bartender when you bring them into the bar for the first time. They’ll remember you for it, and trust me – it’ll work in your favor.

Bryn Lumsden, Vessel/Vito's

6. I like it when a guest orders from the menu. I always drop off menus because that's a list of the house's best drinks. They are the drinks that are dialed in, the drinks with syrups that are the most fresh, the drinks we just got finished researching, cross-referencing, and debating. A good menu will also have selections that suit every preference, mood, and occasion. When a guest tells me they “don't order off the menu” before they open it, I will happily engage in a conversation about their preferences knowing that there is a 95% chance that something on the menu is precisely what they are looking for.

7. Sometimes a guest will ask, "What are you working on at the moment?" That is a great question. Most good bars rotate their cocktails seasonally so the answer to the question is also, usually, somewhere on the menu.

8. When I use a jigger to pour you two ounces of whiskey, it is because I pour more 1-1/2 ounce highballs than I do good whiskey, and I want to make sure you get that extra 1/2 ounce.

9. I like making Ramos Gin Fizzes when I'm busy.

10. My least favorite drink to make is a White Russian because the Kahlua is always in the back of some dark shelf that is too low to the ground and the cream is wherever the last person who made coffee is.

Veronika Groth, Poppy (shown at top)

11. Seat yourself nearest the bartender and server station, and you'll be able to see all various types of drinks go out, and ask questions about them. More than likely, I will make a little extra of drinks going out to give you a sample. In my opinion, it’s the best seat in the house.

12. In an average week we juice approximately 75 pounds of lemons and limes each. So know when you are getting a drink with these juices, it's FRESH.

13. The busier I am, the more naturally new drinks come into creation (i.e., when I’m busy and you ask, “Just whip me something up bartender” ).

14. My two favorite drinks to make are the Old Fashioned (which I use to introduce people to different liquors), any kind of drink with an egg in it (i.e., bourbon sour  or a Pisco sour). There is something methodical about both these styles of drinks for me, and I love it. Weird, yes. Good, yes. Order one.

15. I use the wrong end of the mixing spoon, and the right end of the muddler.

Andrew Bohrer, Spirits Director, Vinum Importing (previously, Mistral and more)

16. When ordering, it’s about drink family as much as base spirit -- as in, if you like Margaritas and Daiquiris then you'll like a well-balanced whisky sour.

17. The bartender believes him/herself the king of the proletariat. If you treat him/her as such, you'll get better service and a better cocktail.  That is to say, by flattering their ego, they'll serve you. Everyone wins.

18. Send drinks back.  I would have become a better bartender faster if guests had sent drinks back.  Shaken Manhattan? Send it back. Unless you are in an airport, you should expect a good drink for your hard earned money.

19. Drink at lunch.  Iced tea is BS.  Create an arsenal of low-alcohol cocktails to have at lunch like the Americano or just a glass of rosé wine.  Even if you have just an Armagnac with espresso after lunch, just try having 1 ounce -- it's delightful, and it won't get you drunk.

20. Blended whisky is better than you think. 

Veronika Groth photo copyright Becky Selengut, 2012.

Categories: