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Thursday, 29 March 2018 08:26

How to Get a Bartender's Attention

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How to Get a Bartender's Attention Photo by Helena Yankovska on Unsplash

We've all been there. You and your friends walk into a crowded bar with expectations of a great and memorable night. Your friends grab a table and you saunter up to the counter to place your order only to notice that the bartender is not only busy, but has that frazzled look of someone asked to do ten more push-ups after they’ve already collapsed in exhaustion. How can you get service from someone so obviously not paying attention to you? What should you do to stand out among the throng of people in the same predicament? There’s no need to panic. I’m here to help.

First, have you tried snapping your fingers and/or shouting down the bar? Perhaps the harried bartender is so engrossed in their own world that they haven’t yet noticed your need for a libation. Shouting or making noise in their direction will hopefully alert them to their mistake and cause them to notice you. Make sure you’re the loudest thing they hear so they know to look your way. If the bartender is male you could even try calling him “Chief,” “Buddy,” “Pal,” or “Bro” and if she’s female feel free to use cute nicknames like “Baby,” “Honey,” or “Beautiful.” Should this tactic not bring you the attention you desire it could be that the bartender is concentrating on something entirely unrelated to their job. Like delinquent bills… never seeing their significant other because they work evenings and weekends… or their failing acting career. To help jolt them out of their daze try pounding on the bar a few times with the flat of your hand and feel free to keep pounding until you’re noticed. Just make sure you’re louder than any noise around you and at all costs avoid banging in time with the music. You need to make sure the bartender knows this is a desperate cry for their attention and not just someone REALLY enjoying whatever is playing on the jukebox.

Still no luck? Well, you’ve found yourself in one shitty establishment, my friend. Move into the service well (the part of the bar usually separated by brass railings) and try all these tactics once more from there. It’s worth noting that pounding on the metal drains usually found in this area produces an excellent clattering noise sure to rouse the attention of any bartender no matter how clueless they may be. Since this is where the servers come to get drinks logically it’s the best place for you to get the bartender’s attention. Pay no mind to the staff trying to cut in front of you to work in the service area. You deserve a drink and have been ignored long enough.

Assuming you’ve finally got the bartender’s attention this is the perfect time for you to ask everyone in your group what they want. Any bartender worth his weight in gold will wait patiently for you to find out who wants what, how they want it, and whatever
brand preference they may have. BY NO MEANS should this be done in advance. You will most likely forget the order by the time the bartender notices you and will likely have to repeat this annoying process again. Also, don’t worry if the bar is packed with
three lines of people waiting for drinks. Feel free to order whatever you’d like no matter how complex. Go ahead and treat yourself to that wet, in-and-out, slightly dirty, extra cold, half gin, half vodka martini with one anchovy olive, one bleu cheese olive, one pimento olive, and both a horse’s neck and an extra-long lime twist. These are your drinks and you deserve to enjoy them.

Finally! You have your drinks and can start enjoying your night. As you walk back and forth to your table handing out drinks two at a time make sure to collect money now from everyone you ordered for. The bartender will wait for you to pay so take your time. If you used any or all the above tactics to get your drink you should in no way tip your bartender. They are there to provide a service that they clearly did not provide and, honestly, they’re already being paid by their employers so why should you give them more? Without you they wouldn’t have a job and you shouldn’t have to fight to get their attention in the first place. Not tipping should alert the bartender of the mistake they’ve made and hopefully let them know they need to give you their attention faster next time.

Speaking of next time, inevitably you will find yourself in the frustrating situation of having finished your previous beverage and in need of another. Unfortunately, you must once again get the bartender’s attention and chances are good this time will be much
harder. It’s likely that their uneducated minds have written you off because you’ve already been taken care of once. Luckily you are now in possession of a sure-fire tactic guaranteed to make even the surliest of professionals turn their head your way and pay you the notice you deserve. Grab your empty glass near the top, hold it out over the inner edge of the bar, and shake it so the ice jingles around like a maraca. Combining this with any (or better yet ALL) of the above tactics will surely regain the bartender’s attention quickly and efficiently. If not, make a production of again not leaving a tip, tell your group to finish their drinks quickly because you’re leaving, and write a scathing Yelp review as you walk out.

Now there are some that may disagree with these tactics. Those disgraceful idiots may tell you never to stand in the service well as it’s separated from the rest of the bar for a reason. They might tell you never to pound the bar or jingle your ice cubes as it’s unbelievably rude to both the bartender and the other patrons. They may even tell you that the only acceptable name to call a bartender who hasn’t given you their name is “Sir,” “Ms.,” or “Bartender,” and that if you call a female bartender anything else you
deserve to be aggressively removed from the premises.

They may try to convince you that the most effective way to get a drink in any bar is to stand at the bar sideways but facing the bartender, rest your hand on the bar holding the money or card you intend to pay with, politely stare at the bartender until the two of you make eye contact, and then smile, nod, and wait your turn. They may try to convince you that the most effective way to get a drink in any bar is to stand at the bar sideways but facing the bartender, rest your hand on the bar holding the money or card you intend to pay with, politely stare at the bartender until the two of you make eye contact, and then smile, nod, and wait your turn.

These heathens think it’s important to not only have your group’s order ready but also have another set of hands with you to help carry it to your table. And for some reason, they think that if you don’t have the money to tip appropriately you don’t have the money to go out in the first place because hourly tipped employees are paid less than minimum wage in all but the best establishments. Ignore their suggestion that starting off with a larger than average tip and then tipping consistently well through the night will definitely result in getting you priority service but what’s more will probably result in you getting one or more drinks on the house every round.

Those haters have no idea what they’re talking about.

Follow my lead, use the tactics I’ve outlined, and you’ll surely stand out, my friends.

Read 1476 times Last modified on Thursday, 12 April 2018 22:02
Jason S. Ackerman

Jason S. Ackerman is a beverage professional and mixologist from Cleveland, OH. He's mostly worked in NYC and Chicago for neighborhood bars, chef driven restaurants, and a few celebrity chefs.