Ask the Bartender!

I just got home from work, and after reflecting on the fact that a lot of my customers tonight had all kinds of questions about my job…and this happens frequently…I thought I’d start Another Dreaded Ask The insert name of annoying or inane person/job title thread.

Just because I can.


I am a 24 year old female bartender who works at a bar/restaurant in downtown San Antonio; I’ve worked there for a year and a half, and before that I worked at a martini bar. If I do not have the answer (or drink recipe) for you, I can find another bartender who does. (Bartenders always know tons of other ones. It’s like the world’s biggest club.)

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to answer peoples’ questions for real, when my tips aren’t on the line, so ask away!

What’s a good recipe for a banana banshee? I’ve not had one in ages and I always get quizzical looks when I ask for it.

I’ve got a few, if you don’t mind.

1- How much do you actually make, in take home? How much of this is tips?

2- Did you go to “Bartenders College” or anything similar? There is a school out here that offers some sort of course. Would that help someone make it as a bartender, IYO?

3- I’m looking for something to do with Vodka besides screwdrivers and vodka-cranberries. Any suggestions? No tequila, and fairly inexpensive, if you would please.

Freyr, the only restaurant I’ve worked at that served banana banshees was TGIFriday’s, and I didn’t bartend there, so I’m afraid I don’t have a recipe for you, although I will ask around to see if someone at work does. :frowning: All I remember is that it was an ice-cream drink that contained banana liqueur and dark creme de cocoa…which isn’t much help. I’ll ask around.

Tristan, let’s see here.

  1. I make an average of about $450 a week, in cash tips, over the bar. (This can go as high as $800 or as low as $250, but I’d say that’s a good average. Depends on the season.) I make $2.13 an hour, wage-wise, so my bi-weekly paychecks are usually less than one hundred dollars.

  2. I have only met two bartenders who went to bartending school, and they were both awful bartenders who didn’t last long; I think bartending school is kind of a rip off. I myself got into it the old-fashioned way, working my way up from hostess to waitress to cocktail waitress to bartender, which is how most bartenders get into it. For a guy, I’d say a much better route is to barback at a busy nightclub; strut your stuff for awhile and do a damn good job, and you’re in line for the next open bartending gig. Most places, unless they’re brand new, promote to the bar from within.

  3. Vodka (my favorite!) is good with just about anything but cola. My best secret for cheap, really tasty vodka is fusion. Go buy a bag of your favorite flavored Jolly Rancher/Lifesaver hard candy–watermelon or orange or raspberry or whatever–and get a jar or jug that seals, and then buy a bottle of triple-distilled vodka, pour it into the jug, add the candy, and let sit for a week or two. (The longer it sits, the sweeter the vodka will become.)

This also works with fruit; a local bar here has a different fruit-fusion vodka every week. Any canned fruit will work; it’s particularly tasty with pineapple.

Shake vigorously over ice, strain into martini glass, and amaze yourself and your friends with your oh-so-tasty vodka. YUM.

Vodka and peach schnapps, with a bit of your favorite fruit juice, is a nice twist on the old Screwdriver/Cape Cod thing. (If the juice is cranberry, this is called a Woohoo. If it’s OJ, it’s called a Hairy Navel. I don’t know if names are important to you. :D)

If you like creamy drinks, vodka and coffee liqueur, like Kahlua or (cheaper) Creme de Cafe, mixed with half and half and Coke, tastes just like an ice-cream float. (This is a Colorado Bulldog.)

Just about any of the Puckers–which are cheap fruit liqueurs–taste really good with vodka. I particularly like Watermelon Pucker and vodka.

And I could go on and on…:smiley: Let me know if you’d like more, or if you’d like precise ounces. (The actual recipes.)

Wow! What a great topic! Please tell me how to make a jellybean. I used to make them all the time, but my memory is a little fuzzy, like the navel drink… sorry, I couldn’t resist that one. I was a bartender a long time ago at the Fly-By-Night-Club in Spenard, Alaska, which is a “suburb” of Anchorage. My favorite vodka drink is a Bloody Mary made with V-8 picante, demitri’s bloody mary mix (, and garnished with a pickled green bean.

Just wondering if you’ve ever heard of or made a “Jackaroo”.

I kind of remember some of the stuff in it, but not all of it. I know there was OJ in it, and a little sprite/slice on the top. There was some kind of blue liquor in it, and also Wilderberry Schnapps.

What else is in it? I remember also that there wasn’t any Jack Daniels in it…

Can you help me out??!?!! :slight_smile:

What a great thread!!!

Hot bartenders make more tips, right?

Is it more effective, as a bartender, to be hot or to be friendly?

I hate Singapore Slings.

Please don’t make them anymore.


Hm, White Lightning beat me to it.

How many times a night does some smooth-talking guy ask, “How about ‘sex on the beach’, honey?”

Is there much variation in the strength of the drinks you make (I mean in different iterations of the same drink, not a comparison between different drinks). What I mean is, is it typically true that one can obtain stronger or better drinks by tipping well?

Do you give better service to customers that tip well? How well does a customer have to tip to get better service or better drinks?

What about regulars? Do you treat regulars differently from random customers?

Is it appropriate, if you become a regular at a bar, to stop tipping outrageously after a while? Will that make the bartenders stop liking you?

I have a lot more questions to come but I’ll try to avoid overwhelming the discussion so early. I love drinking, I love bars, and I want to be a bartender really bad. But there’s so much to learn!

Radar Ralf, I have never heard of a jellybean…ditto for Breezy’s Jackaroo. Again, I can ask around, but unfortunately a lot of drinks/shots are very trendy and regional, so something that’s really popular in, say, California, may or may not ever make it to my bar in Texas. And if it’s an older drink/shot, it may have “gone out of style” so no one’s ordered it from me.

I do know that the blue liqueur in your Jackaroo was Blue Curacao. It’s an orange-flavored liqueur, like triple-sec. If you know it contained wilderberry schnapps and Blue Curacao, you might try an ounce of each, filled with OJ and shaken, and then topped with a splash of Sprite…but I’m sorry I’m not more help.

White Lightning, your question about being hot vs. friendly is a multi-faceted issue. :smiley: A hot girl can get away with being not-so-friendly, or being not-so-good/not-so-fast, as long as she’s hot. This is unfair, but it’s pretty much a given, because the majority of decent tippers in a bar are men. (Women do not, as a rule, tip for squat. Even if the “hot bartender” is a man.)

But it’s more “effective” to be both hot and friendly, if possible. And a male bartender will have to work harder to get the same money a hot girl would; men aren’t as quick to tip other men, so a male bartender has to be quicker, faster, and more accurate/charming/talented than a girl in order to make the same money. This doesn’t mean male bartenders don’t make money; it just means their methods are different.

isthatsowrong?, I could start a whole other thread just dedicated to the pathetic/hilarious/insulting/perverted things men have said to me over the bar. :smiley: A few of 'em have tried to make a joke out of Sex On The Beach, yes. Last night a guy told me I had “really big earrings.” (Which I did. Big silver hoops.) I thought it was an odd remark, but I took it at face value, until he said, “Yeah…just how big are those? About 34C’s?”

The sad thing was, his wife was sitting right next to him.

(And in case you’re wondering what my reply was, I said, “Oh, did you want to drink that beer, or did you plan on wearing it?” That would have been the end of it if he hadn’t asked me again later, while his wife was in the restroom, if he was “close.” And at that point, except out of pity for his wife, I would have cut him off and made him leave. I just felt so bad for her that I didn’t have the heart to make her take her bastard husband to some other bar, just to start all over again.)

I dated a bartender, once, and he told me that “most bartenders are either alcoholics or recovering alcoholics.” S’trewth?

WhiteLightning, I have given your questions their very own post. :smiley:

Yes, there is variation in the strength of the drinks I make, but not so much as you might think. I always start everyone off with a good pour, and unless you’re a godawful tipper–like a quarter per drink, or round, or whatever–your drinks will stay that way. It’s more than just the tips; it’s about building a bar. I want people at my bar b/c they attract more people; I want cute girls at my bar b/c they attract men, and prevent the dreaded “sausage fest.” So even if a girl is a horrible tipper–and trust me, that’s most of 'em!–chances are good I won’t short-pour her and her friends b/c I want them to stay.

I want money over the long haul; I want people at my bar all night long, attracting other people, so you have to really annoy me, or not tip me at all, for me to deliberately short-pour your drink. But I have no qualms about it, if it comes to that. (I also short-pour for people who look a bit too drunk; cutting someone off is an ugly business and I’d rather avoid it unless it’s really necessary, so usually I’ll just start making their drinks really weak.)

And yes, a really good tipper gets really good drinks. And my definition of a “really good tipper” is someone who’ll tip me two/three bucks on a single drink. Five bucks on a round of two/three drinks. Giving me the change on a $20 for a $14 tab. This is the guy/gal whose drinks are made quickest and strongest. I make them my priority.

But these are really good tippers; I don’t expect them nor look for them. A dollar a drink is pretty much a good rule of thumb if you don’t want to get crazy with it, particularly if you’re in a large group or keep ordering big rounds of drinks and shots. Someone who keeps ording three beers, two margaritas, a Crown and Coke, a dirty martini, and three kamikazis is a HUGE pain in the ass unless they’re making it worth my while, so I’m going to ignore a time-consuming order like that until I have time, unless this person makes it worth my while…because if I made all those drinks individually, for other people, I’d make a lot more money than the two/three bucks this person plans on giving me for making all of it together.

And yes, regulars do get special treatment. I know what they drink, so it’s waiting for them by the time they sit down; I know their names and we usually have an ongoing conversation/debate going, so that starts up the moment they show up. I don’t always “hook up” regulars, b/c I don’t want a bar full of people who regularly show up for free alcohol; this is counterproductive. I want a regular who behaves him or herself, is friendly and polite, and tips well. Not outrageously; I don’t expect 40% or anything from a regular. Just a good 20-25% will work.

But I do have a couple of regulars who come in who tip so well that their tab is very minimal. One of them is another bartender who works down the street; her tab is rarely over $15 regardless of what she drinks, and she’ll tip me at least $20.

Having said that, it’s never a good idea as a regular to stop tipping what you began tipping when you started coming in. But if you are a regular who comes in and always tips 20%, any decent bartender will be happy to see you, so you don’t have to tip outrageously in order to get good service as a regular.

And regulars I don’t like–creepy guys who come in a lot, or have a tendency to get insulting when they get a little drunk, or who don’t tip well and never have–get absolutely no special treatment at all. I “forget” their names and what they drink, and they actually get treated worse than random customers.

So if you’re a “wanted” regular, you’ll know it. So just carry on as you’ve begun.

What is the most lame-ass thing you have ever seen a guy do when trying to meet ladies at the bar? What kind of dumb stunts do you see on a regular basis? Do you ever intervene when you see someone of the slimeball persuasion on the hunt and attaching themselves to an other-wise innocent bystander?

Pretty much. Depends on where you work, too; I used to work at a martini bar where the boss didn’t care if we drank while we worked, or after we closed. So after awhile, we found ourselves drinking. A lot. It was free and it was fun. We’d stay til six in the morning, playing pool, blaring the sound system, and pouring ourselves whatever the hell we wanted (out of a VERY extensive bar).

So I guess your friend should have added “potential alcoholic” to that list.

I’m not allowed to drink while I work at my current bar; I don’t miss it and I don’t really care, either way, because by nature I’m not a big drinker. I’m more of the social kind. (My current boss observed once that “Audrey drinks less than any other bartender I’ve ever seen.” Which pretty much proves your friend’s theory.)

But bartending is a big game of “hook up,” where everybody knows everybody, so if I were a big drinker these days, it would be very easy for me to drink a lot for almost nothing. And most of the bartenders I know do.

And I would say that, even now, I drink more than I would if I worked in some other field…so yes, I think the potential to become an alcoholic is always there. And that most of the bartenders you meet drink far more than they should.

The most frequent ploy is to get me to play Cupid. “Send that girl a drink. Tell her it’s from me.” :rolleyes: This doesn’t work and never will; chances are very good that I am going to walk over to that girl with the drink in hand and say, “That chickenshit guy over there wants to buy you a drink but he doesn’t have the balls to bring it himself, so here. Drink this on him.”

And that’s if I agree to do it at all. Most of the time I refuse, because I don’t believe in pestering my female customers with annoying men.

And yes, I have intervened if a man just won’t leave a girl alone, or won’t take “no” for an answer. That kind of guy will empty your bar of women so fast you won’t be able to blink, so the last thing I want is a bar with no female customers and a bunch of irritating creeps left behind.

But honestly, men are not usually as bold in front of a female bartender as they would be in front of a man; my male bartending friends have some pretty funny stories, but men usually reel that in in front of me…and the creepy guys who would try stuff usually try it on me first, so I usually cut that crap out before it gets to another girl.

I’ve had guys ask me for my number in front of their dates, I’ve had guys leave me their number on their credit card receipts instead of a tip, I’ve had guys write down their hotel room numbers on the dollar they tip me, I’ve had guys call me from their hotel later, asking me if I want to “come by,” I’ve had guys offer to put me on “an allowance” if I’ll just “have dinner” with them once a month when they’re in town, I’ve had a guy get really pissed off when I wouldn’t tell him what I looked like naked…I had a guy who shook my hand when he sat down at the bar, really vigorously, and then grinned at me and said, “Just wanted to see if they were real.”


I’ve gotten some winners, for sure.

I found this on the “drink street” website, but I really wanted to know how you would make it, Audrey. Different bartenders have secret ingredients or techniques to make their versions stand out from the normal.
3 ounces Brandy
1 ounce Anisette
1 dash Grenadine
Do the bartenders in your area follow the time-honored practice of tipping other bartenders big-time in return for inexpenive, strong drinks? When I was still in the profession, I was able to visit other bars and clubs and pay for only every third, very well-made cocktail and, in return, I would leave a very handsome tip for the barkeep. And when other bartenders would walk up to my bar, the favor was returned. There’s nothing that compares to hearing a bartender say, “This one’s on the house.” I learned the bartending craft while I was in the military a long time ago. I think it is a good experience and skill to have - if everything else goes to hell in a handbasket, I know that I can still make a living as a mixologist. Now, are you well-versed in the arcane art of “bar bets?” I reckon a lot of folks here could help out in that department. A while back, I posted my famous “fly resurrection” trick - I’ve made a few bucks with that one.

Whenever I get a longneck, I notice the cap is put in a separate receptacle before being served the capless beer. What happens to the caps, and, are the bottles recycled?

Did you ever get a request for a “Hairy Buffalo” (aka “Gorilla Sweat”) for the buyer’s “friend”?

What’s a Mint Julep (as in Deep South and Tennessee Williams)?