Barkeep’s Best Friend

On any given weekend your favorite bar is busy – packed like fat guys into spandex –likely because you go to great bars. You frequent this establishment at least three times a month and can’t figure out why you don’t get good service. Yes, the joint is crazy busy, but you needed your low-cal beer and “something not too sweet” for Suzie like five minutes ago. What gives?

The reason you’re in a service-free vortex is simple: it’s because you are a d*ck to your bartender.

To ensure you get good service, regardless of what you drink, consider the following instructions when interacting with the person who controls the booze:

Go Pro
Bartenders are held to the highest service standards of any profession. If you doubt me, think about the last time you had a flight delay or billing issue with a large energy company. How was the service? If the airlines were half the service professionals that bartenders are, we’d plan trips with as many layovers as possible, the airport more an oasis than the Seventh Circle of Hell we currently consider it. Now that you realize that person on the other end of the rail is a professional, treat them as such. Do not snap, whistle, shout “hey you,” jump up and down, or wave your arms like a cartoon character that has fallen off a cliff. Pick a bartender, make eye contact, and hold it. If you are playing with your phone or talking with a friend, it is clear that ordering is not your priority, therefore you are not a priority. Here’s an analogy: say someone came into your office snapping and pointing at you while taking a selfie. Would you give them the time of day? God, I hope not. Based on his communication style, the guy is a real window-licker.

You may select a bar by the number of dudes in shiny shirts or the establishment’s Rohypnol policy; however, I select my bars based on bartenders. You will find me at places where I have made a connection with the person in control of my alcohol, ensuring I get a good drink in a timely manner. This leads me to my second recommendation: make a connection, so the person behind the bar knows you without you having to say “don’t you know who I am?” Unless you’re Bruce Springsteen, the answer to that timeless question is always, “Yes; you are the douche bag who will be served dead last.” To make your face unforgettable and endear yourself to your bartender, tip well, early, and often. Drop a thirty percent (or more) tip on your first round, and I guarantee that said bartender will be a freaking ninja every time you need a refill. Bring a five or ten spot to drop on the bar even if you are running a tab.

Tip or Tipple
If it’s not in the budget to tip well that evening, you should probably just stay home alone with a bottle of toilet wine. However, there is another option. This by no means replaces tipping, as bartenders do not get paychecks, but it is an alternative that may save you some money. Offer to buy the bartender a drink. Unlike the rest of the free world, some establishments don’t mind if the barkeep has a drink or two. It is not guaranteed that the barman will accept, but he or she will appreciate the offer. Quick note: if you happen to be across the bar from me, I will take you up on your offer with a shot of bonded Old Granddad.

Be Decisive
Now that you have established rapport and gotten his attention, it is time to order, something you have done any number of times. The majority of people have this down, but there are a few egregious offenses that will put you at the back of the line. Know what you want. If you get in front of the bartender, don’t turn around and yell back to your friends, “what did you want again?” You are doing it wrong. I avoid this problem by having a “go-to” drink – gin and tonic or a Budweiser with a shot of Jameson – something readily at hand or easy to make. If you are looking to try something new, great – but you are going to have to make the selection for yourself on a busy night. While on a slow night, asking the bartender’s opinion about their rare bitters made by a one-eyed monk on the south facing slope of a secret mountain in Uzbekistan might be welcome, those same questions are a chore on busy nights. So you know what you want, and you’re getting a couple drinks for friends. For the love of Christ, please order all at once. If you order a drink, and I bring it back to you, and then you order a second, you are taking up more than your share of time. At that point, the person behind you is under legal obligation to Gibbs slap the back of your head.

Veteran Columbus bartender Grant Bain has been fine-tuning the science of spirits in town for years.  Now, he can teach you, through his on-site, private cocktail business, Speakeasy Kitchen, which is for hire at