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Bartender Survey: 9 Things to Know (Including the Fastest Way to Get Served)

By Chris Walsh
March 19, 2014

To mark this year's Bar Blitz, we put together our first-ever bar industry survey - a look into the minds of the people prepping, pouring and presenting us with our favorite libations. We wrangled 51 bartenders and mixologists across the country and asked them about all aspects of their work: loves and gripes, tipping and buybacks, hangovers and worst drinks to make. Here, we’ve summarized the results into some useful gems that will help you get to know your local bartender.

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  • 1. They’re not in it for the money.
    When asked “What’s the best thing about your job?” almost half of them (47%) said because “It’s creative” followed by “Interacting with people” (29%). Money wasn't even mentioned.

  • 2. Still, they bring home some bank.
    When asked “How much do you earn in tips per shift on a 'good night'?" the breakdown was:
    <$200 (8%)
    $200-$299 (44%)
    $300-$399 (31%)
    $400 or more (17%)

  • 3. They don’t like drunks.
    When asked, "What’s your biggest pet peeve of the job?" the highest response was "Long Hours" (20%). Right after that? "Drunk People" (18%), and if you are overindulging, we found that almost all bartenders (92%) have cut someone off.

  • 4. St. Paddy's is NOT the worst holiday of the year to work.
    Despite having a reputation for bringing out binge drinkers and troublemakers, the March holiday is not most bartenders' least favorite night of the year to work. The absolute nadir is a tie between Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve (14% for each) - though to be honest, most bartenders aren't that cynical about their profession. The top answer for the question "What is the worst night of the year to work?" was “There isn’t one” (16%).

  • 5. They hate it when you yell or flash cash.
    When asked “What’s the best way to get served quickly by you?” the results were:

    Just be patient (39%)
    Make eye contact (33%)
    Be a regular (16%)
    Tip well (12%)
    Flash cash (0%)
    Yell (0%)
    Wave (0%)

  • Photo by: Alex Gregg

    6. Buybacks are more common than you think
    When asked "What is your position on buybacks?" just a quarter of respondents (24%) said that they never offer them. For the other 76%, the respondents said that they give gratis drinks to either regulars, heavy tippers or anyone who buys a certain number of drinks. The takeaway? Become a regular. Drink a lot. Maybe you'll get a buyback once and a while.

  • 7. Bartenders love making old fashioneds
    When we asked bartenders what drinks they love to make and serve, we received answers ranging from classic martinis and Negronis to more unusual concoctions like the Corpse Reviver #2 and the 20th Century. The most common answer, however, was the old fashioned - considered by drink historians to be the first cocktail ever. Like one bartender said, "It's a timeless classic that turns pennies of whiskey into a work of art."

  • 8. And they don't like making Long Island iced teas.
    The list of "least favorite drinks to make" was long, and heavy on dirty martinis and vodka sodas, but one that popped up the most frequently was that coed standby, the Long Island iced tea. As one bartender responded: "That drink needs to be erased from the face of the earth."

  • Photo by: Caribb via Flickr.com

    9.  86% have Googled a drink recipe while on the job.
    Yes, 86%.

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