People go to bars for the same reason they go to church. To commune. To socialize, to partake in an activity as part of a group. Autonomy rubs against the grain of human nature, no matter what American culture would have you believe. Any person can walk into a bar, sit down and with the help of some social lubricant and a decent bartender, feel a little less alone. The omnipresent barkeep stands in the background of so many moments in your life and yet, very little is understood about who we are and what we do.
Here are the Top 10 myths about bartenders that I regularly come across:
- We are just biding time until we get a “real job”. While it’s true that we’re basically servants and probably don’t have insurance, bartenders typically earn more money than many of our peers while working half the amount of hours. Try as you may, you and your “real job” can’t buy a better life than mine using smugness as currency. That said, many bartenders do have other pursuits – are in school or working at something creative. For most, that jump to a “real job” necessitates an uncomfortable pay cut. Not to mention the fact that there are a whole bunch of bartenders who *gasp* actually feel passionate about it.
- We sleep until noon. “What are you doing up?!” is often the first thing I get anytime I hit somebody up before 12 pm. This really depends on where we work, as some bartenders’ heads don’t hit our pillows until 4 am but many of us, regardless of when our workday ends, make a concerted effort to get up at a decent hour and function amongst the living, at least most of the time. Hence, we’re often super tired, so be nice to us!
- We’re all alcoholics. It’s perfectly logical to assume that the dealer is getting high on his own supply. PLENTY of bartenders drink as much as they pour. However, there are two reasons why many of us aren’t the boozehounds you imagine us to be: a) We have access to basically everything and anything which affords us the privilege of a discriminating palate. That means we drink for the taste, not just to get crunked. I’d rather sip a really good rye than shoot a Jägerbomb (shudder). Do I end up drunk sometimes? Duh. But more often than not, it’s quality over quantity. b) Being around alcohol and inebriated people constantly kind of turns you off the stuff.
- We’re uneducated. Tending bar is a hard, dirty, working class job and so many people seem to think that any idiot could do it. Wrong! Not every barkeep necessarily has a college education but a whole lot do. Sure, it’s often in something like Philosophy or Anthropology (guilty!) but believe me, the person serving your drinks is more likely than not, wicked smart. I
- “You must get hit on all the time”. I can only speak for myself on this one: Nope. The assumption is based on the fact that I’m a woman in a bar setting. If I was sitting on the other side, I probably would get hit on all the time, since I’ve got boobs, vagina, etc. But it’s different when you’re in the background. Most girl bartenders master the art of standoffish flirting. Where you smile and ask lots of questions but do a really good job of avoiding personal questions about yourself and lying like a motherfucker when guys ask you what time you get off work. I’ve been asked out by a few customers over the years but these occasions are few and far between.
- We went to bartending school. The only bar you’ll find a bartending school grad behind is in a banquet hall or something. No class can teach you this job. The only way to learn it is the hard way and no bar worth a shit would be caught dead hiring someone dumb enough to fork over money to learn how to make Chocatini’s and Long Island Iced Teas. To become a good bartender, you usually have to start in a really crappy place and work your way up. It takes time, effort, a lot of embarrassing mistakes and a bit of lying to become a decent bartender.
- We actually like you. Your fun, friendly bartender is at work. She’s there to make money. I know it feels like you’re all just hanging out but you aren’t – She’s sweating and running around while you sit and relax. So if they throw you a free drink, it’s not purely out of love and goodwill which means that you need to throw back a tip. If you don’t, you’ll quickly learn how much it sucks when the bartender *doesn’t* like you.
- We want to get you wasted. Drunk people are the worst people to deal with, especially when money is changing hands. I understand that, under my watch, people are gonna get there but it’s most definitely not the singular goal. Trying to manage a bar full of drunks is something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Additionally, there is liability – I don’t know what you do when you leave my bar. If you get in a car and kill someone (or yourself) drunk driving, that’s on us, legally and spiritually. A good bartender pays attention to intake and subtly tries to help you pace yourself. We aren’t that hard up to squeeze every dollar out of you, that we’d risk your life over it.
- That we’re gonna “make it a good one”. Telling us to make you a stronger drink is so incredibly arrogant because you’re essentially demanding something for free. If you have to pay extra to get your Big Mac meal supersized, why would it be free to get your drink enhanced? When it comes to cocktails, we measure liquor according to what will impart the best taste. If you put too much bourbon in an Old Fashioned, it will just taste like bourbon and not a cocktail. If you like that, cool. Buy a double.
- We have a “favorite drink to make”. My #1 favorite drink to make is “one for myself”. For you, it’s whatever’s fastest and easiest. I do enjoy coming up with new cocktails and perfecting my technique in executing difficult ones but that has very little to do with serving you during the rush on a Saturday night. Plus, you’re holding me up with this dumb question. What’s your favorite drink to drink? ORDER THAT.