Friday, February 27, 2009


My life has been completely submerged with bartending lately and I like it.

I teach.
I bartend.
I drink.
I blog.

What's next? Open a place of my own? We will see...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Getting Stiffed

I got stiffed on Monday night by a group of four people. I had two couples who were both together, come in on Monday night. None of them spoke a word of English. Luckily my food runner was able to translate so I could figure out how I could help them and what they wanted to be served at the bar. For the most part, they were pretty painless, except for the one lady who spilled her beer on the bar. They were all drinking Coronas. Easy enough.

They seemed to really appreciate my hard work. They were watching me break a sweat behind the bar, helping both the servers and the other people who sat at my bar. Anytime they were ready for their next round, I was refilling their glasses. They told my food runner that in their country, women don't work as hard as me. The men do all the work. The group even asked me to sit down at one point. Hahahahaha! Sit down during a bartending shift? Totally impossible!

When the group settled up their tab and got up to leave, I noticed that they hadn't left a tip. I decided to give them a chance before freaking out. Their bill had been around $65 or so and they had been sitting at my bar, watching me for a good hour. I was confident that they were going to leave something. After all, they had even commented on and commended me for all of the hard work I had been doing.

In the end, I got stiffed by all four of them. Not a dollar. Nothing. I was so irritated.

It's hard to not take getting stiffed personal. I understand that in some countries, tipping is not a customary practice because the bartender actually makes a living wage. But here in San Francisco, bartenders don't make a living wage. We live off of our tips. So when we get stiffed, it feels like a personal insult.

I couldn't exactly run after the group and ask them where my tip was or why they didn't tip. That would have been unprofessional. I just had to shrugged it off and move my smile onto my next customer. In the end, the tipping usually all evens out. There are some people who don't tip and then there are people who over-tip.

It's just the nature of the beast. One of those things, as a bartender, you just have to learn to roll with and hope for the best.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sober Bartending

I can't stress enough the importance of sober bartending. Now, I am not opposed to the occasional "shot-thirty/bar staff meeting/relief shot every now and then. On some nights, you just need a shot or two to make the painful customers less painful or to kick your ass into a higher gear. Call it liquid motivation if you will.

What I am opposed to are the bartenders who get so stinking drunk that they stop being functional bartenders. Trust me, I have worked with this type on a number of occasions. It's annoying for customers because they usually get served slower and receive incorrect drink orders or F-ed up drinks. It's annoying for the rest of the bar staff because now everyone behind the bar has to work twice as hard to make up for the drunk bartender. I don't want to have to pull someone else's weight behind the bar too. I have enough things to worry about already.

And what if an incident takes place at your bar like a customer gets unruly and picks a fight with another customer? We all know that drunk people aren't the most rational people on the planet. So if you add a drunk bartender into the mix, you can make a bad situation worse.

Some bars have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drinking meaning no drinking behind the bar or you can get fired. Some bars require you to ask a manager before drinking anything alcoholic. Some bars just don't care. Whatever kind of bar you work in, do your customers and co-workers a favor and maintain yourself.

There is nothing sexy about an ill-functioning, drunk bartender.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease

As a bartender, I recognize that in order to make a decent living (AKA: fill my tip jar), I must provide good customer service. I also have to be sure to provide a consistent level of customer service. Meaning, I can't be good to some people and crappy to others. I have to be nice to everyone.

So in my efforts to provide exceptional customer service, I find that some people are naturally going to require extra attention. Which is fine. I just don't get the people who, no matter what I do, can never seem to be pleased. Their drink isn't strong enough. I'm not helping them fast enough. Their steak is too rare. And no matter what it is that they are complaining about, if I offer to fix it for them, they refuse. They would just rather sit and complain. I call these types of customers my "squeaky wheels".

You ever hear the phrase, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease"? My "squeaky wheel" customers get a lot of grease (extra attention) because they bitch and moan about everything. Being in the service industry, it's my job to try and satisfy all of my customers. Sometimes I think people are so unhappy in their own lives that they come into a situation where they are being served and take it out on whomever is serving them. If they are dining at my bar, it's me that they take their shitty day out on.

With all of the extra attention that the squeaky wheels require, I think it would be fair to add on a special "squeaky wheel" service charge to their bill. Then if they tipped above and beyond what would be considered a normal tip, I could remove the extra charge from their bill. Surprisingly, a lot of my squeaky wheels don't tip all that much, considering all the extra work and grief they put me through during their time at my bar.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Don't Think So

I had a rather needy customer all night. Every time he approached the bar, he would shout out his drink order while I was helping other customers and expect me to drop whatever I was doing to help him. I did my best, considering we weren't all that busy and I was able to accomodate most of his requests in a timely fashion.

At the end of the night, his tab came out to be $111.00. He didn't leave me a single dollar for a tip. Zero, zlitch, nothing! I was not only shocked, but appalled.

Before he left the bar for the evening, he asked me if I could get him a glass of water. I asked him if he had a tab for $111.00. He said yes, but that he had closed it out already. I reminded him that he left me a zero tip on the rather large tab. No glass of water for you buddy!!

Did he really think it was kosher to stiff me on such a large tab? Especially after having to deal with his needy ass all night and fulfilling all his requests. Sometimes people really blow my mind. The nerve.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Did you know that Goldschlager (the popular cinnamon flavored schnapps that is kept in coolers behind bars everywhere) has honest-to-god, real, 24-karat gold flakes in each bottle?

Did you also know that in each 750-mL bottle of Goldschlager, there is what's equivalent to $3.00 USD in gold?

No worries, gold is a soft metal. It wont cut up your insides. But if you drink too much, it will wreck havoc on your digestive system.

Trust me. I know, firsthand. That's why I will never drink Goldschlager ever again.


In some bars, "regulars" are the people who you depend on day in and day out to fill up your tip jar. In some cases, regulars can be your bread and butter. Regulars are the people who come in each shift, like clockwork and usually order the same thing each time. It's always a good thing to remember a regular's name and their drink. I'm not really good with remembering names, but I can remember faces and drinks. I also remember if you are a good tipper or a shitty one. If you are a regular who comes in and takes care of me every round, guess what? I am going to remember your face, drink AND name. I enjoy making my good regulars feel special. In my book, they have earned that type of treatment and deserve it each and every time they come into my bar.

Every now and then, I have a regular who I wish wasn't a regular. These are the peeps who expect you to drop everything you are doing in order to help them (just because they come in all the time) and then DON'T tip. Or maybe they are just demanding, high maintenance and a little on the rude side. I have no problem with giving my "good" regulars a lot of extra love and attention when they come in because they take such good care of me and are a pleasure to serve. But why should I go out of my way to take care of someone who doesn't take care of me and is a royal pain in my ass? It's mindboggling to me when those types of regulars come in and EXPECT that special type of service.

If you are good to me, I will always take special care of you. If you are demanding, high maintenance and are a lousy tipper, I wont go out of my way to take care of you. Granted, I always aim to give a consistent level of good customer service, but the "good" regulars get special treatment. They've earned it in my book.

Lesson: Take care of your bartenders and we will take care of you. Aim to be a "good" regular.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bonus Points for Working in a Restaurant

Bonus points for bartending in a restaurant?

1. Cheap/free food. Extra bonus points if the food is really, really good.

2. You can get off work before midnight.

3. You serve food which increase the amount of your tabs which then increase the amount of your tips.

4. Servers tip you out.

Hells yeah!

I love my new bar home. Love, love, love it!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Turn Off the Cell Phone

I don't know what it is, but I find it really annoying when people talk on their cell phone while they are at the bar. I just laugh at the guys who walk around inside nightclubs with their bluetooth ear piece in their ear. Who do they need to talk to so desperately at 11pm on a Friday or Saturday night? And even if they couldn't miss the call, how could they possibly hear the conversation in the club in the first place?

If someone comes up to the bar already on their cell phone, I will usually insist that they finish their conversation before placing a drink order with me. I find cell phone usage in those situations really, really rude. If your call is that important, then you should finish it up outside before starting another conversation on the inside. Don't you think?

I had this guy come in the other night who dined at the bar and spent his entire meal on his cell phone. That's right-the entire meal!! How could you possibly enjoy your meal while being attached to a stupid cell phone? Especially an expensive steak and glass of wine. He ordered his drinks while being on the cell phone. He drank his drinks while being on the cell phone. He ordered and eat his dinner while being, shocker, on the damn cell phone. At least he left a nice tip.

At first, it annoyed me. But then after awhile, I didn't care. Hey, it was one less person to have to talk to at the bar and it freed me up to talk to all of my other customers who were there at the bar, in the flesh and mind.

Still, regardless, cellphone usage at the bar annoys me. Turn the damn thing off and talk to me. I am kind of fun to talk to. A lot more interesting than your stupid phone.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Bartenders who don't drink are as weird as:

a skinny chef

How do you know if the stuff you make tastes good if you don't even know or want to know what it tastes like? I'm not saying you have to be an alcoholic in order to tend bar, but you should at least know what the stuff you are serving tastes like.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

No Kiddos At My Bar!

The other night I had a family come in for dinner and had their three, very under-aged children sit at my bar. No no NO! Absolutely not allowed!!! Totally illegal and in direct violation with the ABC (the people who issue liquor licenses here in the state of California).

I would like to think that the parents of these children just had a lapse of judgment when they saddled their children up at my bar. I mean, people can't really be that stupid to think that it would actually be okay for a child to sit at a bar, can they?

I had to ask the parents, kindly and quickly, to move their children to a nearby table, away from my bar, while they waited for their table. The couple obliged without any hesitation. Thank goodness.

Oh yeah and if you look a day under 30, I am carding you. I have every right to. It's my job on the line and I am not trying to lose it over your under-aged ass. If you are of legal drinking age and I card you, take it as a compliment. Don't roll your eyes and give your bartenders grief when you have to pull out your ID. We are just trying to do our J-O-B.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I Can Hear You!!

If you sit at the bar and decide to have an intimate conversation with the person sitting next to you, I have news for you. Bartenders can hear your entire conversation. Especially if you are the only two sitting at the bar and especially if you stay an hour after the bar closes.

Tonight I had a couple come in and have quite a personal conversation at the bar. Keep in mind, the bar is small enough for me to bartend both sides if I stand in the middle of it. I wont get into the details of what was discussed because I want to protect them (whomever they may be) and I really enjoy my job (bartenders have unspoken confidentiality obligations to their customers too), but I have to say the whole experience was very uncomfortable. It's one thing to keep me an hour after we close, but it's another thing when I learn more about the both of you and your "situation" than I care to really know.

It's none of my business, but if you decide to have such a conversation in such a public place, just know that there are people listening.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What Makes A Good Bartender?


Anyone can memorize drink recipes, but it takes a special someone to be able to carry on a conversation with anyone who saddles up to the bar. When you are behind the bar, the bar is a stage that the bartender performs on. The people sitting at the bar are the audience. Trust me, all eyes are always on the bartender. Some people out there actually prefer to eat at the bar whenever they dine out because they want to watch the show. This is why it is crucial as a bartender to always have your game face on. No matter what's going on in your personal life, you have to leave it at the door at the beginning of your shift and put that smile on your face. A bartender friend of mine calls it her "shit eating grin".

I'm not talking about a typical song and dance routine. No American Idol shit here. What I'm talking about is the magical bar dance of churning out drinks for the restaurant and bar, while making sure everyone who is sitting at the bar is having a good time and is well taken care of.

A good bartender can talk to anyone who sits at their bar, is friendly and smiling, does multiple things at once, keeps a clean bar and makes delicious drinks in a speedy manner while making it all look like a walk in the park. It's these types of bartenders that really impress me and it isn't all that often that I see one. When I do see one, I also give my respect through a compliment and big tip.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

One of my Favorite Bars in SF!!!


According to Wikipedia,

"The word "tip" is often inaccurately claimed to be an acronym for terms such as "to insure prompt service", "to insure proper service", "to improve performance", and "to insure promptness". However, this etymology contradicts the Oxford English Dictionary[4] and is probably an example of a backronym. Moreover, most of these backronyms incorrectly require the word "insure" instead of the correct "ensure"."

The site also goes on to explaining in great detail:


When purchasing alcoholic beverages at a bar it is customary to tip. One dollar per drink is common, mostly due to complications that come from using/making change and calculating percentages. If a bartender is taking special care to take and fill your drink orders quickly at a busy bar where others may be waiting for service, a tip in the higher range is appropriate. Drinks which are more complex than a draught beer or simple mixed cocktail may also warrant a greater tip."

Ever wonder why some European tourists DON'T tip? The Wikipedia entry explains it all, in great detail, country by country. Awesome!!

Read the rest of the Wikipedia entry on TIPS.

Now show me the money bitches!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

First Official Night At The New Place

Tonight marked my first official night behind the bar at the new place. Of course within an hour of clocking in and setting up the bar, I broke a wine glass in my ice. It wasn't that big of a deal. It was slow and I had plenty of time to burn (melt) and refill my well with new ice. I was just glad to get something like that out of the way early on in my shift.

On my first official night behind my other bar, I opened a bottle of champagne and it exploded all over the bar and the girl training me. At the time, I was mortified. I had opened a million bottles of champagne during my bartending career and never once had I ever sprayed a bar or another person. After pulling a stunt like that on my first night, one would have thought I had never bartended a night in my life. Even worse, I thought the bar would tell me "thanks, but no thanks" and un-hire me. Luckily for me, I got to keep the job. Now that I look back that night, I laugh and realize that the girl training me actually deserved to wear that bottle of champagne. She was such a bitch and unnecessarily rude to me. But that's a whole other story...

Overall my first night went rather smoothly. It's only going to get easier from here.