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Advice to Nightclub Rookies on How to Order Drinks

Updated on March 10, 2016
Advice from a bartender on how to order drinks.  Ditch your rookie ways!
Advice from a bartender on how to order drinks. Ditch your rookie ways!


This entire rant may sound a bit cynical, and although it is all true, it was written in an enraged drunken fit at about 4 am after a very long and insanely busy night. Any career bartenders will relate and most will not only agree, but will often even add their peeves to my list!

Looking back now, I think these impatient characteristics were the red flags that told me "I may be getting too old for this shit."... Time to hang up the apron! But all in all I LOVED my job, I LOVED my regulars and I miss it to this day.

If you get a laugh or two and would like to get to know me and my "real" writing - please check my website

Rule 1: Know What You Want

Know what you want once you get to the bar to place your order—especially if it's a crowded night!
Know what you want once you get to the bar to place your order—especially if it's a crowded night!

When the bar is packed and you've been waiting in line at the bar, here's a thought: KNOW WHAT YOU WANT WHEN YOU GET YOUR TURN. Yer killin' me!

Rule 2: Never Ask "What's Good?"

Don't be inconsiderately indecisive. Instead of shrugging, order a drink, or at least name an ingredient.
Don't be inconsiderately indecisive. Instead of shrugging, order a drink, or at least name an ingredient.

When you do get your turn, NEVER ask, "What's good?"

Almost worse - pllleeeaaease don't say, "Make me whatever." I don't know why we bartenders hate that, but we do. So just order something—anything. At the VERY least, say "A vodka drink of your choice" or "Anything with tequila"—give me something to go on, please.

Here's a good one: "I want something fruity and really strong, but I don't want to taste the alcohol." I have three little words for you: Fuck right off.

Rule 3: NEVER Ask a Bartender to Hook It Up

Never ask a bartender to hook it up.
Never ask a bartender to hook it up.

This maybe the biggest rookie mistake you can make. Never, and I mean NEVER ask the bartender to "Hook It Up" or "Make it strong." This is exponentially true if the bartender doesn't know you and/or it is your first drink in the place. If you are a good tipper, your next drink will be very strong. We half-comatose bartenders can barely remember our own work schedules and frequently forget mandatory meetings (especially if it is an "annual cleaning party") but we will remember a good tipper every damn time.

Rule 4: If you pay as you go, tip as you go...

If you are not running a tab, don't "tip at the end". We both know that's not going to happen.
If you are not running a tab, don't "tip at the end". We both know that's not going to happen.

Don't tell the bartender that you're not going to tip until the end. This, in bartender language, translates to: "This guy (or girl) is not going to tip at all because they want to use the little money they have to drink as much as possible before getting wasted and forgetting the tip altogether." That is... if they ever intended on the "at the end tip" anyway. Let's be honest, we both know you didn't.

Rule 5: Remember That 151 Makes You Puke

Remember that 151 makes you puke.
Remember that 151 makes you puke.

This is for the 21-year-old birthday partiers: There are other shots besides 151. And a side note, almost every single 21st b-day guy or gal whom I have served a 151 shot to has ended up puking, with very few exceptions. If that is your goal, well, sweet, I'll even make it a double to hurry that along for you. But listen, there are shots that are strong, actually taste good, and don't result in puking. Not immediately anyway...

Rule 6:A word about tipping in change

This is extremely specific to tonight at work, so indulge me for just a second because—well, just listen. I got a handful of pennies and nickles and a few dimes dumped in a pile on the bar top that still had gum and ashes on them. No, just please... no.(you know who you are) This isn't because I don't appreciate the thought. I sincerely do. But maybe, just maybe if thats all you have you shouldn't be ordering drinks you don't have the money to pay for in the first place. You look like a homeless person. Actually, I take that back because I have served many homeless people who have better manners than this jerkoff. I would sincerely appreciate it coming from a homeless person; I don't appreciate it from the Paris Hilton wannabe with the $300 purse and $200 jeans, who has attempted to get someone to buy her a drink all night, but failed so miserably that she has to to run out to her car and dump out the ashtrays to come up with enough money for the one $3 ladies night special drink she is going to sip on all night and use the "I am so drunk" mating call in a desperate effort to have that second drink paid for by some poor military guy the night before he deploys!! aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhh I'm over it. Keep your change, and don't complain about me when I don't take your fucking change. Suck it up and get a job. Sorry about that, let's move on.

Rule 7: Tip

Tip your bartender an appropriate amount for your drinks, especially if they were complimentary.
Tip your bartender an appropriate amount for your drinks, especially if they were complimentary.

Have you ever wondered what an appropriate bartender tip is? Let me just give you some pointers.

If you are a running a tab and the bartender has been taking care of you, maybe even bought you a shot or a drink, estimate the cost of what you got for free and mentally add it on to the bill before you decide on that tip. For example: Last night, the boss of one of our employees (from his other job) comes in with a few people. I put a ROUND of drinks for them on my tab—the "comp" tab probably amounted to about $25 or $30 in cocktails. It was a very busy night, during which, by the way, he was banging on the counter and snapping and waving at me in the middle of my taking other people's orders (he was enough of a jack-ass that I was really REALLY sorry that I comp'd those drinks), and at the end of the night, his tab was $75. He left us $5. FIVE. One, two, three, four—five. Not even 10 percent. Add on the comp $25, and his tab would've been about $100; good regulars would've left $30—he left FIVE. Do you think I will ever take care of him again? NOPE. Will his snapping and waving get ignored? YEP. Like he is the f'n invisible man. He got in my face and interrupted me while I was straining to hear an order from someone who had been waiting, and I said, "You are going to have to wait until I am finished with this." Maybe that pissed him off—I don't care. I don't jump out of an order for anyone, unless you are a very good regular who is polite, a good tipper, and SOMEWHAT patient. So that is what NOT to do.

If you are ordering a standard beer, wine, or drink, $1 each time is nice. If you are running a tab and satisfied that the bar staff got to you as fast as humanly possible, 20 percent is nice too. My best regulars tip over 30% and get treated accordingly. So find your comfort zone—do what you need to do. But if you think tipping is not required, do what you do in your comfort zone somewhere else.

Two words about cheap people:

  1. When you ask the price of your beer and I say, "Four dollars," and you get that look of shock and awe on your face and scream back, "FOUR DOLLARS???!!!", do you realize what an ass you look like? It is what it is, I didn't set the price, and my name ain't on the sign outside, so the only thing you have managed to do is make everyone within earshot know you are cheap.
  2. If you only have $6 in you pocket, ask the price of something before you order it. I have had a small but growing trend of people order, I make the drink, I say, "Seven dollars," and they say, "OH, I only have $6" And then they give me a look to say, "Can I have it anyway?" GO AWAY.

    Wait, one more thing:
  3. When your drink comes to $5.25 and you give me $5, and I say, "No, I said, 'Five twenty-five," and then I get the look like, "OMG, I can't believe she's asking me for 25 cents," yes, I am, because I AM NOT FINANCING YOUR DRINK. It is five TWENTY-FIVE, and if you don't pay it, I have to. So on top of me not getting a tip, you expect me to help you pay. I don't think so. Again, GO AWAY. C'mon now.

Rule 8: Don't Order Made-Up Drinks

Do not order a made-up drink from your bartender.
Do not order a made-up drink from your bartender.

This is not a rule, maybe just a request. Say you are under 25 and you went to Red Robin last week and they have some sort of funky shot that their 22-year-old bartender made up in his spare time while he wasn't playing World of Warcraft, and it is called—oh, I don't know—a juicy fantasy. You think this is a real drink, then you get irritated with me for not knowing it and ask for another goofy thing like oh, I don't know, a flaming green monster, and still get more irritated, so I just walk away like I can't hear you talking anymore—don't take it personally. Just understand that every place has their own drinks. If you go somewhere like that and you like one of those drinks so much that you have to order it everywhere you go instead of the 3,000 other drinks we actually do make, then ask the bartender at Red Robin for the recipe, and I will glady do my best to replicate it for you, with a smile—and a drop of Visine.

To Conclude

Friends, I am telling you these things out of the goodness of my heart. Really. You don't want to be that guy, or that girl—do you? . Last, I just want to say to those great regulars, and you all know who you are: Thank you from the bottom of my glass. You're the best

I hope you got a laugh...

If you got a laugh or two - you may be happy to hear I have started to take writing more seriously. I am writing fiction novels, mainly comedy, but with a few dramatic twists, such is life....

"The 45 Loves of Lucy Lacrosse" is my first in a three part series - to be released the end of March 2016. I would be honored if you would check out my website and sign up on the contact page to be notified of release date and promotions along the way.

Thanks again

- Chanin Kaye

Soon to be released:

To be release the end of March 2016.
To be release the end of March 2016.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Humorous and informative.

      I'll never understand those who either leave the smallest tip possible or don't tip at all. As you pointed out, it's one of the worse things you can do to a bartender. Honest work deserves honest pay.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hey chanin. Nice blog. I saw myself doing all those things at one pount. But over time you learn what drinks you like how to give good tips and know when to say when. Some people are newbies and some people don't frequent bars a lot. Positive attitude and patience goes a long way. This is coming from a middle school teacher so I hear the same dumb questions a lot. But for a lot of these people they have no idea and don't any better. They'll learn

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      The sign of a good writer is humor, great piece!

      And super informative, hopefully this article relieves some tension in the customer to bartender relationship.

      For those non bartenders who think this is pretentious, you're probably not getting very good sevice and that's not going to change.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Love this! I work at a spa and do cosmetology services all day and the rules are basically the same! I was always worried I wasn't tipping enough to the bartenders or if I made them feel rushed and I'm glad to know I'm one of the tippers they will remember, thanks so much for this!!!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      what an asshat

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      5 years ago from California Gold Country

      I don't go to bars, but I understand your thoughts about tipping and abusive attitude from customers. I give waiters and waitresses a decent tip, and understand that it isn't as easy as it looks. They work hard --and are caught between management and customers-- trying to please both.

      Interesting to hear your perspective. Cheers!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Brilliant. I think a lot of this stuff can translate to a lot of professions too, so saying that bartenders are pretentious is just silly. When you are in a profession that needs to help customers, whether it is bartending, food service, retail, etc., it is always annoying when people are idiots like this. I think the article is funny and tells it like it is!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      loved and appreciate seeing as i am turning 21 and need to know how things go out there in the big bad world

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good to know. I like it

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      thanks for the tips! had fun reading this haha

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      ahhhh...again - I find it funny that I have to remind people this is a humorous thing....and just FYI I have done all the "real" bartending too. I worked at one place that had 70 different scotches and I was required to know the details of them all, another place that had 170 micro brews on tap.... which is worse a pretentious bartender or a pretentious customer? I know bartenders can get very arrogant - I hate that too - I came up through the ranks under some of the meanest, and I vowed to never get that way. Some people are more "foodies" - hats off to you - in fact I'm with you! The older I get the more I appreciate a good dining server over a bartender, really - I already know what I like to drink!

    • profile image

      That Guy 

      7 years ago

      I don't know why bartenders are some of the most pretentious people on earth. I'd rather tip heavily on a food server than a bartender. If I have to hear that there is a science to mixing these drinks one more time, I'm going to puke. There are no real bartenders anymore. You know, the ones that know the difference between whiskey and whisky. Or ones that think that foreign beers aren't the greatest thing in the world (all depends on preference mind you).

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks George! - As I said, I wrote it at 4am after having a few drinks myself - there are grammatical errors, punctuation faux-pas...don't care - I left it exactly as I wrote it that night. Please feel free to add to it - I have gotten some hilarious comments and peeves from others over the years. One of the best bartenders I ever worked with started at Red Robin - I think the busier locations probably produce some quality "mixologists" who can handle some high volume - definitely money to be made there! One of the best tips I ever got from him was to get your regulars to know each other - that way when you are busy they will entertain themselves by conversing with each other and eventually it will be like one big happy party and they will return more often for the camaraderie they have all built. And on that note - build quality regulars - you get to choose! So build with fun social people. Even if they aren't monster tippers - if they are ones that add something good to the atmosphere, then more people like that will come back more often - it all adds up...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      That was beautiful. I wish more dic* faces read this. I was looking for a good idead to build a bar crowd for my bar(red robin) and I stumbled across this. You are not the only one who feels this way about people who don't know how to go to a bar or restaurant and order a drink and tip. You took the words out of my mouth for every example you gave. I love bartending but I don't have patients for idiots.

      God bless

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      have no idea what are u talking about

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      get a sense of humor ;)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      You expect a 20-30% tip for running a tab? Get a real job.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Good read

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      lmao really enjoyed reading this and will deffinently keep all this in mind next time i hit the club . cheers :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago



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