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Bartender Confessions: They're Secretly Judging You if You Order These Drinks

Close-up of bartender hand pouring cocktail

For the most part, bartending is an enjoyable gig. Sure, there are moments of intense activity, referred to as "being in the weeds," of filling seemingly countless drink orders while new customers jostle to get your attention. Bartenders also have to handle obnoxious drunks. As a general rule, though, the job is a fast-paced way to make pretty good money while being able to interact with a variety of people. All of that being said, there are customer behaviors that irritate bartenders.

The website alcohol.org surveyed just over 260 past and present bartenders and asked them what customers do that bothers them. Some of the behaviors that bartenders aren't thrilled about are unsurprising. For example, the survey reveals that "asking for a free drink ranked as the most aggravating thing patrons could do."

It should be obvious that asking for a free drink is a breach of bar etiquette. Sadly, though, it's apparently not obvious to many customers. I remember moments of suppressing my true feelings while laughingly turning down requests for free drinks. You see, in most bars (in all the bars I worked), bartenders take inventory at the end of their shift. Bar owners want to make sure that the alcohol missing from the bottles matches the shift's receipts. In other words, free drinks ain't free. Someone has to pay for them, and unless the bar owner is really generous, it's most likely going to be the bartender who pays for it. You're not asking for a free drink; you're asking for the bartender to buy you a drink.

Some of the other breaches of etiquette that irritate bartenders include whistling to get their attention and asking them to surprise you when ordering a drink. Surprise you? If you ask me that, I'm going to make you the most expensive drink I can concoct.

To me, though, the most interesting thing about the survey is the list of drinks that will get you judged by the bartender if you order them. Note that I wrote "interesting" and not "surprising."

In the early 2000s, I tended bar at a brewpub. While standing behind the row of taps connected to delicious house-brewed beer, it never ceased to amaze me that some customers would step up and order a light beer. Did I judge them? Yes. I judged them for their ignorance of beer and poor decision-making skills.

Look, if you want to drink a "beer" that tastes like the water squeezed out of cooked rice, that's your right as an American. However, why in the world would you come to a bar that specializes in flavorful beer with a robust ABV and order what amounts to a beer brewed for children? Ordering it in a bar filled with adult beer earns you scorn.