Training

Training

So, you want to be a bartender, eh?  You’ve been witness to the awesomeness that is an endless string of girls (or guys) praying at the alter of your bar, dropping digits and drooling on you as if you’re giving away freebase at Phoenix House’s gates.  You’ve imagined counting stacks of hundred dollar bills you’ve earned after a shift at Da Club.  You can’t stand your boring, fluorescently light lit, Neo-like cubicle grunt office job, want to sleep like a vampire and banish the alarm clock.  

It’s not for everyone but these are all highly desirable benefits.  I’ll avoid the conversations about career choice, becoming trapped in a blue-collar job, and what your W.A.S.P’y Wharton MBA and parents will think or how it might affect your future aspirations to be President.
Most bartenders I’ve come across have unfortunately never had formal training.  Taking things a bit further, there are some extremely succesful bartenders out there without formal training who will suggest you don’t need any either.  You actually don’t need it to get a job.  You do not need a certificate or the like – they’re meaningless (with the exception of the T.I.P.S. certification).  You can easily buy that little red Mr. Boston or the like, use flashcards to memorize drinks, and walk the beat filling out applications and submitting your resume.  You may get a job, but your chances will be slim if that’s your only preparation.  Do yourself a favor and be armed with everything and anything that can help your career especially if you’re green.

By the way, Mr. Boston is garbage.  If you run across a bartender or bar where it’s prominently displayed or worse, referred to when you order your Perfect Manhattan up with a twist, politely retract your order and run for the hills.  This is not a bar where you want to order a mixed drink or any drink outside a beer or glass of wine.  This is clearly amateur hour. 

Any and all training, as well as experience, a you can arm yourself with like almost any other job is to your advantage in getting and keeping a bartending gig. Do yourself a big favor – pay for and take the often viewed as ridiculous and unnecessary bartending class.  The difference between someone who has taken it and someone who hasn’t runs the gamut of:

  • T.I.P.S certification (Training for Intervention ProcedureS).  In other words, how to handle drunkards and other problematic customers.  This can be a huge win in terms of safety all-around, dealing with clearly inebriated customers who demand more drinks, making everyone feel as if they’ve won, legal liability should something terrible occur, and keeping the bar revenues and gratuities flowing even from someone you’ve cut off.
  • Knowing and being able to visualize and/or count 1.5oz and 3.0oz and their multiples, the standard or legal spirits quantities.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen befuddled inexperienced bartenders either get the deer stare or waste about 1/2 bottle of premium booze when a large party calls for a boatload of mixed shots like Washington Apples or the like.  Worse, I’ve seen noobs and barkeeps who’ve been on the job for years toss 6oz of top-shelf whiskey or gin into a shaker and throw out half after it won’t fit in the glass. This is unfortunately rampant with non-front-of-the-house service bartenders.
  • Knowing that “whiskey,” unqualified, usually refers to Rye.  
  • Knowing the differences between Rye, Bourbon, Sour Mash (Jack Daniels), Scotch, Irish Whiskey, etc.  Most people have no clue whatsoever.  
  • Understanding ice.  When to use it and why.  Most amateurs will overflow the glass with ice and have mixed drinks in particular spilling over the edges and making a huge mess. Very unprofessional.  A drink calling for ice should be filled 1/4 – 1/2 inch from the rim – period.  
  • Understanding the Martini process and how temperature plays into smoothness (not necessarily watered down).
  • Using the mixing glass and large shaker.  A myriad of bartenders are clueless as to how to separate a standard 16oz glass shaker (pint glass) from a metal shaker, won’t use the two in conjunction as a result and claim they often get “stuck.” Jesus Christmas! They are intended  to stick together to allow you to shake your drink properly.  Finish your shaking then give the combo a moderate bang with the butt of your free hand, at 90 degrees of the lean, while holding the set upright with the other.  The glass will break free every time with a little practice.  DO NOT bang them on the bar!
  • Purposes of the small and large shakers and 16oz mixing glass
  • What the trough is for and keeping your bar clean
  • Backbar and Doghouse
  • Differences and uses of Aperitifs and Digestifs
  • Basic wine understanding.  Unless you’re running a dive bar or dirty pub, you need to understand at least very basic grape varieties and food pairings.  Be able to make recommendations.  You don’t need to be a Sommelier but don’t make yourself look like an ass not knowing the simple stuff like sweet/dessert, full bodied dry, light semi-sweet, fruity middle-ground, earthy, oaky, grassy, tannic and the like.  You’re a professional (definition: primary source of income derived from…).  Know your business.
  • Condiments, which drinks get which garnishes and why.  Believe it or not, an insane number of so-called “professionals” do not know that anything with tonic automatically gets a lime or that a “Sour” is not a sour unless it has an orange and a cherry.  
  • Twists are not simply garnishes and they are not equal to slices/wedges (customers are often oblivious to this fact as well and create problems when ordering as a result).  Twists refer to lemon twists unless otherwise stated.  Some drinks to call for orange twists or peels.  In any case, if you roll and subsequently twist a lemon peel, you will notice lemon oil oozing from it’s pores.  This is what you after and want to rub on the rim of the glass in question then dunk into usually prior to pouring the cocktail.  The lemon oil creates a subtle but detectable/delectable taste nuance that alters the character of the drink in question often balancing out other delicate flavors.
  • Proportions.  A Margarita is not equar parts Tequila, Triple Sec, Roses Lime Juice and sour mix unshaken.  Yuck!
  • Simple syrup vs. Lemon X
  • Understanding what a Julip and Spring strainers are for
  • Knowing that every drink served with ice gets a straw.  Drinks wihout ice do not  get straws unless the customer requests one.  Do you know how many times I’ve seen bartenders attempt to throw in both sip and full-size straws in an up Martini???
I can go on forever but you get the gist.  Granted, some of these items can be learned on the job and will be learned on the job at times, in most cases, you will not receive all the training in that fashion. Just like most other jobs, your professionalism, abilities and knowledge are a result of a combination of formal training and experience.  Having both, combined with your personality and interpersonal skills, is clearly evident in your confidence on interviews, first provisional shift on the job where the owner/manager is evaluating you, your confidence in interaction with customers, etc.  and subsequently, your income.  

Take the class.  It’s well worth it.  Read as many books as you can. Keep in mind, however… there is a world of difference between an someone who has worked at half-a-dozen bars and an idiot that just got out of school with a  bullshit certificate and  endless optimism.  Use the training for what it is – a tool in your arsenal of knowledge, not a meaningless piece of paper issued by a school with no authority or industry recognition. 

I Can’t Taste No Licka!!!!

Another hot-button issue.  Ah the perils of bar life.  This is primarilly an issue/complaint for folks of a certain socio-economic genre.  Rarely do you hear this complaint from others.  Most of these folks are either crafty hustlers who run their freeloading scam on every bar they frequent  or just recently hit legal drinking age and don't understand what the frig they're asking for. They want to simply want to get as high as they can as quickly as possible.  They'll order a Pina Colada, Hairy Navel, Vodka and Cranberry (not "Cranberry Vodka" you college dweebs) and the like and quickly start with the trying to get free booze.  The uninitiated bartender will fall for it and start pouring for free – ugh!


This is another issue which will easily get under a bartender's skin and have you treated like dung.  There is a polite way to handle this if you legitimately come across this situation.  I hate to say this but I will because it's a true in many situations. Avoid ordering mixed or complicated drinks from young female bartenders at very busy bars/clubs.  I can hear the the anger and see the pitchforks and noose headed for me already.  As a lifelong patron myself, and long-time bartender, I can tell you that the majority of bars hire good looking girls for eye candy and for very good reason. We men are pigs and are drawn to them with little self control.  They bring in business.  That said, there ARE a small percentage of hot female barkeeps that can pour accurately and go deep with knowledge about things like hops, barley, seasonals, differences between rye, bourbon, sour mash, Scotch and Irish etc., and can pour a temperature perfect Martini.  But they're the exception.


Now about that licka!  If you want to taste the booze, order a shot or a classic gin or vodka Martini, or a Long Island Iced Tea – something with all or nearly 100% booze.  Any mixed drink, particularlly those with added sugar or fruit juice or frozen, will dilute the taste, not the content of alchohol.  In some cases, a mixed drink is actually more economical if you want to get drunk than a shot.  For example, a Martini typically has 3 – 4oz of vodka or gin compared to 1.5 to 2oz for a shot or other mixed drink and is only one or two dollars more in most cases.  You will certainly taste the alcohol.  By comparison, you being an alchoholic and order a double of that same vodka or gin, you're' going to pay double the price!  Most people don't think about this.  Other drinks fall into this volume/price category too like the above noted L.I. Tea or most Margaritas or Mojitos.  All good values if you look at it from a alcohol vs. price perspective. 


There are certain liquours that appear to taste stronger than other but they aren't.  Most are 80 proof (40% alcohol content).  Things like Cognac, Tequila, whiskeys and Gin are very flavorful and tend to dominate mixes.  It's a misunderstanding and I believe this has contributed highly to the "Hennie" popularity in some cases.  Vodka by law, is tasteless, orderless and colorless.  It's alcoholic effects are far and wide though, little different than any other alcohol of the same proof if consumed in the same manner.  Perception is not always reality.


That said, if you want a double, order a double from the get go.  Don't complain about not being able to taste the booze in a vodka sour.  I assure you, the last thing a bartender wants to do is rip you off.  They're there because they'd like to please you and thus earn a good tip.  Pissing you off doesn't contribute to that model.  Furthermore, a good bartender would rather take back a drink you don't like and pour you a new one to your liking rather than give youo one for free for your complaining. It's about principal.  

The KFC and Coors Light Crowds

Ahh… a topic sure to incite riots and get me doused with all manor of Hatorade and racist garbage.  I've lumped these two disparate crowds together to show that I'm an equal opportunity hater and to show that they're not that different at all.


Over the years I've bartended (coming up on 20), I've never worked at a dive bar.  They've always been moderately upscale to high-end – mostly casual restaurant bars.  I can't tell you how it makes me shriek and want to dump my condiment tray on your head after you've looked at the menu and proceed to say something like "y'all ain't got no chicken fingers or mozerella sticks up in here?" or "lemme get an Incredible Hulk" (right after looking at our specialty drink menu).  After politely noting we don't carry the ingredients, this is usually followed by requests for Ciroc, Alize or E&J ummm Brandy.  


Suffice it to say, this scene is most repeated for some reason on late Friday and Saturday nights – the established bartender's least favoriate nights to get stuck with.  Most cubicle grunts won't understand this phenomenon but in all the watering holes I've worked in, I'd much rather work earlier weeknights that are often visibly slower than weekends and avoid the dreaded "Bridge & Tunnel" crowd and late night revelers that are already feeling nice from the other spots they jut celebrated their BFF's engagement at. 


It would be wise to walk into a place, evaluate the neighborhood, take a look around at the atmosphere, other patrons dress style, liquors and beers on the back bar, drunkeness level and try your best not to be a complete standout, no? No kidding. You wouldn't go to an industrial park's roving rave party and order Louix IV in a warmed crystal snifter, tuna tartar, and creme brulee would you?  


Back to the KFC crowd.  I can't tell you how I loathe the comments "I can't taste no alchohol in here.  This isn't strong enough.  Make it strong!" blaa blaa blaa.  This is another favorite routine of the same type of customers, taught from generation to generation to try and getover on inexperienced bartenders.  I'll cover the not strong enough dealings elsewhere.  However, these same folks are often the ones who will either stiff you entirely on a $100 tab or leave something like $3.00.  Yikes!  Often, this isn't noticed until they've left.  At this point, I've expended all kinds of engergy getting their drinks to their liking, bringing extra mayo/napkins/plates/olives, listening to their rants, removing an unliked dish from their check, and listening to thei conversations about their wife-cheating ways at a volume thatn can be heard by every patron at the bar and restaurant, while taking care of 30 other bar patrons that I just hang my head down in frustration and sadness.  This bunch of jokers is often found wearing track suits, ridiculous bling, backwards or cocked hats, bad posture, pants on the ground and just about never rolls up to the scene in anything that is wearing 22" Dubs and tint.  


Now for the Coors Light crowd – another favorite weekend bunch.  Firstly, Coors Light, Bud Light, MGD, etc. are pisswater and I don't touch the stuff unless at a party and that's the only option.  But that's another conversation about beer snobbery.  These folks quite often fit the same mold as the KFC crowd to a tee in terms of behavior.  The names of their affections are different is all.  The rest of the story is more or less the same from being (1) demanding (2) shocked we don't carry cheap American suds and tipping like crap(they're often broke young kids from the 'burbs out in the Big City and barely have a pot to piss in yet are perpertrating a fraud by acting as if they're Big Swingin' Dicks).  These tools are all too often conspicuously wearing NFL jersey's and backwards baseball hats and rarely come in alone.  They are also loud, obnoxious and demanding and are completely obsessed with making obnoxious sexual remarks to and rubbing up on the first girl with a pulse within earshot at the bar.  A quick and easy way to identify this crowd is with their overuse of the term "bro."  If older, they often have an abundance of tacky gold jewelry, portly beer/steak bellies and neatly coiffed blown out shellaced hairdos.  They are therefore easily identified and you can thus be prepared for them – kind of.  Some of these folks are extremely crafty and over the years have perfected the art of cheap living and getting over on bars/restaurants.  


Sadly, it only takes a few bad apples to ruin the bunch and taint the reputation of others.  As a result, some folks walk in acting similarly to what's' described above and I'm automatically predjudice – expecting to be treated rottenly and stiffed.  That's just not fair to either of us because most people of any persuasion are good, patient, properly tipping types.  I've sometimes shocked and feel like a terrible human being for expecting the worst from a customer and they wind up being the nicest patrons on Earth and tip extremely well.  But decades in the service industry have made me jaded.  I venture to say that lots of other waiters and bartenders have similar experiences and subsequent feelings.

Freeloaders

Water, pens, advice, toothpicks makeout sessions, telephone numbers, advice on where to go next, shoulder rubs are not free!  We are in the service industry.  We offer service and expect a proportional gratuity as a result.  Want to quickly enrage a bartender and encourage him/her to kick you out? Roll up to the bar and ask for water with lemon, a straw a napkin, break out Homer's Odyssey, slap your iPod earphones in. When asked "can I get you anything else," respond with "no thanks, I'm just waiting for someone."  


If you're lucky, like on a Tuesday afternoon and the bar is half empty and/or you're hot (e.g., good to attract other paying customers or a target for the bartender to flirt with) you may get lucky.  Otherwise, you're infuriating the employee and costing everyone money.  Go to the park and find a nice comfy bench.  I hear they even have free water.  No one will try to get you to buy anything – well maybe the herb man but we'll cover that in another post. 


I've seen skateboarders roll in all gasping and sweaty dying for water with zero intention of buying anything let alone tipping.  The other night, a well dressed 30'ish dude sat his ass down and proceeded to ask only for and a plate of bread – that's all!  The bar is not for you.  I'm not trying to be harsh but we are in the service industry and deserve to get paid for servicing you whatever that service may be. 


Finally, no one cares nor do they need to know what you're waiting for someone or why.  The bar is busy and we're trying to earn a living.  No, you can't sit there an "reserve" either stool beside you for your date.  It's rude and again robs the place and bartender of money.  By the way, the easy way to circumvent this particular issue as most other things in barland is to slap down some cash.  Buy a drink for your mythical non-existent friend and/or tip handsomely beforehand.  You'll earn the patience, understanding and all other kinds of good will from Bill the barman.

Bar Banter and Other Time Sucking Activities

Your local watering hole is sure glad you're there, yep!  They appreciate your business and so do the owners.  However, there are some customers that insist on yapping their brains out, pulling bartenders away from other critical tasks like I don't know, serving other customers and making a living.  Again, if you want to be treated like a rock star, respect people's time and keep the yap yap and other distractions to the bartender making money to a minimum.  If you've become a friend/regular this applies to you too.  Anything but a bad service employee will constantly be scanning the bar/tables to see if anyone needs another drink, a spill has occurred, someone needs another fork or ketchup, or a hot piece of ass has just rolled up to the bar.  If not, they shouldn't be working there.  


Few things are more disrespectful than telling story after story after story about the most mundane occurrence in your life.  This is especially true of losers who hang out regularly but NEVER actually buy anything or tip, the worst kind of patron.  Learn to notice when you're sucking up too much of someone's time like for instance when you hear "Uh huh, sure or Oh really?" on the order of 2,397 times in 60 seconds with no other feedback.  It means the world doesn't revolve around only you and people have other business to attend to.  It doesn't necessarily mean you're not liked or respected just that you're talking too much while someone else is WORKING.  Yes, part of our job description is indeed to be personable, chat, flirt, be engaging etc.  But many people cross the line into blabbermouth-dom and me-me-me land.  As with other "services," the more you blab, the more you should consider tipping.  Nothing is free.


If a bartender is paying extraordinary attention to you, you're getting hooked up with free drinks, lots of smiles, or he/she is running over to you at every free moment, (1) you're naked [and look good naked] (2) more likely, you're throwing twenties around like you're at a strip club or (3) there is some sort of romantic interest at play. 

Filth

From both the customer's and bartender's perspectives, this is not your home – it's a business.  The fact that you're spending your hard-earned money, or trying to earn a bit, does not entitle you do live free and wild in a private business where other human beings are working and dining and drinking. 


Case in point? Snot rags.  It is never acceptable to blow your nose on Bev Naps and dinner napkins, deposit them on the bar and ask or expect your bartender/waiter to pick them up! Never!  Get up and toss the offending snot rag in the trash and wash your hands while you're at it.   


Condiments.  Do you really want to stick you knife or fork in that Grey Poupon or Heinz wide-mouth bottle, lick it good and double-dip?  Can you imagine several of your closest strangers doing that?  Yick!  You're tipping me but not putting caps back on is insulting.  Be considerate and somewhat clean.  No one's asking you to be an OCD neat freak – just respectful of others.  


Odiferous-nes .  Yes, I'm talking to all you patchouli wearing, 4-day non-bathing, free spirit anti-perspirant ditching, Drakar Noir loving, Rasta oil loving, non teeth brushing fools. It's nasty and insulting.  Nothing makes me gag or burst into migraine mode faster than knowing you've arrived from 20 feet away when you haven't opened your mouth to order, my back is turned yet I know you've arrived.   Be considerate.  


Tone that crap down – the incense oil in particular.  It's ridiculously offensive. You're in public.  


You can't not know you have chronic bad breath. At some point, someone has made their personal space more than 4 or 5 feet from you, backing up as your talking for this very reason.  Maybe it's so bad that someone has actually told you outright.  Google halitosis products please – nasty.


Similarly, I don't know what you do in your country, but most people here shower daily and wash their drawers more than once every 6 months. B.O. is a serious disease.  If left unattended, it can lead to the dreaded hold nose and evacuate, no service, bitter beer face, or empty bar.  Check yourself before you wreck us.  Invest in a $3 deodorant/anti-perspirant – PLEASE.


Barkeeps.  There live among you far too many filthy animals.  A bar rag is for wiping the bar down after most every customer has left.  As a matter of fact, just as waiters do, you should be clearing empty glasses and plates continuously and wiping dirty areas down with a damp rag NOT a wad of paper BevNaps.  Bar rags are not decorations nor are they the personal domain of your barbacks.  Don't be a revolting slob.  Nobody, I mean nobody, likes to roll up to your bar expecting to order a refreshing drink and stick their elbows in sticky sugar, smeared ketchup and molten candle wax while you flirt with the waitstaff at the service bar.  I cannot stress how important this is to your business and nightly income.  A clean bar is far more attractive and inviting than a filthy one. 



Tipping

T.I.P.S. is an old acronym for "To Insure Proper Service." In layman's words, you get taken care of, please take care of me in return with cash.  If I've spilled a drink on your head, spat in your food, run my fingers through your girlfriend's hair whilst giving you the salute, I'd expect that you would not be leaving me a tip.  If I've taken a food and drink order for 5 people and wind up neglecting the fact that you didn't ask for a tomato and wanted a salad for your burger, do you really think it's fair to stiff me?  No.  We are all human.  


Many times I've had to answer questions about salary.  The straight answer is, in most bars/restaurants, bartenders and waiters get paid net nothing and are completely or nearly completely dependent on gratuities for their wages.  Furthermore, in larger establishments, they often get taxed (income tax) on a percentage of sales.  In other words, many employers report to the IRS that service employees have made tips whether they have made them or not.


It is customary in this country to leave 15 – 20% of the bill as a gratuity for your bartender/waiter.  30% – 50% or more will get you a whole lot of love and other treats as I've previously mentioned.  You'll leave an indelible impression in a good way.


You European and Southern U.S. low-income earners and tightwads wake up – this is not optional unless I've done some of the things above.  If you goof this up, don't be surprised to get yelled at embarrassed and never served at that establishment again at worst, ignorance for future orders or dirty looks at best.  You Europeans who pretend to barely speak Engrish let alone play coy about not tipping, or worse drop $.38 cents in coins on a $75 bar tab, you give us all angina, make us industry folk refer to you as Eurotrash and ruin it for the majority of Europeans that are all to pleasant to serve.  All your guide books refer to tipping in the U.S.  Don't play stupid.  Our livelihoods depend on our service and compensation as a result.  


Coins are not acceptable unless you've leaving a collector's item or something valuable.  $1 is not an acceptable tip on an $14 drink people.  If you've had 6 drinks and your bill is $100, $6 damned dollars is an insult.  You will get "the treatment" next time you come in and I assure you, that you will be remembered 6 months down the road when you next show your cheap ass up.  Bartenders have a photographic memory for cheap asses. You are ingrained in our psyche. If you have a cup of coffee for $2 or $3, coins or $1 is ok just don't dump a dozen of coins along with your pocket lint, nail clippers and Chapstick please.  That's shag-nasty. 


If you are broke, the last thing we want to hear is you whine about it and unfold 8 singles that are crumpled up in your school backpack.  Golden Rule #1: if you don't have enough money to go out comfortably and tip well, don't bother going out.  Stay your ass home.  Golden Rule #2: the longer you linger and the more obscene, demanding and generally P.I.T.A. you become, the more you should tip period.  If you've lingered 3 hours, paid for 1 cup of coffee that I've refilled 5 times, strewn sugar, newspapers all over the bar, I have charged your phone and lent you my pen, is a $1 tip really sufficient? I think not.  


As the other posts mention, be liberal and generous.  Make an impression.  It will come back to you 10 fold if you return to that bar often.  

Free Drinks

Ahh…. aside from free sex with the hot bartender or hot customer, this is probably the most desired item on the agenda of just about every bar patron on the planet.  


How do you score free drinks? Don't ask for one! That's Rule #1 and by far the most important. Under no circumstances go out expecting free anything at all – even if you've gotten free drinks there 100 time prior.  Always be prepared for and expect to pay in full.  Nothing will turn a bartender off more than asking for a free drink.  You've instantly painted yourself as a self-righteous, pompous, cheap, non-tipping ass.  You've blown it and will almost surely never get a free drink.  The only way to extricate yourself from this situation is distraction – a.k.a, massive tipping and getting out of there.  Come back another day to do battle and hope that your bartender has forgotten your bar faux pas.  If you've tipped massively enough, he/she will remember the cash and not the stupid request.  Heck, you might even get the first one or two free.  Learn from that idiotic mistake.

Rule #2.  As in my other posts, your objective is to project yourself as that problem free, non time-sucking, heavy tipping regular.  If you do that, you're pretty much guaranteed to score free drinks – sometimes on the level of more free than not.  See where this is going?  You can actually wind up spending less over time and making your time at the watering hole much more enjoyable.  Even in establishments where you've broken Rule #1 and asked something retarded like "what's the buyback policy here?" you can recover.   Your bartender will surely answer something like "we don't do that here." Translation = "What a dick.  He's never getting a free drink."  

Splitting Checks

Few things are as infuriating and detrimental to your bartender/customer relationship as when you  and your friends hand the bartender/waitress 3 credit cards and 2 stacks of cash, whilst taking 10 minutes to explain how much you want charged on each for your massive $47.35 bar tab.  People are busy and that poses a major, major inconvenience to your server.  


Firstly, if you want separate tabs, tell your bartender before you place an order and cough up your credit cards to keep the tabs open simultaneously.  In some bars, the bartender can’t split checks without the manager and you’ve just delayed him/her and a half-dozen other waiting customers by 5 -10 minutes and caused anger levels to rise substantially whether you realize it or not.  


The best thing you can do for yourself is again gain that trust and liking from your local bartender.  Paying a tab in full with one card or cash is one of your best options to do that.  It saves the bartender time and therefore money.  Money makes the bartender happy and you therefore get treated a whole lot better, get it?  


For some reason, many, many, many young (early twenties) women in particular like to break these unwritten rules and drive the bartender up the wall.  Why on Earth would you hassle someone and split a check of $18 for two drinks by using two cards?  Do yourself a big favor for future visits – pay the check with cash or 1 card and tip exorbitantly.  Smile, say “thank you. I’m [name]” and walk away.  

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If your tab is $867.88 I can see sometimes why you might want to split your check.  Try not to split it more than two ways.  Again, 3 or more cards will drive people nuts.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Everything is about marketing yourself, and yes your marketing/pimping yourself at the bar, as a problem-free customer that the bartender wants to see come back.  I cannot stress enough how far this will get you in having things go your way when you revisit the place.  This includes free drinks, the bartender moving people aside so you can have a seat, you getting served first regardless of other orders, free shots, advice, romantic hookups, etc. The less you annoy your bartender, the better treated you will be – significantly.  



Tabs

This is New York City.  Even if it weren't, you're patronizing someone else's establishment.  What does that mean?  You need to be mindful of the house rules fool!  Rules can be written but most or not.  In other words, follow instruction.  If your bartender asks you if you'd like to start a tab, that means he/she needs a credit card to keep the alcohol or even just food and non-alcoholic drinks flowing.  


You may be "old" and feel insulted.  You may say to yourself "ugh! What an ass! How rude! He doesn't trust me? This is a restaurant dammit [in a restaurant bar case]" or whatever.  The bottom line is that in most establishments, if a customer doesn't pay for their bill, the bartender or waiter does!  How do you think that might work out if you or just a single one of the dozens/hundreds of customers this employee is serving a night walk out intentionally or get a tipsy and just "forget" to pay?  What if that service industry employee is counting on just a couple of hundred dollar night to pay rent and that gets wiped out by one person's neglect, inebriation or malice?  Hmm….


It's not an insult.  It's just standard practice at most bars in NYC and other busy hubs.  Don't be a prick.  Give up the plastic or pay cash.  You can always pay cash when you're ready to leave and get your card back.  No, 99.999% of the time, your bartender is not out to screw you with swiping your card info nor is he/she going to lose your card.  It happens but it's extremely rare – like  a plane crash on your way to Disney.  Can you imagine at a busy, busy bar where a bartender has 10, 15 or even 20 checks open simultaneously?  It would be nearly impossible to keep track of everyone without.  


In the day when it may be less busy depending on which bar you frequent, where people may be eating more and drinking less booze, it's easier for your barman to keep on top of folks and ensure everyone is served, having a good time and paying their tabs.  In this case, you may not even be asked for plastic.  Again, don't be insulted if this is not the case come nightfall for reasons stated above.


Various bars have a system of keeping track of open tabs.  That may be a check placed in front of where your party sits, memory if not overwhelming, etc.  I've seen the occasional customer highly insulted for being "presented" a check when he/she wasn't asking for one.  Chill man.  It''s just a way for the barman to keep track of who's check belongs to whom.  That's all.  


On to the customer side of things… You want to try to establish a relationship with one bartender if possible.  Try to order from the same person.  That doesn't mean insulting the next one that may see your drink nearly empty and being mean.  The relationship means building trust and being cool and mostly, making sure the bartender knows you'll be tipping and tipping big.  That does not mean telling him/her that you work at Restaurant Chez George or Dempsey's Bar and Grill.  It means not being an insulting demanding toolish person complaining nastily about everything from the fans being on, to the candle's making you sick, to not being able to taste the alcohol in your drink, to generally having a nasty attitude.  


Bartenders (and waiters/waitresses) deal with some really scummy situations and are shat upon regularly.  You can easily score brownie points and subsequent free drinks, digits, dates, valuable information, saved seats, free food, tickets, whatever if you establish yourself as the nice guy/girl who tips big and makes their visit an event to look forward to for the service employee.  That said, in a new bar, pay cash and pay up front. Have the cash on the bar before the drinks and food are ever laid in front of you.  Tip immediately and go about your business without hassling the barman.  Push the cash towards the trough so that your intentions are unmistakably clear. Do not hand people cash or insist they take it.  Let them do their thing in their own time. Again, chill and make the bartender aware through your actions that you will be the exception to the annoying, demanding, problematic cheap-ass drunk.  If you follow these guidelines regularly, I assure you that you will be the beneficiary in short order.  Furthermore, you will wind up spending much less money in the long run.


If you do have a tab, with or without a credit card, when it comes time to pay, here is your opportunity to make sure you are the beneficiary of everything I spoke of above.  In addition, you have an opportunity again to be shining star of a standout customer that the bartender wants to see again.  If your bill is $20, you don't want to to tip $3 and call a day.  No one will remember you.  Give up $10 or more.  If your bill is $100 I have news for you %20 is not memorable.  Tipping $30, $40, $50 or more will get you a big fat smile and most likely free drinks when you return I assure you.  Near-term investment, long-term savings and benefits.  You make the call.