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Types of customers I've met as a bartender

I would normally prefer the word patrons. However, in my young experience as a bartender, I’ve come to realize that some frequenters of the bar are only interested in their fun, their time, or their problems.

That’s far from most people, though. I became a bartender so I could meet new people without having to meet new people. That is to say, I’m terrible at keeping up with people and even worse at maintaining new friendships. Here’s a summary of the types of people I’ve come across at the two bars that I’ve been behind.

The nervous ones

I enjoy these people. I admire them. Probably because this is me when I go out to a bar. Awkward, brief small talk or a (not-so-funny) joke fills the void as endless possible choices are scrolling through my mind when the bartender asks

“what will you have?”

The nervous ones give a nice change of pace since I get to have more interaction with someone by going through the favorites list — or my favorites to make list.

The nervous ones almost always tip well as they are gracious of your support and understanding. I also assume they may be ashamed of having taken more of your time from the other customers. Go forth and be confident, nervous ones, but thank you for being you.

The ones who think they are bartenders

These cocktail connoisseurs know the ins and outs of several cocktail recipes. They examine your every move as you put together their favorite drinks. They freely provide criticism if you do anything contrary to what they do or what another bartender at a different establishment does.

I admire the confidence. Just do it with less of a smug face? Everyone starts somewhere, am I right? Also, establishments are often very strict with maintaining their version of common cocktail recipes.

I had a customer order “a martini” once. If you’ve ever ordered a martini and thought “YUCK!” that’s probably because martinis are incredibly specific to the individual drinking it and if the bartender didn’t know you nor took the time to get to know you, well that’s a recipe for failure. Or just a bad taste in the mouth. Just a few of the parameters:

  • Gin or Vodka?

  • How much vermouth?

  • How dirty?

  • How many olives?

You would think that martini drinkers know to expect this. I can only assume that she was an avid martini drinker by what happened when I started poking for her martini style: A few eye rolls, a raised eyebrow to her date, and what can only be described as a light growl. My colleagues told me not to worry about it. I did the right thing.

Hurt pride aside, well-noted.

The ones who actually are bartenders

I love meeting other bartenders. What separates real bartenders from the folks above is that they just understand. They understand the stresses and pressures of the job. They remember what it was like to be new at having the responsibility of people’s livelihoods. They do their part to help you slow down and enjoy the shift.

I met a guy, Josh, who ordered a French Gimlet. When I told him I had never made that, he smiled the kind of smile that radiates as being genuine and calmly offered to walk me through it.

I met Ashlie who, bless her heart, let me take care of 10 minutes worth of a rush before she allowed me to even take her order. We had a pleasant conversation after that which certainly helped push me through another 6 hours of cyclic rushes. She even gave me tips for experimenting with Old Fashioned, martini recipes, and handling tough customers.

I guess this goes hand-in-hand with welcoming positive feedback and constructive criticism. I’m always looking for ways to improve so it all works out.

The grab-n-go ones

Nothing to say but a quick thank God, the Lord, Allah, Yahweh, Bill Murray — whomever you believe in — for these people. They are the drumbeat of any work shift. In between, you’ll have intricate solos of making 20 cocktails at a time. But the beer pint and wine glass drinkers never fail to help keep things simple and moving along on.

The sit and talk ones

This group is the reason why I trained to be a bartender. Many of them look up to you as a bartender. Like me, they want to meet new people and have thoughtful conversations.

I’ve learned from wine experts. I’ve acted as a tour guide for visitors from New York, Seattle, Russia, London, Australia, and other distant locations. I even debated for 2 hours with a fellow comic-lover about the contentious, generational dispute that is DC vs Marvel.

They tell you to “take your time” with their orders. They offer to buy you a drink. They make everything worthwhile.


Needless to say, bartending helps you grow in multiple directions as an individual. You learn patience and new perspectives. If you can get over the rushes, it’s an extremely rewarding job.

[14m:57s stream of consciousness]

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