Bartenders—those creative directors of fun, guidance counselors of the downward spiral, patron saints of the broken—they know what they’re doing. They’ve seen your type, no matter who you are, as recently as the night before and as long ago as last weekend. They’ve been through it all, so they know what to do, whether grandiose or subtle, to pick up better tips for the evening.
They flip bottles
[Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan in Cocktail]
Nobody ever stops loving magic; they just may stop loving magicians (for whatever insanely misguided reason). That’s honestly why we as adults all started going to Benihana on our lunch breaks to clap like Midwestern seals. We love tricks. So when someone gets a few in us, we’re ready to cheer on anything. But coat our insides with hooch and then start doing close-up magic with the exact thing that gave us our buzz? Oh my god, shut up and take my money!
They recommend drinks
[Joe Nieves as Carl MacLaren on How I Met Your Mother]
Knowing what the locals drink is one thing, but guessing what a stranger might want in their gullet is some SAT shit. With a few questions, bartenders can nail down the craving rumbling inside you that you’ve never been able to put into words. Hell, they’re practically soothsayers in that regard. Asking if someone likes their cocktails sweet, sour, smoky, or spicy gets that boozehound into totally new territory. Give them a drink that’s a better version of their go-to and they consider the bartender as clergy.
[Ted Danson as Sam Malone on Cheers]
Getting annihilated by pick-up lines, courtesy of a behind-the-counter firing squad, is not always a grand idea. Actually, it’s pretty bad for business and could swiftly lose a bad bartender tips. But a good bartender knows the games, understands the rules, and probably invented half the moves any of us use anyway. Friendly conversation goes a long way, but drop a line that hangs on the boozer’s ear and he or she could mull it over all night. Was the bartender hitting on me... or do I legitimately look nice tonight? Good luck with that philosophy project as you tip your entire goddamn bank account.
They listen and give advice
[Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation]
It may be the oldest cliché still kicking in the corner of taverns, but it’s true. Bartenders play gurus with wild (sometimes heartbreaking or disgusting) stories instead of fables. They’ve seen it all, heard about it all, or lived through it all themselves. Besides, they don’t know you, so they aren’t picking sides or playing favorites. They’re telling you how it is. So they may ask a few light personal questions just to get their two cents in and then see a mighty return.
They give away drinks
[Leonid Kinskey as Sascha in Casablanca]
Is there a faster way to make friends than supplying drinks at no cost? The rule is to tip what you had, not what you’re paying for. That way, giving away some goods works out to some great news on the other side of the counter. I never read Dale Carnegie's How to Make Friends and Influence People, but I assume every page just read, “Give away booze. Duh.”
They drink with you
[Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark]
A free drink always tastes better when it’s with the bartender. You feel either like you’re at some house party or your friend’s hooking you up at their place of business. The phrase “let’s do a shot” is instantaneous friendship. You could bond with the scum of the earth if there are shots to be had, because what’s more universally we’re-in-this-together than a shot? Well, maybe death... I mean, we all die... but, sorry, slipping down the rabbit hole here and it is dark.
They tell you the truth
[David Eigenberg as Steve Brady on Sex and the City]
Bartending is like walking a dozen tight ropes. Those drink-slingers have to be friendly but stern, generous but fair, charming but professional. But there’s a certain species of bartender that finds none of these balancing acts a challenge. They were born to tend bar. They’ll tell you what’s overpriced to earn a trustworthy credit. They may be selling you drinks, but they act like they don’t care if you’re buying. They’re your friend from the instant they pull you up to see the truth, and then you tend to think of them as rescuers who deserve a reward.
They make you feel like a regular
[Moe Szyslak, voiced by Hank Azaria, on The Simpsons]
The bartender doesn’t have to know everyone’s name or put out the welcoming mat like the pub’s a home away from home to get the local treatment. Any detail of memory counts like shelter in a storm. Asking, ”You’re the one who drinks lemon vodka after a bad day at work, yeah?” could straight up spin someone’s night in the opposite direction. Even just naming a drink they had once makes a guest feel memorable. That’s half a bartender’s job. Beyond serving up swill, they're good at making people feel like they’re among the good folk.
They act like more of a mess than you
[Jake Johnson as Nick Miller on New Girl]
Half the reason people are at a bar in the first place is because something terrible has happened and they’re on the prowl for a better horizon—if only for an evening—or everything is always going terrible and they’re just self-medicating to keep the demons at bay. Either way, it helps when the bartender plays up, or damn, maybe truthfully confesses, what’s going wrong in their world (without sounding like downer one-upper). It makes the guest feel better without ever becoming the dreaded charity case at a pity party, and that’s certainly worth a buck.
They scare the hell out of you
[Ian McShane as Al Swearengen on Deadwood]
There are some bartenders who give you a look that says, “Either that tip goes up or the body count does." You can’t even explain why you’re terrified of them when all they did was hand you things you ordered, but it’s dark out there and your car’s down the road and you don’t know what kind of company the bar keeps, so... pay the ransom. Don’t ask questions. Just live your life (for one more day).
They have the best time
[Ted Lange as Isaac Washington on The Love Boat]
A good vibe is infectious. It struts through your body as if funk music can reverberate through muscle tissue. Bartenders have to put up with some pretty goddamn screwball drunks, so they aren’t always in the best mood. Also, some of them are honestly just straight up dicks. So when one comes along who is having the grandest of times, it’s like attending a circus that serves you tequila. You came to have fun, they’re already having some, and pretty soon it’s like you’re at a Benihana. BOOM.
NAILED THE CALLBACK! WOO!