The Do’s & Don’ts of Bar Etiquette: Insider Advice From Experienced Bartenders


It’s no secret that bartenders are the unsung heroes of any bar.

Sure, as one of the most highly-ranked bartending schools in the U.S. and Canada, we think so, too.

But bar guests, you need to know one thing and one thing only.

Bartenders can make or break your night out, depending on their mood and how they handle your requests. So what can you do when the bartender isn’t feeling it? Or worse, feeling you?

Yep. You might be the problem. Not them.

So, in order for you to make yourself look less like a lame bar-goer, here are a few things that you should never do at a bar. If you want to be respected by the staff, let’s take a look at some tips from experienced bartenders on what not to do when ordering drinks and all around while being at a bar.

Don’t be a D*** at the Bar: Here’s How

  1. Don’t order complicated drinks – Bartenders don’t have time for complicated drinks with multiple ingredients. Stick with something simple like beer, wine, or classic cocktails like margaritas or Old Fashions. If you really want to show off your mixology skills, ask if they have certain ingredients and then make something yourself!
  2. Don’t be too demanding – No one likes someone who is constantly asking for free drinks and trying to get special deals. Respect the fact that bartenders are busy and they need to serve everyone fairly in order to keep their job. Be patient and polite when ordering drinks so that you can maintain a good relationship with the bartender over time.
  3. Don’t forget your manners – This one should go without saying, but don’t forget your manners when ordering drinks at the bar! Treat everyone with respect and say please and thank you when appropriate; this will go a long way in making sure that you get treated well in return by bartenders and other customers alike!
  4. Don’t be rude – If a bartender is taking too long to make your drink or if there is an issue with payment, don’t be rude about it! Being rude will only make matters worse and will likely ruin your night out (and possibly even hurt business for the establishment).  Instead of getting angry, try talking calmly with the bartender about whatever issue is going on so that it can be resolved quickly and amicably for everyone involved!

The Dos

Earlier, I said there are no secrets. But I lied. I do have a secret.

Bartenders’ favorite patrons go beyond simply being polite and following basic rules.

It’s also important to be friendly and engage in conversation with us behind the bar. I’m willing to bet this will even improve your experience at the bar (and may even lead to some cheaper drinks).

So don’t be shy – strike up a conversation with us (we’re humans, too!), ask for recommendations on drinks, or just take in the atmosphere of the bar from a front-row seat!

And most importantly, remember to always enjoy yourself! After all, that’s what us hospitality folks care about.

  1. Do tip – Tips are the lifeblood of bartending! Bartenders work hard to make sure that their customers have an enjoyable experience, so when you leave it’s important to remember to leave a nice tip. This will not only thank them for their service but also help show your appreciation for all of their hard work!

Bartenders work hard and it can be financially, physically, and emotionally draining.

Show your appreciation by being generous with your tips, as this is one of the best ways to support them in their profession. Here’s how tipping helps lead to better a better bar experience for you:

  • More money means you can bartenders can buy better food. Food with higher nutrients increases brainpower. Better brainpower = better drinks.
  • Access to high-quality work gear means we can do our job better. Our backs ache, our bras are too tight, and our feet are f*&$ing throbbing. When we earn more, we can buy better bras and shoes—the key to a happy bartender.
  • Increased ability to afford safer and better housing means you will have a nicer place to live. Those just starting out may be skimping on their housing budget. But if we can get our baby bartenders to sleep better at night, think of how the industry will change!

Plus, it never hurts to stay on the good side of a bartender (it might even lead to more free drinks!). So don’t skimp out – show that you care by rewarding your bartenders for all the amazing drinks they make!


Tipping 101 : A Guide to Appreciating Your Bartender

Now that you know the dos and don’ts of tipping, it’s time to get to the basics of tipping your bartender.

Here are a few resources you may find insightful:

1. To hear about bad tips and the history of tipping, you’ll want to read this article!
2. And to learn how to tip in all sorts of situations you may find yourself in, check this out.

A Story from the Author

One of my favorite bar guests was a transient regular at a hotel bar in Indiana. He came in only a handful of times before I moved, but he really stuck out to me—for a few reasons and none of them had to do with money.

First, he stood up for me and my coworker when a silly woman asked us how we survive on a bartender’s salary. He told her off so I could keep my job.

Second, and most importantly, he gave me a going-away gift. It was a historical novel because I’m a nerd, but the gift meant more to me than the biggest tip I’ve ever been handed.

  1. Do be friendly – Being friendly and having a good attitude can go a long way in making sure that you have a great time at the bar. Make sure to introduce yourself (or your group) and start conversations with people around you; this shows that you’re willing to engage with others and makes it more likely that people will want to chat with you throughout the night! 
  2. Do speak up – If something isn’t going right or you have a question about a drink, don’t be afraid to speak up and let the bartender know. Being able to communicate effectively is important for having a great time at the bar and will help ensure that your needs are met in an efficient manner.
  3. Do feel comfortable to ask for help – It is never safe to be overserved at a bar, and in some cases, it can even be dangerous. Asking for help from a bartender when you feel unsafe or too drunk is always an option. Bartenders are trained professionals who know how to handle these situations and can make sure that everyone remains safe.



Here’s how to ask us for help:

The first step in asking for help from a bartender is to find the right person. If possible, locate a friendly and approachable individual behind the bar. It may also be wise to ask someone who you trust and has experience in serving alcohol. Once you have located the right person, it is important to clearly state your intent when asking for help. Explain why you are feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable – whether that be due to drinking too much or feeling unsafe – and tell them what kind of assistance you need.

When approaching a bartender, remember that they are not obligated to serve someone who is overly intoxicated or inebriated, regardless of whether they asked for help or not. The best thing do if you are feeling unsafe or too drunk is to politely explain your situation so that the bartender can decide on the best course of action. This could include limiting service, providing water or food, calling a taxi home, or escorting an individual out of the establishment if needed.

Bartenders are not just there to take orders and serve drinks; they are often responsible for monitoring patron safety as well as preventing intoxication-related injuries and accidents from occurring. Not only do they possess knowledge about alcohol consumption but their role often extends beyond just making drinks; bartenders ensure customers enjoy their time responsibly and safely within their establishment by looking out for potential signs of intoxication such as difficulty talking, slurred speech, unsteady walking, confusion and more.

Although asking for help from a bartender can sometimes come with judgement from other patrons, it should always be viewed as a positive choice made with safety in mind rather than being seen as something embarrassing or shameful. Bartenders should always be approached with respect when seeking assistance since they have taken on responsibilities associated with helping keep customers safe while still engaging positively with them throughout the night.

Ultimately asking for help when feeling unsafe or too drunk is an important step that anyone can take in order to ensure their own personal safety while also enjoying themselves responsibly at any bar establishment. Bartenders are trained professionals who provide both knowledge and support when needed during these types of situations while ensuring patron safety remains a priority throughout the evening

Overall, going to a bar can be a great way to let loose and have fun. Just remember these Dos and Don’ts when heading out so that you can make sure your night goes smoothly!  With the right attitude, any night at the bar is sure to be a success!

With these dos and don’ts in mind, you should be prepared for whatever happens when you go out to the bar! Just remember to always be polite and show appreciation for all of the hard work that bartenders do; this will go a long way in making sure that your experience is as good as it can possibly be!

We Asked Bartenders Their Pet Peeves,

Here’s What They Said

🍺 “Don’t touch my back bar! Not my fruit, not my napkins—nothing! Your hands are gross and my bar is clean.” – Slyker T.

🍺 “Everyone should stop drinking Lemon Drop Martinis, Espresso Martinis, and Long Islands.” -Shelby L.

🍺 “I’m a bartender at the local dive bar and am no stranger to shocking stories and wild customers. But there were three pet peeves that drove me crazy when they came in.

First, there were the people who would order their drinks with a complicated order like “a martini on the rocks with extra olives”. I wanted to remind them that this wasn’t a fancy 5-star restaurant — it was just a regular old bar!

Second, I hated when guests would come up to the bar and try to make small talk about random topics like sports or current events without ever really engaging in actual conversation. All I wanted from those kinds of customers was for them to just stick to drinking their beer and leave me alone!

Lastly, my biggest pet peeve of all had to be when someone asked for something outrageous like an expensive bottle of champagne on credit. Sure, I could have done it if they were willing to pay up afterwards… but not everyone did! Don’t even get me started on people who tried ordering shots in exchange for some kind of barter. Or even one time, a ‘favor’ after closing time… That one always made me rage. Not in a good way.

All in all, being a bartender sure has its challenges – but luckily these three pet peeves didn’t show up too often so I could keep doing what he loved: pouring drinks, making money, and  serving good vibes only!” – Jon R.

What do you think!? What are your biggest pet peeves? Is Jon a terrible bartender?

So Know You Now Bar Etiquette From Bartenders

Going out to bars can be lots of fun, and bartenders truly do love having you there. Trust us! We are a team of experienced bartending wizards and warlocks.

But it’s important to remember that being respectful of us working behind the bar is, dare I say, essential for having a good time.

By following these tips from experienced bartenders, you can ensure that you always treat them—and yourself—with respect while having fun!

All in all, just remember: always show up with an open mind and leave with an empty glass!

Want to teach the entire world about bartending and the etiquette that goes along with it? Sign up to teach at the Local Bartending School!

Happy drinking! Cheers! 👍🏼😉✨🍻🥂

Carrie Jean Lipe

Carrie Lipe has been writing creatively since childhood but jump-started her professional writing after college. She's an Indiana native, Ball State Hospitality graduate, and a bartender with over 10+ years in the industry. You can find her making basil Moscow mules when she's not writing. Follow her professional journey on Instagram! @contentbycarriejean