- Bartenders aren’t always chatty people who love to drink alcohol.
- Most of the time, bartenders want you to get a drink you enjoy and won’t be bothered if you ask for modifications on a cocktail.
- Bartending can be a profitable career and one must go through a lot of training to become a bartender.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories .
On TV and in movies, bartenders are oftentimes depicted as chatty people who are like family to their patrons or as aspiring actors who are just slinging drinks until they make their big break. But these glamorized and dramatized portrayals of bartenders have led to a lot of misconceptions about the profession.
To debunk some common myths about being a bartender, INSIDER spoke to a group of bartenders and drink experts.
Here are some common things you might believe about bartenders that just aren’t true.
MYTH: Bartenders have a lot of time to chat and have conversations with bar patrons
The bartenders on TV seem to think nothing of spending hours shooting the breeze with their regulars. And although many real-life bartenders are happy to carry on a conversation with patrons, it’s just not feasible during peak times when they have a crowd of people waiting to order a drink.
Wil Figueroa, beverage director of Fellow in Los Angeles, California, said bartenders will chat if you’re one of the few people at the bar and they aren’t swamped with orders. But if the bar is slammed and a bartender is very busy, he said you might want to hold off on telling them your life story.
MYTH: All bartenders love to drink
Working as a bartender doesn’t automatically imply that you drink a lot of alcohol. Although many bartenders enjoy grabbing a drink in their free time, plenty of others don’t partake in much drinking at all.
“Not all bartenders drink alcohol … it is very possible to make a great craft cocktail without drinking it [yourself],” Rhonda Cammon, Nashville, Tennessee-based cocktail blogger at Barseat told INSIDER. “An experienced bartender will know compatible flavour profiles and spirits from memory. We don’t all drink.”
MYTH: Bartending isn’t a ‘real’ career
The idea that bartending is a temporary job that people take to pay the bills while pursuing careers in the arts is far more pervasive than it should be, said Justine Lechner, bartender at New Amsterdam in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“The biggest misconception about bartending is that it is a dead-end job or that it’s not a ‘real career.’ There are lots of pathways one can take after becoming a bartender, such as becoming a general manager, becoming a wine/spirits brand representative, or opening your own bar,” Lechner said.
“I make more money in less time than most college graduates and [I have] have needed years of training to become great at my work,” Lechner added.
MYTH: Bartending is a glamorous profession
“Bartending is not as glamorous as social media and TV portrays it,” Kevin Kok, beverage director of Bar Peached in Austin, Texas, told INSIDER. “It’s hard work and [it] requires dedication.”
“A lot of cleaning, scrubbing, and sacrifice is required to maintain a good bar program. That’s the reason I call myself a dishwasher for the majority of the time. We come in hours early before the place opens to prep for the shift, we work through service with a smile, and after closing, [we do] hours and hours of cleaning and restocking so we will be ready for service the next day,” he added.
MYTH: Bartenders get tipsy from straw tasting craft cocktails
If you’re visiting a craft-cocktail bar, you’ll likely notice the bartender using a straw to sample the drinks they create. They do this to ensure their drinks are being made with proper proportions and have a pleasing overall flavour.
But contrary to popular belief, these tiny sips will have very little impact on the blood-alcohol level of the bartender in question.
“This [myth] always cracks me up considering the minute volume of liquid contained at the end of a straw and the fact that the average person metabolizes alcohol at a rate of one cocktail per hour,” said Justin Lavenue, co-owner of The Roosevelt Room in Austin, Texas.
He said a bartender would have to make and taste a lot of cocktails to even get a slight buzz from straw tasting.
MYTH: If you send back your drink or ask for a modification on it, bartenders will purposely make you a weaker drink
Patrons often feel uncomfortable returning a drink that they don’t enjoy, assuming that the bartender will resent them for requesting a new libation. However, skilled bartenders want to provide their guests with beverages they like and they’d rather hear about your drink problems while there’s still time to rectify them.
“The biggest myth I’ve seen on my end is [when] customers think [that] if they don’t like a drink and ask to exchange or modify it, the bartender will be mad at them or make them a weak drink as retaliation,” Melaney Schmidt, co-owner of Bar Miranda in Portland, Oregon, told INSIDER.
“In my experience, especially in quality establishments, if a guest is unhappy about their drink and they return it, the bartender won’t [then] make them a bad or weak drink,” she added. “I always try to accommodate my guest’s needs and expectations. It’s a better evening for everyone involved if you can put a drink that your guest will enjoy in their hand, even if it takes two rounds to get there.”
MYTH: When you order a ‘well cocktail,’ the bartender will make you a sub-par drink
If you interpret a “well cocktail” as a basic mixed drink that includes bottom-shelf booze, you’re definitely not alone. But Jackie Zykan, master taster at Old Forester in Louisville, Kentucky, said that just because they’re oftentimes the cheapest drinks available, well drinks aren’t automatically low quality.
“I’ve found general bar-goers have a misconception that all well drinks are the least-quality ones on the shelf. But during my years as a bartender and bar manager, we actually [use] our spirit of choice as the house liquor – whether it’s vodka, tequila or bourbon – taking into account the best quality at the right price point,” Zykan said.
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