Your local watering hole is the perfect place for awkward small talk and high-alcohol drinks with people you either spend too much time with (office mates) or barely any time with (friends, former classmates, and relatives who moved away over the years). It’s where you go to drown sorrows and make memories. But since it’s the holidays, you and your crew aren’t the only ones posting up at the neighborhood saloon. You’ll probably be packed in like very thirsty sardines. We’ve all been there, feeling like a damn loser while the bartender serves someone who sidled up to the bar long just seconds earlier.
So how do you get the bartender’s attention without looking like a total jerk? We asked some of our favorite bartenders for their expertise on this subject. You can check out all of their answers below.
Ryan Andrews, lead bartender at Prohibition in San Diego
“The best way to get a bartender’s attention in a crowded bar is simple: be nice and wait your turn. Some of the most disrespectful ways of getting a bartender’s attention include finger snapping, putting your hands in our faces and yelling. Trust me, we see you; we’re the sober ones.”
Don’t be a dick
Joe Masse, Beverage Director at The Woodstock in New York City
“Waving, snapping, whistling, etc. will not get you served quicker. We are bartenders, not yellow cabs. Make eye contact with us, we see you! There is a mental line in our head. The higher-level “in-the-weeds-bartender” should acknowledge you verbally, even if you’re not next, so you don’t start getting fussy. Never touch or wave us down.”
Make eye contact
Jared Boller, lead mixologist at The St. Regis in Toronto
“Try to create eye contact and smile at the bartender to let them know of your presence. If your bartender is attentive or aware they will acknowledge that you are waiting for their service. Don’t ever say ‘Hey bartender,’ wave money, or be rude in moments where the bar is packed. Chances are the bartender is doing 100 different things in that particular moment and they can’t get to you right away. Stay calm, stay patient, be respectful, and they will eventually get to you.”
Become a regular
Tara Shadzi, bartender at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood
“Becoming a regular is a great way to get the best service. A smile, a decent tip, and a familiar face, and you will always be treated like a king. At BOA, we are blessed with so many regulars who we also call our friends. You can bet that they get the best service.”
Don’t be pushy
Matthias Hinrichs, bartender at Public Belt bar and Lounge in New Orleans
“Eye contact and waiting without being pushy are great ways for getting what you want without coming off as obnoxious. As a bartender, you are aware of your surroundings and know who is next in line to order; we ask that you wait patiently, and we’ll get to you.
A simple nod
Peter Szekely, beverage operation manager at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in the Bahamas
“A good bartender knows his/her customers, including the ones who are still in the queue and waiting for their drinks. Create eye contact and a simple nod; this should be enough. The bartender will get back to you as soon as they can. The firmer you are, the more people the bartender will attend to before you.”
Subtle finger point
Jim Lunchick, mixologist at Merriman’s Waimea in Honolulu
“A smile and a friendly finger pointed in ‘You Da Man!’ style, followed by a thumb’s up is a polite and effective way to get a bartender’s attention on a busy night. “
Don’t do anything
Nick Rini, head bartender of Refinery Rooftop in New York City
“You don’t need to do anything. Any bartender worth his, or her, salt knows who’s next and who needs to be served. In a busy bar atmosphere, if you are not being spoken to it’s because the bartender doesn’t have time to yet. Just stand there and be ready to order. If you have a terrible bartender who just isn’t doing their job well and ignoring you then you should leave. They don’t deserve your money.”
Spencer Elliott, head bartender at the Boogie Woogie Room in New York City
“Be patient. I see you, I always see you. If I see you waiting patiently and the internal clock in my head gets too long while you are waiting without making a fuss, most times I’ll buyback a drink or even the whole round.”
“Fun rules for a crowded, fun night:
- 1Be ready. Use the time that it takes to get my attention to get your party’s order together. Make sure you have a easy payment method ready.
- Tip well on the first round. That doesn’t mean 18%, that means BIG, I’m talking 25%-30%. After that, I’ll make sure I look out for you.”
Jonathan Shock, bar manager at Lady of the House in Detroit
“The best way to get a bartender’s attention is to have your order ready (this is where most people fail), make eye contact with the bartender, and be patient. A simple wave or nod can be used, but never frantically wave, snap fingers or wave money. The bartender understands you are anxious to be served and wants your tips as badly as you want a drink. But please remember that they are simply humans who are working in a high volume, high-stress environment. We are all doing the best we can. A little patience goes a long way.”
Jason Rodriguez, beverage director) at HALL in New York City
“Just be polite. It’s the old saying of ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’ Would you really like someone to snap at you, whistle, or yell ‘Hey!’ across the bar? I don’t really think so. A simple ‘Pardon me, when you get a chance…’ is all we really need.”
Have Your Money Ready
Yordan Kanev, wine director/manager at Baar Baar in New York City
“The best way to get bartenders attention at a busy place is to have cash on you. Just lean on the bar and hold the cash forward. Don’t wave it around, but just look to make eye contact with the bartender. Leaving a generous tip on your first order can help, too -0 the bartender will be looking for you after this.