Befriending a Bartender 101 (There’s Free Drinks!)
Going out is simultaneously the best and worst way to distract yourself from life’s problems. Yes, drinking is fun and awesome, but it can also be stressful and expensive as hell. Sometimes you go out with friends who are complete dicks and you end up pissing off the bartender. Sometimes you’re not quite sure what you did, but somehow you’ve scored yourself some free shots. Make no mistake, none of this is random and I will tell you why. There is a formula to always getting treated awesomely by the staff with complimentary treats. Follow these 3 simple steps and maximize your fun time and dollar.
1. Pick a couple of bars to frequent more often.
Businesses thrive on regulars, so the more familiar your face is, the best chance you’ll have at getting more love. Of course, this only works if you are gracious and lovely each time you visit. If you tend to not be a super generous tipper, try to spare a little more at the places you frequent the most. Remember that at the end of the day, these businesses live off of your tips and the money you spend, so leaving that extra will go a long way. That goes for free stuff, too. Always leave a tip for anything complimentary that you receive. ALWAYS.
2. Never, and I mean NEVER, ask for free shit.
Do not ever think that you are entitled to it. Just because you’re a regular or friends with the owner or a celebrity psychic, does not give you the right to ask for free stuff. If you are friends with an owner or person who works there, make them aware ahead of time that you are coming in. If they want to do something for you, they will let your bartender or server know. Simple as that. However, knowing someone who works there can pay off, but there are subtle and classier ways to handle that. Asking directly is tacky and a surefire way to get your bartender to dislike you. Ask instead if the person is working, if he or she says they aren’t, simply ask if he or she could please say hello to them for you. Maybe you weren’t planning on stopping by and took a chance (wink). The hospitality industry in NYC is very tight knit, so a lot of times all it takes is for them to associate you with someone cool that either works with them or you both know, for them to want to throw a little something extra your way. Again, be classy and genuine, even if you don’t know the person you are asking for as well, you can say they served you the last time you were there and they were great so you just wanted to say hello.
3. Be Patient & Courteous.
This goes hand in hand with number 2. Bartending is a stressful job and people can be pretty shitty, so when a customer comes in who treats you like a human being, that can really pay off. Wait patiently. Do not yell, wave or huff and puff. They see you and will get to you. By doing this small exercise in patience, you can almost guarantee speedier service for your next round. Be grateful, compliment the drinks and ask the person’s name before you walk away. Then use their name to thank them. I can guarantee you’ll soften the heart of even the most stressed out barkeep. If you are sitting at the bar and there is a chance to spark up a conversation, just ask if he or she is having a good night, maybe how long they’ve been working there and what they do when they’re not bartending. If they are interested in talking to you, they will elaborate and appreciate your genuine interest. Most bartenders are artists or students who want to be seen and heard. Never be too pushy because that can backfire, but if after asking those 3 questions a natural rapport starts to develop, you’re in. Shots on the house are bound to happen and they can be your connection the next time you visit. Finding ways to relate to them, finding common ground and even offering them a service you provide, can all payoff. At the end of the day, we are all trying to make connections so if they want you to remember them, the generosity will keep flowing.
It’s all in the details, folks. Sounds almost too simple and it is. But try these 3 easy steps just as an experiment and watch yourself gradually become a seasoned bartender whisperer.