An inside look at bartender pet peeves
Alex Conlon-Kremer at Valyrie
Slurping sounds. Reversed toilet paper rolls. Double parking. To have a pet peeve is to hold an opinion on acceptable behavior. While many peeves are commonly agreed upon, others may remain invisible to those outside a niche segment of the population. When that niche is one that many people interact with weekly, it’s worth investigating. Bartenders serve us at our best and our worst, so understanding their peeves is a small way to return the favor.
I discussed pet peeves with more than 40 Tulsa bartenders, representing the spectrum of everything from dive bars to high-end steakhouses. It is worth noting that, for any bar worth its weight in hand-carved ice, peeves never trump hospitality. A good bartender strives to serve guests within good reason and aims to maintain the experience as a whole.
It would be wrong to assume that, because Tulsa bartenders have pet peeves, they are begrudgingly making drinks behind the bar. That’s not the case. Alex Conlon-Kremer of Valkyrie explained: “I give people the benefit of the doubt, because some people are genuinely unaware of how to behave.”
Of the many peeves that were mentioned, there are five that came up most frequently.
Touching garnishes and bar tools
Have you ever walked into the kitchen of a restaurant and proceeded to touch the skillets, lick the serving spoons, and sample the seasonings? If you’re curious about a bartender’s shiny tools, elaborate garnishes, strange bitters, or crystal clear ice, ask before touching. Treating the garnish trays as a buffet is also frowned upon.
Arguing with the Bartender
Arguments are most commonly in regard to the bill, perceived amount of alcohol in a drink, being cut off, and last call. When you’re cut off or told it’s last call, it’s because a bartender is doing their due diligence and wants to keep their job. The bar is not your home, and it’ll be at least two hours after closing until bartenders get to go to theirs.
Assigning a gender to glassware
Stemmed glassware has a stigma that it is used to serve “girly drinks.” Some may associate stemmed glassware with a more feminine aesthetic, but it’s not uncommon for its contents to be boozier than its rocks or Collins glass counterparts. Cocktails have specific glassware that they are traditionally served in, and often this comes down to function. Shaken drinks are both chilled and properly diluted during this process to create a balanced cocktail, and stemware prevents your hands from warming a drink that is not served with ice. If the glassware used by Winston Churchill, James Bond, and Frank Sinatra isn’t masculine enough for someone, then they have underlying issues that a neat pour of Lagavulin 16 won’t resolve.
This is not only the most justifiable “pet peeve,” it’s also one that, at times, requires bartender intervention. Several bartenders reported witnessing guests demonstrating predatory behavior, particularly upon those who may have been intoxicated. This is generally a man approaching a woman. Men, if you’re truly a “gentleman,” don’t force unwanted conversation upon a woman, and always ask before buying her a drink. Don’t assume that she wants or needs another drink, and don’t ask the bartender to deliver the drink for you.
Dehumanizing the bartender
This was the number one pet peeve, and rightly so. Whistling, waving money, and snapping fingers in an attempt get a bartender’s attention is simply treating them as a vending machine rather than a fellow human. This behavior is a childish and a selfish declaration that you believe yourself to be superior to anyone else at the bar. The best way to get a bartender’s attention is to lean forward into the bar, make eye contact, and have your order ready before they arrive.
With all these peeves, context plays a critical role as well. While vaping may be a peeve at one bar, it may be the norm at another. As a guest, know your host bar. Don’t be the guy who orders a Negroni at a dive bar and asks for a flamed orange peel.
The list of bartender pet peeves is endless, but professional bartenders won’t allow the petty ones to interfere with providing genuine hospitality. Ultimately, the goal is to serve and educate guests who can be just as fallible as bartenders. A neighborhood bar is a community space, and its proper function relies on mutual understanding and respect.