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What the Bartender Knows

Pickup moves that work, drinks that will get you laughed at, and how, now and then, they rip you off. A survey of 33 barkeeps.

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Clockwise from top left: Thomas Waugh, Death & Co.; Ariana Madix, Butter; Marcus Schloss, Village Pourhouse; Teresa Vozniak and Abella Gomez-Gotay, American Trash; Veronica Sanchez, Milano’s Bar.  

What’s the craziest drinking feat you’ve ever seen?
“A couple of Wall Street guys came in and ordered two well shots of tequila with lime and salt. They proceeded to snort a line of salt, squeeze the lime in their eyes, do the shot, then punch each other in the face. I actually named it: the Tequila Stuntman.” —Teresa Vozniak, American Trash

More Answers:
“Sixteen Buds in two hours”
“Someone ordered a fishbowl margarita at 3:50 a.m. and tried to finish it before we closed at 4 a.m.”
“The homeless guys who hang out outside will drink half of an Old English 40-ounce beer, fill the remaining half with Sparks (which I guess is now illegal), and then pound it. It’s called a Sidewalk Slammer.”


What’s the best pickup move you’ve ever seen executed?
“Once, a guy bought the entire bar a shot of Jack Daniels to impress a girl. I’m not sure he realized how many people were in the bar, but the girl was, in fact, impressed.” —Gabe Barcia-Colombo, Odessa

More Answers:
“A guy once smelled a woman’s hair. It apparently worked because they left together”
“Two guys were competing for the same woman’s attention, and one of them challenged the other to a walk-off. We cleared the dance floor and cued up ‘Beat It.’ These guys threw down their best dance moves for three rounds, and the bartenders called winner.”


What are some tricks you’ve seen used to cheat customers?
“Auto-grat them [hit the automatic gratuity button on the cash register], knowing they are drunk enough not to notice, and add additional tip.” —Ariana Madix, Butter

More Answers:
“Overprice drinks and keep the difference”
“We love our customers, but for the very few who look or act too stupid, we will either water down your drink or ask for an extra dollar for that Long Island iced tea”
“The best trick: ‘You’re cut off!’”


What’s your least favorite type of customer?
“Whiny girls who order twenty cosmos and tip a dollar.” —Marcus Schloss, Village Pourhouse

More Answers:
“The person who thinks he’s the only guy at the bar who needs a drink”
“People who ask for Amstel Light”
“Doesn’t have the money ready”
“Slow drinker”
“People who snap their fingers”
“The guy who snatches the knife I’m using to cut limes and tries to punch me in the face.”


Is there a drink order that’ll get a customer laughed at?
“Sometimes people will actually order a Fuzzy Navel or a Buttery Nipple.” —Thomas Waugh, Death & Co.

More Answers:
“Michelob Ultra”
“Sex on the Beach”
“Red Head Slut”
“If you’re a guy, a cosmo or appletini”
“Anything blue”
“Anything pink”
“Anything that takes more than 30 seconds to make.”


What’s the best way to get a bartender’s attention?
“Call their name. If you don’t know their name, call out ‘Bartender.’ Will I mind? That’s a different question. But if someone’s on top of his game, he should be paying attention anyway.” —Kevin Ryan, Broome St. Bar

More Answers:
“Smile and make eye contact”
“If you simply look at me with a sad ‘I desperately need a drink’ look, I’ll empathically come over and be really nice back”
“Hold your money in your hand and shout Yo!”


Have you ever been hit on or picked up by a customer?
“Sure. My favorite pickup line is, ‘Hey, are you a man or a woman?’ My response is, ‘Get the hell out.’” —Veronica Sanchez, Milano’s Bar

More Answers:
“No, don’t shit where you eat”
“Plead the Fifth”
“Yes, and I have taken a customer home”
“Happens every shift”
“Just last weekend a gorgeous older mom was talking about her love of the Twilight books, then proceeded to tell me her most erogenous zone was her neck (surprise), and then said if she wasn’t such a proper lady she would take me in the bathroom and make me her vampire.”


Have you been given anything other than money as a tip?
“A watch from a really creepy regular, and a hotel-room key from a married man on a business trip. Lame.” —Erikah Lushaj, Tao

More Answers:
“Passes to a strip club”
“Phone numbers”
“A beer”
“A kiss”
“A lotto ticket—won a dollar”
“Offers for everything from sex to cocaine to children’s toys”
“One girl had a customer sign over the title to his ’86 Jaguar to her.”


How do you keep from sampling the product?
“Spit out most of the shots customers buy me.” —Eianne at Thunder Jackson’s

More Answers:
“I limit the number of days I drink”
“I don’t come to work”
“We do sample the beers, but we don’t drink full pints or bottles while working”
“I stick to doing shots and never mixed drinks. Once you start mixing things for yourself, it’s a slippery slope straight to the slop bucket.”


What’s the weirdest drink request you’ve ever received?
“A sidecar followed by a grasshopper to a 21-year-old who had seemingly been reading a book of cocktails from 1935 in hopes of impressing his date.” —Josie McGee, The Dead Poet

More Answers:
“Duck Fart: Canadian Club, Kahlúa, Bailey’s”
“Tokyo Tea”
“Lambic Fest in summer”
“The pickle-brine martini (a dirty martini with pickle juice instead of olive juice) or the Grenadine Corona—you’re supposed to fill the empty part of a Corona beer with grenadine.”

Interviews by Amos Barshad


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