Bartender FAQ: 12 of Your Most Pressing Questions Answered

Attractive bartender mixing a cocktail

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In my experience, most bartenders are friendly, welcoming, easy to talk to – and let’s face it pretty darned cool!

This is no accident.

Like anyone else employed in the hospitality industry, bartenders rely heavily on tips. Successful bartenders, especially the ones who have been in the industry for a while, develop a knack for making customers feel welcome.

Watching an experienced bartender work in a busy pub or bar is fascinating. Every move the bartender makes is deliberate and efficient. There is a reason for everything the bartender does – and that’s what this article is all about.

Join me as I answer 12 of the most pressing questions our readers have about bartenders.

Question 1: Why Do Bartenders Open Your Beer?

When you order an alcoholic beverage in a bar or restaurant, the bartender will always open it for you.

This makes sense when you order a bottle of wine. Not many people have a corkscrew in their back pocket! But why do bartenders open your beer?

Opening your beer is part of the hospitality provided by the bar or restaurant and it’s also safer if the bartender opens the bottle or can of beer for you.

Most customers are capable of opening their own bottles or cans of beer but it’s a much more pleasant experience when the bartender does it for you. Why should you struggle with the twist off cap on a bottle of beer when every bartender has a bottle opener?

Also, if a can of beer falls on the floor, it’s a bigger tripping hazard if the can hasn’t been opened. Step on an unopened can of beer and it can roll, potentially causing you to fall while an opened can of beer would likely be flattened.

Question 2: Why Do Bartenders Rinse Beer Glasses?

When you order a pint of draft beer at a bar or restaurant, you may have noticed that the bartender rinses your glass before filling it with beer.

This might seem a little unnecessary. After all, doesn’t the dishwasher clean these glasses?

Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on. The bartender will turn the beer glass over and press it down to clean it for a few seconds with the bar’s glass rinser.

Glass rinser

Rinsing a glass before filling it blasts away any dust or traces of detergent that may linger after the last time the glass was washed. It also ensures that the glass is slightly chilled before the bartender fills it with beer, providing the best possible presentation and experience.

A clean glass also helps the beer’s head to stick around longer. The foamy, aroma filled bubbles that top off a properly poured pint enhance your overall experience with the beer and that is definitely a good thing!

Question 3: Why Do Bartenders Knock on the Bar?

Some bar rituals are steeped in mystery. Here’s an example.

You’re out for a few drinks, you’re enjoying some lively conversation at the bar, and you’ve been paying cash for each drink as the bartender brings them to you… then, after the next round, the bartender knocks on the bar.

What does that mean?

Sometimes a bartender will knock on the bar to show appreciation for a tip. Other times it’s a signal that this round is on the house.

In either case, you’ve established yourself as a good customer. If you want the bartender to remember your name and you like getting a free drink now and then, continue to tip generously and the arrangement will likely continue.

Question 4: Why Do Bartenders Use So Much Ice?

Many people complain that bartenders put too much ice in mixed drinks.

Sometimes customers feel shortchanged. They assume that getting more ice in their glass means they’ll get less mixer (and less spirit) but here’s the thing.

Most people prefer cold drinks and adding ice is the most efficient way to chill a cocktail. Adding more ice means your cocktail will cool down quicker with less of the ice melting in the process.

Think of it this way. If I make a vodka and cranberry and put a single ice cube in the drink, the ice cube will melt completely but the cocktail will only be a little cooler. If I put a bunch of ice cubes in the drink, it will cool down quickly and the ice cubes won’t melt as fast.

Ironically, adding more ice likely means your drink ends up less diluted!

Bartender with a cocktail shaker

Question 5: Why Do Bartenders Shake Drinks?

Most of us have seen a bartender pour various types of alcohol into a shiny cocktail shaker then put a lid on it, and give it a good shake… but what are they doing exactly?

Why do bartenders shake drinks?

Bartenders shake drinks for two reasons. A cocktail shaker with a scoop of ice is used to thoroughly combine and chill a drink’s ingredients. The ice ensures that the cocktail is aerated and thoroughly mixed while the vigorous shaking motion ensures that the drink is as cold as possible.

The visual interest that a cocktail shaker adds to the entire process is just a nice bonus!

24 oz Cocktail Shaker Bar Set

24 oz Cocktail Shaker Bar Set

Question 6: Why Do Bartenders Use a Spring Strainer for Cocktails?

Many people have seen a bartender use a spring strainer while making cocktails. What’s that all about… why do bartenders use them?

A spring strainer, also called a Hawthorne strainer, allows liquid to pass through while keeping ice and other solid ingredients like muddled fruit or mint leaves from being added to a patron’s cocktail.

The spring is attached to the strainer in such a way that it easily fits inside the rim of a cocktail shaker without the aid of a locking mechanism.

The Hawthorne strainer is an inexpensive and practical tool that should be included in your home bar setup.

Hawthorne Strainer for Cocktails

Hawthorne Strainer for Cocktails

Question 7: Why Do Bartenders Use Blenders?

Blenders are loud and they seem to be used almost constantly in bars in countries where people go on beach vacations. Is this a coincidence?

Why do bartenders use blenders?

Blenders are commonly used to make drinks with crushed ice in them. If an establishment serves daiquiris, margaritas, piña coladas, or other frozen cocktails, they’ll have a blender behind the bar!

Hamilton Beach Wave Crusher Blender with 40 oz Glass Jar

Hamilton Beach Wave Crusher Blender

Question 8: Why Do Bartenders Taste Cocktails?

Everyone who has spent a meaningful amount of time in a bar has likely seen the bartender take a straw, insert it into a drink, put a finger over the end to trap some of the liquid, and discretely taste it before giving the drink it to a customer.

The process is sanitary. The bartender uses a new straw each time they do this… but why do bartenders taste cocktails?

Bartenders often taste cocktails as a quality control measure. The only way to ensure that every drink tastes the way it should, is to taste a small sample before delivering it to the customer.

Ideally, if there is a problem, the bartender will be aware of it before a patron sends a drink back.

Question 9: Why Do Bartenders Hate Making Long Island Iced Teas?

If there is one drink that has garnered a bad reputation in bars all over the world, it’s the Long Island Iced Tea. This cocktail is the drink of choice for university students everywhere seeking a quick buzz that will last through the night.

Bartenders think of this drink as nothing more than a dumping ground for clear spirits.

A Long Island Iced Tea contains equal parts vodka, gin, white rum, silver tequila, triple sec, simple syrup, and lemon juice… then it gets topped up with cola and garnished with a lemon wedge.

Many bartenders hate making Long Island Iced Teas because it slows them down during service.

Pouring pints of draft beer, glasses of wine, or making simple cocktails like a gin and tonic take very little time. Making specialty drinks like a Long Island Iced Tea can cause everything to grind to a halt!

Long Island Iced Tea

Question 10: Why Do Bartenders Always Polish Glasses?

If you’re a fan of old movies, there’s something you may have noticed.

Any time someone walks into a bar, the bartender seems to be polishing glasses. It doesn’t matter what genre the movie is. It could be an old western, a drama, a comedy… it doesn’t matter.

The bartender is behind the bar, polishing glasses. It’s so common in these old films, it’s become cliché – and it’s what a lot of bartenders still do!

Why… why do bartenders always seem to be polishing glasses?

Bartenders keep busy polishing glasses to set their patrons at ease. If a bartender stood behind the bar, arms crossed, staring at you… you’d feel uncomfortable.

By polishing glasses, the bartender is doing something. He’s close by, in the event you want to make conversation or order something but he’s giving you some space.

I might be showing my age when I say this… but at my first job, one of the first things my manager said to me was “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean”.

I have way more respect for someone who keeps busy, gives the bar a wipe, and polishes the glasses than someone who stands there and does nothing!

Question 11: Why Do Bartenders Wear Black?

Have you noticed that most bartenders where black?

I think black is a badass color. If I’m dressing casually, I’ll often throw on a black t-shirt because it works with so many other colors – but why do bartenders wear black?

Many establishments either provide bartenders with uniforms or will ask them to wear a black long sleeve shirt, black pants, and black shoes. Black clothing is flattering. It makes everyone look slimmer and it ensures that accidental spills aren’t too noticeable.

Mystery solved!

Question 12: Why Do Bartenders Get Pineapple Tattoos?

Pineapples are used many different contexts. It’s a delicious fruit… a certain sponge from a popular children’s cartoon lives in a pineapple under the sea… and bartenders often get pineapple tattoos.

Some bartenders get pineapple tattoos because the pineapple represents “welcoming and hospitality”. It has become an unofficial symbol for people employed in the hospitality industry. A pineapple tattoo is a conversation starter and a way to identify another people in the industry.

As long as we’re talking about pineapples… you should know that a pineapple tattoo has a completely different meaning than an actual pineapple left upside-down on someone’s porch. (Wink, wink!)

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By Michael

Chief mixologist and cocktail enthusiast at Swizzle Club.