Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Guide to Etiquette and Protocol

So far my Masked Drinker’s Guides have been pretty situation-specific. But I get asked fairly often about very general issues dealing with drinking. It’s kind of surprising and amazing what some people don’t know. However, I have to remind myself that not everyone is a seasoned, well-worn barhound. Some people go to bars pretty rarely and are therefore unaware of some standard practices that seem obvious to a guy like me. So I’m going to try to address these general issues for the inexperienced drinker in this column; topics like tipping, buybacks, flirting with the patrons or staff, etc.

First off, tipping. The basic rule is: tip, you fucking asshole. Bartenders make an extremely low wage, and, like all of America’s service industry rely on tips to actually live. So they’re busting their butt to get you that sweet sweet booze that makes the sad go away. So tip. Bare minimum is a dollar a drink. But here’s the thing; some drinks are more work-involved than others. If you’re asking for a martini or a cosmo or anything that involves shakeage, it’s courteous to leave something more. I tend to leave two dollars for my first drink, and alternate between two and one for most of the night. Never tip with coins, it’s a pain in everyone’s ass. And if you think your tender is doing a substandard job, tip anyway. Just tip a dollar. Everyone has an off day, but if you shirk on a tip you can guarantee you’re persona non grata in every bar that tender knows. That’s just assy.

Another big topic people ask about is that of buybacks. In case you don’t know, a buyback is a drink the bartender buys for you, usually after three or four that you’ve paid and tipped for. It’s a personal thing on the number, and some bars don’t even allow it. So, for Pete’s sake, don’t ask the bartender about it. That’s basically heck of gauche. It either happens or it doesn’t. And when it happens it’s a magical, wonderful time full of rainbows and superpowers. Appreciate it. And always tip for it; I tend to tip extra for a buyback. Not the full price of the drink, obviously, but two or three bucks is a nice way to show your tender that you appreciate them. And the buybacks will come more often if you do so.

“Hey, is that bartender hitting on me?” If it’s a male bartender, maybe. Remember, it is his job to talk to you, in a way. But it certainly happens. If it’s a female bartender, the answer is almost always no. So don’t hit on them. They’re at work, they hear it all the time and they don’t want to deal with your drinking ass hitting on their sober ass. Be friendly, respectful, joke around, but don’t hit on them. If they’re interested, they’ll let you know when they’re off shift. But they aren’t. Trust me. And guys, as Ms. Weiner’s article shows you, be careful about hitting on patrons, as well. I already went over how to meet girls at bars, but let me reiterate that going up to random girls in bars is very rarely a good idea. Make sure you have your signals straight if you think she wants you to, and be ready to immediately and politely retreat at the first sign of resistance. Better for everyone that way.

I know there’s a lot of debate about bringing babies and children to bars. My parents had a favorite bar that I was in a lot as a kid, but it was a bar-restaurant (with the best fried shrimp EVAR). That’s a big part of how I feel about it. If there’s food there, sure, bring your kid. If the place doesn’t serve food, leave the rugrat with a sitter. Babies under two get special exemption as long as they are not loud asshole babies. But once the little critters start becoming mobile, please leave them out of my bar. I know they drive you nuts and you need a drink; trust me, I know. But they drive us nuts too, and we didn’t choose to bring them into this world. I’m sometimes willing to make an exception if the kid is cute enough, shuts the fuck up enough, and basically sits there with their Shirley Temple/Roy Rogers/inappropriate whiskey drink and lets me forget they’re there. But that happens about as rarely as the Colonel not having an anecdote so just forget it.

I feel like those are the main topics I most often get asked about. Readers, if there are any other questions you’d like answered, respond to this post or email me at themaskeddrinker at gmail dot com. I look forward to hearing from you maybe.

retarded, spent way too much time on it photoshop by the Masked Drinker


  1. Hmmmmm... great suggestions overall - I must say my personal etiquette (and please feel free to correct my behavior if you feel it's too much on the edge) is to *not* tip on the buy back. I would much rather tip extra on drinks I pay for and just enjoy buyback as a silent discourse of appreciation between the bar tender and myself. Tip well on drinks you buy and follow good etiquette and protocol. Enjoy the buyback as a delicious gift of reciprocation for a job well done as a consumer of alcohol w/ no strings attached.

  2. Almost didn't get the joke in the photo at first.

    As for kids, we've taught my friend's 4-year-old to say "free shooters" to much amusement and free booze. (But only in restaurant/bars.)

  3. Tim Schneider/Slam BradleyMarch 4, 2009 at 3:57 PM

    I'll say I'm a bit non-plused about the children in bars thing. Hereabouts children aren't allowed in bars...period. Not even in the bar portions of restauarants.