Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Drink like a pro

Interaction with the bartenders can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of any bar. Bartenders are typically hardworking, service-oriented and friendly individuals looking for more than just a quick buck. Like an astute observer of the Madison wilderness, they can readily pick up on customers’ habits and preferences. It can be a very rewarding experience to walk into a bar and have the bartender know exactly what you want.

But let’s face it — on weekends the bars can get very crowded. The crowds are even more intense during football weekends, when hordes of loony alumni and visitors return to campus to pillage Madison for all it is worth. How can we, as enlightened students, manage this crowded environment and enjoy ourselves in the process? The answer is twofold: patience and sound bar etiquette.

I will be the first to admit that I am not a patient person. Patience is some type of genetic gift given to a handful of lucky individuals, and consequently I will ignore this characteristic for now. Manners and etiquette, on the other hand, can be continuously learned and refined, and will help compensate for one’s impatience. Good bar etiquette is easy to do, will get you more drinks, and makes your evening more enjoyable.

On the topic of bar etiquette, I chose to turn to the experts; in this case, bartenders. Bartime recently visited Paul’s Club on State Street, where I had the opportunity to visit with manager Jim Meehan and discuss the very topic of bar etiquette.

Jim has over six years of bartending experience in Madison and has served hundreds of customers ranging from the good to the bad to the ugly. Here’s what he told Bartime:

Bartime: What is the first thing a customer can do to get your attention?

Jim Meehan: I like it when a customer initiates eye contact. It is an easy sign of respect, and, taken together with pleasantries such as “please” or “thank you,” will get my attention.

BT: Does this always work when a bar is crowded and the bartenders are getting slammed?

JM: When the bar is crowded, the bartender’s first responsibility is making drinks that have been ordered through a cocktail waitress or waiter. In my experience, this is a rule for many bars.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most bartenders work the crowd in a sequential order. Under this arrangement, customers that tend to be further away from the cash register, or the center of the bar will get served slowest, which is merely a function of geography.

BT: What would you not suggest a customer do?

JM: Yelling is a poor way of getting attention. Think of the bartender as your friend — would you yell at your friend while trying to do something for you that you want?

I recommend making eye contact, knowing your order, and having your money ready.

BT: That’s a good point, and brings me to a touchy subject, tipping.

JM: Tipping is important if you want to continue to get served in a timely fashion. I’m not suggesting that a customer go over the top, but 15 percent to 20 percent is pretty standard.

Another thing to consider is the complexity of the drink you are ordering. If you want a drink that takes several steps and more time than say, a beer, you might want to tip more for the service.

It is also a good idea to tip well on the first round of drinks. You can become a priority in the bartender’s mind if you start the evening off on the right foot, and this can work in your favor if the bar is crowded.

Part of the job of being a bartender is being sensible. For example, if you happen to be short on funds and need to order a drink without tipping, a “please” and “thank you” will never burn any bridges.

BT: What about how a customer orders drinks?

JM: When you come up to the bar, have your drink order ready for yourself and your party. For example, it slows down the process if you have waited in line and then need to ask all of your friends what they want while the bartender is waiting on you. This is especially important when the bar is busy.

Along the same lines, have all of the money for the whole order ready. After the drinks have been served, don’t go around and get money piecemeal from your friends. Again, this can slow things down for everybody.

BT: Any final thoughts?

JM: Bartenders have a lot going on when they are working. There is a lot of responsibility and a lot to pay attention to. At Paul’s we like to keep things neat, following the notion that “a clean bar is a happy bar.” For example, not only are we serving drinks, but also we keep the bar clean through coasters, dumping the ashtrays periodically, and so on. Customers can help the bartenders by keeping this in mind — it’s another form of respect.

Good bar etiquette generally follows good common sense, a sentiment not only echoed by Jim, but universally by the many bartenders I know. Politeness and the appropriate perspective can make any evening out more enjoyable. As Paul’s Club bartender Caroline Vacek points out, “Remember that when you walk into a bar and see all of the people inside, keep in mind that they were there ahead of you.”

Manners can make the difference between you looking like a total amateur, or a seasoned professional. Keep this insight in mind, don’t yell, don’t just tip fifty cents on a $3.50 Brandy Old Fashioned, and you will be a customer bartenders will embrace.


Bartime will venture out to the West Side for happy hour at O’Grady’s Irish Pub this Friday, Sept. 28, at 5:00 p.m. O’Grady’s is located across from West Towne Mall at 7436 Mineral Point Road. Feel free to call them at 833-4262 for additional directions. Cheers!

Paul’s Club is well known for its Bloody Mary. Why not warm up this weekend with your very own?

Paul’s Club Bloody Mary

Mix the following ingredients in a pint glass:

? 3 ounces premium vodka

? 5 shakes of Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce

? 2 shakes celery salt

? 3 shakes Tabasco sauce

? 1.5 ounces of pickle juice (the key to a good Bloody Mary!)

? 1 shake salt

? 1 shake pepper

? 1 can of Sacramento tomato juice

? Garnish with lemon, lime, pickle, olive, and celery

Mix well with a cocktail straw or stirrer, and enjoy!

? Other good ingredients to add to your Bloody are A-1 Steak Sauce or horseradish

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