Bartending. It’s the best of jobs; it’s the worst of jobs. There are days when you’re the king of the world; others, where you start asking yourself why you didn’t just run away and join the circus, because everyone in your bar that day is their own special kind of terrible.
But sometimes, the very worst patrons end up being the very best stories. Here’s a few from some of our bartender friends.
Tale 1: “My very first day as a bartender, I was being trained behind the bar by an experienced colleague. He went downstairs to change a keg, and a woman came up to me and asked if we had a dustbin. ‘Of course!’ I said, with my best customer service smile, and held out my hand. She leaned over the bar and delicately spit her gum straight into my hand. I looked at the chewed wad of gum sitting there on my palm, and realised: ‘This is my life now.’”
Tale 2: "A client came up to the bar and ordered a Piña Colada. I started making it, and as I was making it, he was watching me and grimacing with every movement I made. He didn’t say anything though, so I just finished making his cocktail and put it in front of him. As he was paying, he said in a confidential tone, ‘You know, I don’t really like it when my Piña Coladas have all the coconut stuff in them, and the pineapple.’ ‘Oh?’ I said.
‘Yeah,’ he continued, ‘I like them better when they have Coca Cola. And a squeeze of lime with the rum. I just think it’s nicer. Just those three ingredients. Rum, coke, lime.’
‘Well, that would be more like a Cuba Libre, I guess.’
‘EXACTLY!’ said the guy, pleased that we were on the same wavelength. We were not on the same wavelength.
‘But you ordered a Piña Colada?’ I said, bewildered. ‘Yes,’ said the guy.
‘Why didn’t you just order a Cuba Libre?’
The guy looked at me, and shook his head slowly at my stupidity. ‘Because I thought you’d get it.’”
Tale 3: “On a Saturday night, we were getting slammed. Three bartenders running up and down behind the bar, music blasting, crowd dancing – you know the drill. Anyway, a guy decided that the reason I hadn’t served him yet was because he just hadn’t tried hard enough to get my attention. So he picked up an empty glass from the bar and threw it at me, hitting me in the back of the head.
Spoiler: He did not end up getting served that night, except by the security team.”
Tale 4: Client: I want a cocktail.
Me: Sure, of course. What cocktail would you like to drink today?
Client: A cocktail.
Me: Any specific cocktail? Here’s our menu.
Client: No no no no. Don’t give me the menu.
Me: What did you have in mind?
Client: A cooooocccccktaaaaaiiiiil.
Me: [pointing to first cocktail on menu] How about this one?
Me: [pointing to second cocktail on menu] This one?
Client: NO. No no.
Me: [pointing to third cocktail on menu] This one?
Me: [pointing to fourth cocktail on menu] This one?
Tale 5: "I used to work in a really busy bar with a kind of party atmosphere, and sometimes clients would sneak off and hook up in the bathrooms. The security guards were used to this and would knock sternly on the door and escort them out. One night, we were watching the security camera as the guards did their thing.
The toilet door opened and out came a guy, then a girl… then another guy. Those toilets were tiny, but they’d somehow managed to have a threeway in there. As they were sheepishly led to the exit by the guard, the whole bar team applauded them in admiration as they passed.”
Take 6: “Real things that people have tried to order from me: A cheeseburger without cheese (no, not a hamburger, definitely not a hamburger; a cheeseburger, but without the cheese, why is this so hard to understand?!). A frozen Margarita without ice. A Virgin Long Island.
A “pint of half”, which took a while for us to figure out between us (it turned out to be a half-pint of Guinness). I love my job.”
Tale 7: “Once, long ago, I worked in a bar whose name shall remain redacted. One night the closing staff didn’t do a thorough job while they were checking the place at the end of the night, and locked in a client who had fallen asleep in the toilets.
I came in the next morning to count the money and do admin, and around 10am, as I was sitting at the bar, I heard a noise behind me. I turned around and saw a girl, dressed in a bumblebee costume, descending the stairs from the toilets in a wobbly kind of way. She blinked at me blearily and said ‘Where are my friends?’ I still think of the bumblebee girl with affection from time to time.”
Tale 8: “I had a table once that seemed to be a family – a lady in her fifties or sixties, and three grown-up children in their twenties. I went over to get their order and the very pleasant older lady started asking me questions about the menu; specifically, the tequila menu. She asked me if I could do any of them without alcohol, and I apologised and explained that as they were all tequilas, they were alcoholic spirits and therefore I couldn’t do anything about the alcohol content. I noticed that the grown-up children were hanging their heads in shame.
The lady continued on: ‘How about this one? It sounds so nice, though – it’s all the way from Mexico! I really would like to try it, just the non-alcoholic version.’
‘I’m really sorry,’ I said, and explained again.
‘MOTHER, PLEASE STOP,’ said one of the grown-up children, who were now all obviously nudging each other in exasperation.
The mother did not stop. ‘It says it can be served with lime and salt. Maybe I could just get the lime and salt part? What would that be like?’
After five more minutes of chatting with her while the children became angrier and angrier, I came to the conclusion that this was an epic troll with the goal of irritating her family members. I don’t know what was up with that family dynamic, but when I finally brought her a tiny glass of water with lime and salt, the look of pure satisfaction on her face said it all. Respect, lady. You won that day.”
Do you have any bartending horror stories or funny incidences that you want to share with the community? Get in touch on Facebook or Instagram!
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