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Expert Guide

How to Get on Any Bartender's Good Side

© Nicole Franzen

A few weeks ago I was sitting at a bar when they announced last call. Service stopped. Twenty minutes later, two bartenders I know came rolling in. “Oh, man, the bar is closed,” I said. “Last call doesn’t apply to bartenders,” my friend replied. Sure enough, the guy behind the bar sprang into action for them.

Since then, I’ve become obsessed with getting bartender treatment. And I found the perfect team to help.

Meet some key ladies from Speed Rack. The raucous all-girls bartending competition, where women make drinks at lightning-fast speed and judges pick the winner, isn’t just an awesome party: It also raises money to fight breast cancer ($160,000 so far). Miss Speed Rack USA 2014 is Caitlin Laman of Trick Dog in San Francisco (big applause); Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix are the Speed Rack founders (more applause). I asked them for help.

What’s the best way to get a bartender’s attention?

Lynnette Marrero: The wrong way is snapping your fingers, yelling or any other disruptive activity. The people who stand out are the ones who look ready to order, and have their card out ready to start their tab.

Ivy Mix: Smile and try to make eye contact. Do not whistle or wave your hands over your head like a lunatic. The calm person who looks nice and smiles is surely going to get better service than that impatient anxious guy who just needs his drink!

What’s the best way to make a bartender be your friend?

Caitlin Laman: Be nice. We are likely overworked and under-slept. Additionally, anyone that makes me laugh heartily gets serious points.

IM: Just be nice and accommodating. And—talk to us! In the age of the smartphone, it’s become a rather lonely job, where people at the bar just stare into their LCD screens. If anybody starts chatting—about anything—at my bar, to me, it makes my day.

What’s the best thing to order in a fancy bar so you don’t sound like an idiot?

CL: A daiquiri or gimlet if you want something citrusy and slightly refreshing. An old-fashioned, Manhattan or Negroni if you want something boozy and slow-sipping. These are great, go-to classic cocktails that bartenders love to make. But don’t be afraid to order beer or wine at a cocktail bar. Relax, and drink what you want.

What’s the best thing to order in a dive bar, besides beer?

LM: I order a gin and soda with extra limes (or lemons, during the lime crisis).

IM: I always go white wine spritzer. Delicious, refreshing and exceptionally hard to mess up. Or Campari and soda.

What do you do if you don’t like your drink?

CL: I may get some flack from my peers here, but you shouldn’t drink it. In San Francisco, you pay anywhere from $9 to $13 for a cocktail; in New York City, up to $20. You should enjoy your drink. That said, don’t just blindly order. Ask us what we think you’ll like—that’s what we’re here for. We want you to come back and hang with us (provided you were nice); you’re less likely to do that if you’re paying for a cocktail that you don’t want to drink.

Related: 11 Ways to Become Besties with Your Bartender
Best Cocktail Bars in the U.S.
The Country's Best New Bars

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