Bartenders exposed: behind the scenes of the other 9 to 5

By Diana Ashjian
October 28, 2005


Standing at a jam-packed bar on any given Friday or Saturday night, a young adult looking to see where the party’s at usually can’t see much past that when it comes to the actual contents of the drinks they order or what it really is they’re paying for in the meantime.

“Everything from draft beer to liquor and even wine aren’t always exactly what you order,” a bartender at Cavanaugh’s on the Riverdeck in Philadelphia said. She continued to say that cheaper liquor is typically used for most drinks even when the better liquor is specified, but that top-shelf prices still apply so that the bartenders can keep the difference and split it all up at the end of the night since they share tips.

A typical night in tips for a nightclub bartender can be anywhere from between $200 dollars up to as much as $600 dollars depending on the crowd, the music and yes, how good the bartender is at getting your money.

“I see a group of guys standing at the bar and ask them who’s ready for shots. I put a round of Jager-bombs on the bar and just throw a price at them. It’s usually too packed and they’re usually too loaded by then to bother questioning the price,” the anonymous Delaware Ave. bartender went on to say.

Binge drinking is very popular among people between the ages of 18-22 and bartenders throughout the city of Philadelphia see it as the perfect opportunity to make them say, “cha-chiiing.”

Not only should money concern the half-buzzed, but also exactly what they’re drinking. It’s important to keep in mind that bartenders could care less what it is their customers really prefer when they’re slammed.

Another bartender in the city had this to say about ordering drinks in packed clubs.

“You should keep your drinks simple and not get too fancy. One thing that everyone learns when it comes to bartending is ‘when you can’t think just make it pink.’ And that same notion doesn’t just apply for cosmopolitans, which by the way shouldn’t be ordered with top-shelf vodka because the citrus in the cranberry juice dilutes the distilled liquor. If a customer orders a Miller Light draft, but that keg happens to be kicked, chances are they’re drinking Budweiser and have no clue. When asked why that is the ready and willing bartender explained that it’s just easier to pour a beer than go back and explain it’s not available.

That could explain all those massive headaches in the morning for draft beer drinkers.

Another Old City bartender said, “Come midnight, I have a good idea of who is tipping and who is sitting. I make the cheap drinkers wait behind good tippers and then I overcharge the cheap drinkers and pocket the difference. It really is a game. My customers may be out with their buddies having a good time, but I’m doing just fine playing their game.”

Even more importantly, it’s important to always ask for an itemized receipt if using a credit card for a tab.

“Some bartenders are too good at what they do for their own good,” the beer slinger from Cav’s said. “They start to get ballsy after awhile and learn how to play with checks. If someone runs a tab and pays cash then the bartender can swipe your card right on their bill to pocket the dinero. I see it happen all the time.”

And remember when out boozing back that little pigs get fed, but big pigs get slaughtered. So, just take it easy and let the good times roll carefully and responsibly.

“There’s nothing more hilarious than a girl who’s obviously bombed and all over the place. Right before it gets busy we sometimes take bets on who the first girl to get wasted and start acting crazy is. You’d be amazed at how often we’re right,” the bartender said.

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Brandon Edwards

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Diana Ashjian

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Special Project

Title IX Redefined Website

Produced by Cabrini Communication
Class of 2024

Listen Up

Season 2, Episode 3: Celebrating Cabrini and Digging into its Past


Scroll to Top
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Email
  • Print
  • Copy Link
  • More Networks
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap