10 Commandments for Drinking at the Bar
Editor’s Note: Even if you’ve never met Woody Chandler, you know who he is. He’s that guy. The one dressed as a monk at beer festivals around the country. The guy noted beer and whisky writer Lew Bryson calls “one of America’s best-known beer drinkers.” He’s the boisterous, passionate, enthusiastic one who is quick to share opinions along with his beer.
We’ve known Woody for several years now, going back to a memorable pilsner-fueled romp through the City of Brotherly Love during Philly Beer Week. Along the way he’s shared his wisdom from more than three decades of bending elbows at bars around the world. He occasionally speaks (and writes) in biblical verse. He has an infatuation for canned beers, and regularly works puns and references into his words and writings. During a recent (again beer-fueled) evening in Brooklyn, Woody told us in no uncertain terms that he is “routinely nonplussed by the lack of bar etiquette demonstrated by modern imbibers.”
So we asked the good brother to put pen to paper and share, with us all, is modern rules for drinking. If you see him out and about, buy the man his next round.
1. Thou Shalt Learn to Speak Bar Lingo
Some examples include:
The Stick: the bar
The Well: the recessed area on the bartender’s side of The Stick
Barback: the young person busing the bar, usually not a server
Barfly: a frequent guest at The Stick, who sometimes receives mail there
Bar Rag: a towel for mopping up spilled drinks
Bar Nap: sleeping is NOT authorized, but a napkin under your glass in lieu of a coaster is, plus it can help in writing down phone numbers and other important information
Fin: a $5 note
Sawbuck: a $10 note
Double Sawbuck: a $20 note
Grant: a $50 note
Benjamin: a $100 note
Buyback: either the bar or another patron purchases a drink for you, usually a beer
Flagged: the customer is cut off and asked to finish up and leave
86/86’d: former indicates that something has been totally expended, the latter means that a Flagged customer did not comply on a timely basis and now has his or her remaining drink taken and is shown the door
Blackballed: an 86’d customer refuses to leave or commits an egregious act and is never allowed to return under penalty of trespass. Usually, a photograph of this bad actor is taken and posted for future reference.
2. Thou Shalt Keep a Civil Tongue
Unless you are at a sports bar and a) your favorite team(s) is/are losing or b) you have money on the game and are losing, park the profanity. Also, do not speak openly or in a loud voice about politics, religion or other touchy subjects.
3. Thou Shalt Not Make Disparaging Comments
Speaking ill of beers, brewers, servers, other patrons and anything else that you perceive as not to your liking will not win you any friends. Pay up and leave before thou bringest wrath upon thine head!
4. Thou Shalt Not Fight
Fisticuffs are the quickest route to being Blackballed. Thou hath not heeded No.’s 2 and/or 3 and fighting often results. Thou hadst best enjoy interactions with the local constabulary or be ready to be cudgeled by the bartender. If thou hearest, “Lads, take it outside!” do so forthwith or suffer the consequences.
Render unto the patron the patron’s side of The Stick and render unto the bartenders their side of The Stick. If thou needs anything from the well, ask for it from the bartender. Thine fingers should not be reaching for the bar rag, a nar nap, salt and pepper shakers, the fruit to be used for cocktails or your Grant that inadvertently ended up there. If thou need that Grant returned, ask thine bartender and for a tithe, it shall happen. Also, thine gratuity (The Tip) should be slid into The Well just before departure, not left on the bar for the next patron to have to act as croupier in thine stead.
6. Thou Shalt Reciprocate With a Buyback When Asking a Fellow Patron to Accommodate Thou
There has become a sense of entitlement when arriving at the bar that if a previous patron is a single and you are a couple, that single person should move over one seat in either direction to allow the newly-arrived couple to sit together. Thou shouldst remember that the early guest got the worm and may be watching something on a television or avoiding another patron, established Feng Shui for themselves, or any other of a myriad of reasons to decline your request. Thou shalt not pout or engage in No. 3 if this happens. Also, should the single person be so accommodating, a Buyback is in order. It is that simple and it is not a matter of common courtesy nor is it open for debate. Get to the bar early or takest thine chances in terms of seating.
The bartenders have working ocular nerves as blind bartenders are rarer than hen’s teeth. Waving thine arms as though directing traffic on the fight deck of an aircraft carrier to get the server’s attention is a great way to become flagged. They may be busy; they may have identified you as a V.I.P. (visibly intoxicated patron); there are a myriad of reasons that they did not rush right over when you sidled up, but you need to be patient. An upraised right index finger and a slight nod of one’s head will usually suffice for getting their attention.
8. Thou Shalt Order on a Timely Basis
Oftentimes, the bar is crowded. If it is a beer bar, they will have a list of their available offerings. Take the time to peruse the list and makest thy choice before the server gives you your turn. Hemming and hawing at the last second is not on.
First, thou shalt not sit or stand in the service area. That is for the comings and goings of the cocktail waitstaff and whilst it may look like an open area at the otherwise crowded bar, the rubber mat and possibly flanking brass rails should be an indication that it is not for you. Second, do not tear Bar Naps into confetti out of a sense of boredom and leave them in a pile. Third, if thou spillest something, clean it up using the Bar Rag, for which thou shouldst ask. Do not allow it to pool and drip or run onto other patrons. If it is a really disastrous spill or worse, the spewing forth of bodily fluids, this is the one time when you may disregard No. 5 and reach for the rag.
10. Thou Shalt Tip Accordingly
Here in the United Sates, servers work mainly for tips. If thou knowest not what a tip is, I question thine presence at the bar in the first place. It is a gratuity added onto the bill or check by the patron at the end of their visit in return for services rendered. If thou art stingy with thine tip on a regular and recurring basis and routinely forced to break No. 7 in order to get service, this may be a factor.
Bro. Woody ChANdler of the Order of Disorder in the Church of the Subgenius is a lifelong resident of LanCANster, PA, as well as a lifelong habitue of taverns and taprooms worldwide by dint of his career in the U.S. Navy. He was taught by some of the best publiCANs and bartenders imaginable, although he does not always follow the dictums outlined above. His mother is pleasantly surprised by his prowess, having thought of him as a drunken reprobate as a young man.