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Secrets of a Las Vegas bartender

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Photo: Thomas Hawk / Flickr

His eyes meet yours. "What can I get you?"

He turns around, grabs a few bottles, mixes your request and pushes it over to you with admirable finesse.

"Thanks," you say and leave some cash on the counter. Meanwhile, he is bouncing from face to expectant face, feeding the party with every shot, cocktail and beer.

During countless nights serving the party people of the world's naughtiest city, Vegas bartenders have racked up an encyclopedia's worth of juicy information and forthright opinions, if only they had long enough between orders to share it. Here, bartenders from Body English, Rain and other local hot spots spill their secrets, offer advice and teach you how to bust a move on your bartender without falling flat on your ass.

Hint: Tip well and try asking, "What time do you get off?"

Mark Kiyojima, Director of Operations, ProgressiveBar

What is the worst pick-up line you’re heard or move you’ve seen?

If you were a booger, I'd pick you first. Do you mind if I hang out here until it’s safe back where I farted. Your eyes are as blue as my toilet water at home.

When buying for someone else, what drink is be most likely to impress?

Gran Patron Platinum or Gran Patron Burdeos Anejo, nice champagne or well-mixed cocktail from a trained bartender.

What drink will get you laughed at?

Blow Job

What’s the best way to hit on the bartender?

Seriously, ask what they are doing when they get off. All bartenders blow off steam when they get off.

Jenny McCarthy and her bunny brethren.

Jenny McCarthy and her bunny brethren.

What local venue has the hottest bartenders?

XS, Playboy Club

What local venue has the hottest customers?

Tao, Tao Beach, Lavo, Wet Republic, Pure, LAX, the Bank, Jet, Prive

How do you keep from sampling the product?

Buy some for your home bar.

What is the largest amount of tips you’ve made in a night, or from a single customer? Measly $600 after tipping out the kitchen and runners. This was ’99, serving 22 ounce Japanese beer, sake, Scorpion Bowls and sushi at Hamada of Japan.

Is Vegas the best city to bartend in? I honestly think so.

Graeme Pirie, M Resort, Bellagio and Southern Highlands Golf Club

What is the best pick-up line you’ve heard, or best move you’ve seen?

A gay guy tried to pick up a colleague as we were getting ready to close the bar. "Marco," he said "you have really big hands … I bet you have really big feet!" Another good pick up line I heard was "Could I paint you naked?"

What is the worst pick-up line you’ve ever heard or move you’ve seen?

A friend was sitting at my bar recently when a (high roller) guest walked up and told him "Whatever you tip the bartender, I'll match"...thinking he was doing me a favor he threw down a $20…I almost slapped him. Now, he knows to throw down the Benjamin and he will get it back later!!

What is the most impressive drinking feat you’ve seen?

On a cruise ship we had a customer throw the staff a party as a thank you. All he ordered was 20 cases of Moet ...we were all staggering around double fisting bottles of champagne, sweet!

What drink, if you order it, will get you laughed at?

I still cringe when a straight guy orders himself a Cosmo. Man up and order a bourbon on the rocks.

Have there ever been any crazy brawls or antics at your bar? Best fight was the ladies domino team (I kid you not). An argument led to a scuffle to a full out brawl. A bar stool went through the window, hair was getting uprooted and shirts ripped off. It was almost impossible to break up...more vicious than any guys I've seen fighting.

Tobin Ellis, Barmagic

Our host, Tobin Ellis, with fiance Kristen Schaefer, BarMagic of Las Vegas.

Our host, Tobin Ellis, with fiance Kristen Schaefer, BarMagic of Las Vegas.

What is the best pick-up line you’ve heard or best move you’ve seen?

"Do you know what f--ks like a tiger and winks?" (pause, then wink). A girl put a quarter down in front of me at a bar one day. I looked at it, looked at her and said, "What's this for?" She smiled and quietly said to me "Call your girlfriend and tell her you're not coming home tonight." That got a good laugh.

When buying for someone else, what drink is most likely to impress?

Whatever they are already drinking. Not sure? Shot of Patron is good bet for guy or girl, or glass of good Champagne for girl. (Perrier Jouet, Veuve Clicquot– NOT Cristal or Dom, that's tacky.)

What drink, if you order it, will get you laughed at?

Woo-Woo. Fuzzy Navel. Pretty much anything that came out in the '80s.

What is the best way to get a bartender’s attention if you want to get a drink at a crowded bar?

Cleavage, patience, smile, don't be annoying, have your money ready, tip well (you'll be remembered next time).

Have there ever been any crazy brawls or antics at your bar?

Many. Most memorable antic was in Syracuse, NY 10 years ago during an open mic night. A group of four people who looked wasted got up and started singing horribly out of tune and people started booing. They stopped and all of sudden, busted out into a perfect a cappella song. I got goosebumps. They finished and said, "We're singing tomorrow night at the bar down the street, see you there." They were a professional a cappella group promoting themselves. That was cool. That was viral before viral existed.

Have you ever been hit on or picked up by a customer?

Of course. Everybody hits on the bartender. And every bartender has gone home with a customer, at least once. Anyone who says they never did is a liar or didn't bartend very long.

How to hit on the bartender: put on a show.

How to hit on the bartender: put on a show.

What’s the best way to hit on the bartender?

Tip well and don't expect or ask for free drinks. Smile and flirt. Stand in front of his bar and dance like a sexy b-tch. Kiss your hot girlfriend and giggle. What? It works. Guys don't stand a chance hitting on a girl bartender, just tip well and be mysterious. Every hot girl bartender has heard every line and gets hit on all night long. Best way to hit on her is to be the one guy who doesn't.

What is the most fun part of the job?

Being in the zone, six-deep, nothing but asses and elbows. Love the weeds, baby. And of course, walking with $500 plus for a night's work.

What local venue do you think has the hottest bartenders?

Whiskey at GVR when it opened. Nowhere now. And who cares? If you want to look at hot girls, open a magazine or go to a strip club. That's the problem with this town and this industry. Being pretty doesn't mean a damn thing towards being a good bartender. Owners/operators should wake up and realize tits may bring 'em to the bar once (maybe), but personality, experience, speed, service, sales and drink-making skills keeps 'em there and keeps them coming back.

What’s the weirdest drink request you’ve ever received?

Kahlua and grapefruit.

Have you been given anything other than money as a tip?

Yes. Drugs, offers for sex including from twins, scratch off tickets, comps to dinners, shows, casino chips. But the absolute coolest ever was a $10 blender still in the box. It was really funny.

What is your least favorite type of customer? Cheap, rude ones. Specifically, it's a four-way tie between (1) obnoxious conventioneer men who think they are funny (2) girls with slammin' bods and busted faces who think they are models and act like b-tches (3) 20-something guys with their cheesy barbed-wire arm tats who think they are bad-asses and say "Yo, yo, yo" to the bartender (4) English people.

Do you think Vegas is the best city to bartend at? No, just the hardest. Look, people go to Miami to sit on the beach, NY to shop and eat, Paris to be romantic and drink wine, but everybody comes to Vegas to act like an asshole and pretend they were in the movie Swingers (and now The Hangover). And they do. And we get to deal with them. Joy.

Myke Ramos, RE Tapas

What is the most impressive drinking feat you’ve seen?

New Years Eve I had an English guy order two bottles of Dom Rose from me, drink that, then a six pack of Guinness. I guess that's how they roll in England. Oh and there's this guy in Long Beach who would do Colombian margaritas. Squeeze a lime in tequila and Cointreau and snort a line of salt.

When buying someone a drink, what is most likely to impress?

Depends on the girl. If she's drunk and wants something OMG like fruity, then like a Tokyo Tea... If she's sophisticated and a little more class, then I would offer Guy Savoy's Parisian Cocktail or simply Vodka rocks, splash soda splash cran.

Have there ever been any crazy brawls or antics at your bar?

When I was at Halo bar I had a customer (girl) on the bar while I was holding her head she made out with another patron, and then they were full on making out hard and she bit me...

What is the hardest part of the job?

Making sure people are safe without ruining their good time. Also listening to people who are drinking because of hardship or tragedy that's happened to them.

How do you keep from sampling the product? WTF ALWAYS SAMPLE THE PRODUCT. Memorize it with your senses.

What’s the weirdest drink request you’ve ever received?

Gorilla Snot = Bailey's and Port

What is your least favorite type of customer?

Creepers.

What is your favorite type of customer?

People in the industry who aren't freeloaders

What are some tricks you’ve (seen) used to cheat customers?

Pouring trails to make it look like you're pouring more liquor so you can get a higher tip, Switching bottles and pouring well instead of their call. Charging bumps on the drinks so you can pull a bigger tip.

What is the largest amount of tips you’ve made in a night, or from a single customer?

Largest in one night: $2500. Largest from a single customer: $600 dollars auto grat plus an extra $500 from the customer.

Brad "Bubby", PT's Pub (Tropicana and Maryland)

What is the most impressive drinking feat you’ve seen?

1996 through 1999 at Michigan State University.

What drink will get you laughed at?

Any “cheerleader beer”…examples Smirnoff Ice, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, wine coolers etc. You will also get laughed at if you order a kiddy shot like a mudslide then complain to the bartender that it is weak.

How do you get the bartender's attention? "Girls, use your assets!" -- Brad "Bubby," PT's Pub.

How do you get the bartender's attention? "Girls, use your assets!" -- Brad "Bubby," PT's Pub.

What is the best way to get a bartender’s attention at a crowded bar?

Girls, use your assets.

Have there ever been any crazy brawls or antics at your bar?

After a Rebels game I had 12 girls get in a bar brawl. At first I tried to break it up, but my manhood was injured in the fight. So much for cat fights being hot.

Have you ever been hit on or picked up by a customer?

It’s one of the perks of the job.

What’s the best way to hit on the bartender?

Write your phone number on a $100 bill and ask when they get off.

What is the craziest thing that’s gone down after last call?

This is Vegas. We don’t have last call.

What is the hardest part of the job?

Not punching stupid people. Just kidding.

What’s the weirdest drink request you’ve ever received?

Water.

Brad "Bubby"'s favorite customers.

Brad "Bubby"'s favorite customers.

What is your favorite type of customer?

Strippers and prostitutes. They gamble a ton and tip very well and bring people into the bar.

What is the largest amount in tips you’ve made in a night, or from a single customer?

I had some crazy 64-year-old lady that was basically paying all of my bills for about four months one summer.

Do you think Vegas is the best city to bartend at?

Without a doubt.

Corey Morrison, AGO at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

What is the most impressive drinking feat you’ve seen?

The first time my roommate drank an entire case of beer alone.

What is the best way to get a bartender’s attention if you want to get a drink at a crowded bar?

Be patient, polite and VERY attractive.

How do you keep from sampling the product?

Work a shift drunk; you learn fast.

What’s the weirdest drink request you’ve ever received?

Really chilled shot with a warm water back.

Have you been given anything other than money as a tip?

Room keys, iPod, clothing, etc.

What is your least favorite type of customer?

Whistlers.

What is your favorite type of customer?

Customers that are patient and appreciative.

What is the largest amount of tips you’ve made in a night, or from a single customer?

$1200 in one night.

Justus Quiocho, Rain

What is the worst pick-up line you’ve heard or move you’ve seen?

She's throwin' up on my bar, askin' me what I'm doin' after work!

What is the most impressive drinking feat you’ve seen?

Shotgunned a bottle of champagne.

If you are a patron buying a drink for a guy/girl, what drink would be most likely to impress?

Vodka and Redbull.

What drink, if you order it, will get you laughed at?

White Russian.

What the bartender takes home nightly.

What is the craziest thing that’s gone down after last call?

Jello wrestling.

What is the most fun part of the job?

Having a good vibe and a different kind of crowd every night.

How do you keep from sampling the product?

You don't, there is no such thing as a skinny chef.

What’s the weirdest drink request you’ve ever received?

Chardonnay with milk.

Have you been given anything other than money as a tip?

Yea, I've gotten everything from peanut butter cookies to skimpy little panties.

What is the largest amount of tips you’ve made in a night, or from a single customer?

$5,000 in poker chips, and the guy wasn't even drinking.

Noelle Tom, Rain

What is the best pick-up line you’ve heard or best move you’ve seen?

Pick-up lines are corny, and “moves” are only done by wannabes. In nine years of bartending, the only tactic I have noticed that works, (most every time by the way), is the winning combination of persistence and alcohol (lots of it). I have watched regular Joe-Shmoes be turned down in the beginning of the night, by girls entirely out of their league. However, five hours later, after making repeated attempts at conversation, and having purchased these girls numerous shots of tequila, these Joe-Shmoes are now leaving with the most beautiful women in the club.

What is the worst pick-up line you’ve heard or move you’ve seen?

Bartender: Hi, what can I get for you? Customer: Yeah, can I have a Long Island, five Kamikazes and your phone number?

What is the most impressive drinking feat you’ve seen?

Several years ago, while working at a nightclub in Oakland, Calif., I watched a guy consume an entire bottle of Remy Martin from start to finish, in one swig. Needless to say, his dinner was on the floor shortly after.

When buying someone a drink, what is most likely to impress?

People who frequent nightclubs these days seem to be so infatuated with the notion of “high rollers” and “big spenders,” that simply buying a person one measly drink is not going to impress anyone. If you want to get someone to look twice at you, you had better be ordering (at least), a few bottles of Cristal, and break out your black AMEX!

What is the best way to get a bartender’s attention at a crowded bar?

A better answer to this question would be to tell you what NOT to do. Do NOT repeatedly shout “hey bartender,” or continuously scream out the bartender’s name, if you happen to know it. This is rude and completely unnecessary. We are WELL aware of your presence, but are currently making five other drink orders for people who got to the bar before you did. Did your parents not teach you manners?

Do NOT frantically wave the bartender down, and then when we get over to you, say to us, “Oh, hold on a sec, I don’t know what I want yet.” Bartenders are always multitasking, and have numerous things to keep straight in our heads at any given minute. If we have to interrupt our train of thought to tend to your hysteria, the last thing we have time for is to wait for you to be indecisive. You’re ordering a drink, not choosing your burial site.

Have you ever been hit on or picked up by a customer?

Getting hit on comes with the territory. When I was living back home in San Francisco, I cleared out an entire wall in my closet and called it the “Wall of Shame,” in which I had pinned up business cards, love notes and phone numbers written down on crumpled bar napkins, that every drunken idiot had optimistically handed me.

What’s the best way to hit on the bartender?

To hit on a female bartender: DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME! Let me tell you right now, that no matter how much a female bartender pays attention to you, or smiles, or giggles at your pathetic attempts to advance her, she WILL NEVER, (not even a minute chance in hell), go home with you. Female bartenders are an exceedingly intelligent and picky breed, and our false interest in you is nothing more than our strategic plan to GET YOUR MONEY!! To hit on a male bartender: If you are a female, you’re in!

What is the craziest thing that’s gone down after last call?

One of the clubs I bartended at back home actually hosted full-on orgy parties on Saturday nights after we were officially closed. Good times.

What is the hardest part of the job?

For myself, it’s dealing with all of the second hand smoke. I actually just had a revelation the other day regarding this subject. Working as a bartender in Las Vegas, I am not only forced to unwillingly inhale all of the toxic chemicals from the cigarettes, but I am also breathing in all of the nasty germs from smokers’ lungs. Disgusting.

What local venue do you think has the hottest customers?

In my opinion, the bars in downtown Vegas (especially during First Fridays), have the hottest customers. Venues such as Beauty Bar, The Griffin and The Downtown Cocktail Room tend to attract a clientele that are generally much more down to earth and laid back than do the mega clubs in major casinos.

What’s the weirdest drink request you’ve ever received?

While working at a nightclub back in San Francisco, I once had a guy ask me to make him a margarita, but instead of dipping the rim of the glass in lime juice, he offered me $100 to lick the glass before dipping it into the salt. I told him he was absurd to think I’d let a stranger leave the bar with a sample of my DNA. I mean, how did I know for certain that he wasn’t going to attempt to clone me or something? I told him he would have to pay me WAY more than one hundred dollars to be fortunate enough to take my spit home. He found me humorous and gave me the money anyway!

Jeremy Johnson bartender at Sedona

Jeremy Johnson bartender at Sedona

What is your least favorite type of customer?

The list goes on and on, but my absolute least favorite customer must be the one who never orders a drink, but still asks for “tap water” all night. These customers, who also normally never leave a tip, are taking money out of our personal pockets, as well as preventing the bar from generating revenue. While I’m busy pouring you a (free) tap water, I am not helping other customers who want to PAY for drinks. I would love nothing more than to hand my tap water drinking customer an empty glass, and direct them to the nearest toilet bowl.

What is your favorite type of customer? Any customer who demonstrates perfect social skills and ideal bar etiquette. Someone who waits patiently, orders completely, pays promptly, and tips generously. Unfortunately, in a high volume establishment, these customers are needles in haystacks.

What is the largest amount of tips you’ve made in a night, or from a single customer?

Asking a bartender how much they make is the same as asking a woman how much she weighs. It’s rude and none of anyone’s business. However, I will say, that despite having a bachelors degree, I have chosen to spend the past nine years as a bartender. I go home pretty happy most nights.

Do you think Vegas is the best city to bartend at? By far! Since there is technically no last call, we can work longer hours. The more drinks we pour, the fatter our tip buckets become! I have always said that being a bartender in Vegas allows me to make the most money without having to do anything illegal or get naked!

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