Famous stupid bartender.

My Five Cents: Restaurants With Full Bars Listen Up

If you own an upscale restaurant and have gone to the trouble and expense to stock a full bar, you might want to make sure the people you hire to work behind said bar know what they are doing.

If you own an upscale restaurant and have gone to the trouble and expense to stock a full bar, you might want to make sure the people you hire to work behind said bar know what they are doing.

I bring this up because there seems to be a lack of knowledgeable barkeeps in town. I’m not talking about the cocktail dens that offer 12-step concoctions made with housemade ingredients.  I’m referring to a couple of high-priced steak joints that don’t know their Absinthe from a Hair of the Dog.

This week I received two complaints that curled my Tom Petty-esque hairdo. Listen to this one:

We went to a nice steak place that displayed their elaborate cocktails on a nifty little iPad. It looked like they really knew their stuff. I wasn’t interested in their signature items, but I did order a Boulevardier (essentially a Negroni with whiskey instead of gin).

The waiter comes back five minutes later and states: “The bartender wants to know what’s in that.” Somewhat taken aback, I blurted out “Tell him to Google it.”

Has anyone else had this problem of a huge bar that cannot execute basic, if not a little obscure, cocktails? How do you handle it?

You shouldn’t have to handle it. If a bartender does not know how to look up a cocktail recipe, they should be fired. You are paying a premium to be taken care of during your dining experience. The waiter should have thought twice before he asked you. (The Boulevardier has a freakin’ Wikipedia page!) It’s one thing if you order an off-the-menu drink at Chili’s; it’s quite different when the entrees at the restaurant start at $30. Jerry Thomas and Harry Johnson just moaned from six feet under.

I think there are too many restaurants and not enough talent to go around.



  • Little4estHills

    The same could be said for beer bars with extensive beer lists. You have 11 different IPAs on tap, but you have NO IDEA what the difference is among them because you “don’t like IPAs”…. And you don’t even to MAKE the damn drink, but at least know one semi- descriptive sentence about it.

    Like you said, too many places and not enough talent.

  • everlastinphelp

    Bartender’s Black Book costs less on Amazon than they charge for a drink.

  • C Newman

    Cuba Libre.

  • Touchstone13

    I love a Negroni. What you describe here happens all the time in Dallas. Nothing like explaining to a bartender how to make the drink he is going to charge me $14 for. Never happened to me once on a recent trip to NYC.

  • Les Hall

    I’m sick of waiters pouring bottles of beer like it’s soda water. 2″ of head. Bad.

  • Cindy Bishop

    How about Mexican/TexMex places that display a huge selection of tequilas (some even on tap), but no tequila menu? Just the usual margarita list. Why are you stocking these if you don’t promote them???

  • Good Eats

    Waitresses at Nodding Donkey have no idea what beers are in stock and if they do they cannot explain what they are.

  • Michael Martensen

    Not only a issue behind the bars in Dallas but kitchens too. It is extremely hard to find/ recruit talent into the Dallas market. I am not sure why it’s difficult. I was happy to move to Dallas and give the city a try. It is a budding scene with great culture and arts. Travel to three different coasts within three hours. That’s a win in my book. Now to just let all the talented folk out there know. I think the city and all local media needs to talk more about what the underbelly of the city is about and the advantages of living here are then they would flock like the salmon of Capastrana.

    • C LaFerney

      I’m talking about a little place called… Aspen.

  • AndrewS

    Every place has “signature cocktails” now and beyond those 8-10 drink, the bartenders rarely know how to make a cocktail.

    What you don’t get anymore is true customer service. Whether it’s not knowing how to make a cocktail, or the flavor profile of an IPA, waiters/servers/bartenders don’t know how to provide customer service. A simple “I don’t know the answer to your question but I will see if I can find somebody who does know the answer”, or an even simpler “I will find the answer for you” would go a LONG way.

    This is a training issue, and it’s not just restaurants/bars that get this wrong.

  • tdot

    I’ve bartender for over 15 years. I’ve never had anyone ever order that drink. That’s b.s. good day.

    • Natasha Kirby

      Been bartending for 10 years- all over the world…. Never heard of that drink either. Cheers.

    • Sean Taylor

      You’ve bartender huh…

  • Luna

    Have run into this so much. It’s pretty sad that a restaurant with a “Martini Menu” can’t even make a simple Dirty Vodka Martini. Basically brought me a glass that looked like it was muddy water. I saw it coming to the table & was all like, “oh hell no…”. If you can’t even make a martini, shouldn’t be tending bar. Just sayin…

  • Rania Kh

    I have had the worst experiences with upstairs Soda Bar in Nylo South Side. Like real bad. And that’s a full on bar. Been a couple times, first time service was terrible and i was served sour old red wine. But the worst time was when I asked for an Old Fashioned and the crap I got was terrible. I asked for a redo and sat at the bar and had to walk the bartender through the steps. And it still was terrible. Made me never want to go back even if that view is amazeballs.

  • tequila

    I work as a brand ambassador for a tequila in Dallas and offer trainings to all bars and restaurant. Free! I only do like 1 or 2 a month. Some places just don’t care…

  • Dallas1988

    I ordered a French 75 at the BBC the other night and the waitress also came back to ask me what was in it- I am under the impression that is a rather well known cocktail.

  • Natasha Kirby

    Y’all need to chill the f* out. Not every bartender knows everything, and the pre-supposition of such is what gets you into trouble. I’ve been doing this 10 years, and I’m very very good at it… Still, there are a small few people I just can quite make happy. Their palette just isn’t registering, or whatnot. Moreover, MOST bars don’t have a bar book behind the bar, nor do they allow you to pull out your phone (even for a recipe, trust me I’ve been yelled at for this).

  • DHosking76

    Im an experienced drinker and did know what was in the drink you ordered. I think the tone of this article is a bit harsh and if a customer told me to Google something they would have had something “extra” in thier drink .

  • PamP

    Even worse is the new trend to ruin a scotch and soda with an unsolicited lemon twist. The last time I ordered a drink with fruit was at Trader Vic’s, . . . . the first time around.

  • aurelius

    Agree this phenomenon is way too common and while it should be expected at a sports bar, it is inexcusable at the high end steakhouses and upscale hotels.

  • Ryan Fussell

    There is a larger problem that exists than what is being discussed here. There is a strong difference between bartending and tending bar. With the influx of restaurants trying to open craft programs, there is a dilute talent pool of those that really can tend bar. Others that have bartending experience and get hired to these new locations are simply regurgitating someone else’s menu that was outsourced from the restaurant to one of the high profile craft bartenders in the area, of whom make money to put a menu in place and maybe do the start up training, so they have no incentive to help the bar once inception. This means that unless they somehow inspire passion in those people, those bartenders are just as lost as before, and have no ownership or drive.
    This is commonplace, as many of these people are working to get to the next stage, or waiting on a location to fail, have a new group open another restaurant there, and then just jump from one to another until they are found again again.
    You can’t force passion. You either have it or you don’t. If you order a Boulevardier or a Vieux Carre and the bartender doesn’t know what it is, and they even send someone to ask you, think deeper about that- Maybe the server didn’t understand what you said. Maybe they couldn’t figure out how to spell it. Maybe they are new to the industry and passionate, and because you ridiculed them when they were trying to get your order correct and couldn’t understand how to get from A to B, that they leave and do something else instead of feeding the talent pool.
    I regularly order drinks that when I see certain products on a bar, it triggers a want for me. Bartender doesn’t know how to make it, or what base to start with- I HELP THEM. Why? Because they’ll remember the kindness, they’ll grow, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll share that with others and grow the talent pool that you all too easily would cast to the wind in a rant that you haven’t taken the time to examine how you could have been more of an impact towards your own experience.

  • Sheryl

    The Windmill and People’s Last Stand both have bartenders that know what they are doing. On a recent trip to Terilli’s, however, we talked to the waiter about the wine selection, ended up with a mid-range priced bottle, and both the wine with the meal was absolutely wrong, and the bubbly he recommended with the dessert was totally off. We both bought $25+ pasta dishes and split a dessert that were ruined with the wrong wines. I thought Terilli’s was known for their wines… Again, training of staff is imperative.

  • Susan

    Whatever bartender says they’ve never heard of a Boulevardier was probably a bartender at Chili’s. I was in a trendy restaurant in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) a few weeks ago and had to teach the bartender how to make a Moscow Mule. ugh. I don’t think the article was harsh in the least.