Skip to content

9 Lies That Bartenders Admit to Telling Customers

No, it wasn’t actually that great talking to you…

Bartenders have quite a demanding job. Not only do they have to know how to prepare dozens of different drinks—and quickly, at that—and how to manage all sorts of hardware, from taps to cash registers to soda guns to blenders and on it goes, but they also have to put up with their clientele. And dealing with people for hours on end can be challenging enough even when they're not getting progressively more inebriated as the evening wears on. Who can blame them if they tell a few well-intentioned lies?

On the other hand, bartenders can make a lot of money. With tips factored in, according to CNBC, bartenders in busy locations can clear more than $500 in a single weekend evening, in fact. The best way to rake in the tips is probably the efficient delivery of well-made drinks, but the other best way for bartenders to earn a few extra bucks is to engage with their customers in a way that makes said patrons feel good about being there. Which, in many cases, means simply lying to the patron.

And in other cases, bartenders may bend the truth for other reasons, too, such as to cut off an unruly drinker or to get out of an undesirable duty. We found plenty of examples of lies bartenders admit to telling from all those categories and more.

 6 Secrets Bartenders Don't Want You To Find Out

No coffee or espresso

Rhode Island Espresso Martini

The popularity of the espresso martini surged last year, and bartenders became weary of pulling shots of espresso for each drink. We polled former bartenders about the things they lie about while working in an ETNT Facebook post and some said that fibbing about coffee being available, especially late, was a common lie.

Sorry, we're all out of…

cocktails lined up on bar, demonstrating lower-calorie alcohol swaps

In fact, coffee isn't the only thing your bartender might be lying about. If a bartender just doesn't want to make a complex, multi-step drink they might use this excuse. Maybe it's a rush time and your order will take too long, maybe they're just tired, or maybe you've annoyed them somehow, but per Saucey, often if a bartender tells you they are all out of an ingredient needed for your order, that could be a fib.

I think you've had enough

bartenders accepting card

It is a bartender's solemn responsibility not to overserve a customer who has consumed too much alcohol and most bartenders have no problem cutting a patron off when they reach that point. What one bartender who shared on an ETNT Facebook poll admitted was that sometimes bartenders will cut a person off even if they don't seem overly drunk just because they want them to leave.

I'd never judge someone based on their drink order

bartender tools

Except that just about every bartender does indeed judge people based on their orders, according to input a few dozen bartenders shared with Business Insider. One went so far as to say: "You can tell what type of person someone is by their drink order in specific bars."

So nice chatting with you!

Hands of a bartender at bar restaurant with glass whiskey drink

If a bartender engages you in conversation regularly over the course of your stay at the establishment, there is always a chance he or she is just enjoying talking to you. But, according to Insider, it's more likely the case that the bartender is engaging with you simply so you'll order more and tip bigger, using the chats to build a sense of relationship and to better gauge how to most gainfully interact with you.

Sure, I'll have a drink with you

bartender 2 drinks

Tending bar is difficult, demanding enough work when a person is completely sober; doing it under the influence of alcohol is a recipe for disaster. (And grounds for termination in many instances.) But instead of flatly rejecting customers who ask to share a drink with their bartender, many times the man or woman behind the bar will fake it instead. One bartender shared on Facebook how she used to keep a liquor bottle filled with iced tea behind the bar and would do shots of the tea whenever a customer asked her to share a drink.

Sorry, we're closed! This is a private party

Closed Sign on Door

That's a direct quote from someone who responded to the Eat This Not That! survey, and it's a clever tactic to prevent an unwanted person from entering the bar while saving the bartender from having to actually shut things down for the night. Now, if the unwanted patron sees someone else get in, then things may backfire.

 15 Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks That Are Actually Worth Buying

Top shelf liquor you say? Sure, coming up

bartender tips

Most bartenders would never pass off cheap liquor in place of the higher quality, higher priced option a customer ordered, and in fact, most bartenders are outraged by those who do, per our perusal of many Reddit comments. But it does happen. Unscrupulous barmen will indeed bill for top-tier booze while making that old-fashioned, margarita, or gin fizz with the cheap stuff. If they get caught, it can mean their job or even a contract with a supplier, though.

I love my job!

bartender lies

Lots of bartenders do indeed love their work, but most struggle with it at least on occasion, and some have issues with their jobs most of the time. According to many bartenders who shared on a comment thread in the r/bartenders subreddit on Reddit, many bartenders question the morality of their work, feeling like enablers for people with alcohol abuse issues.

A previous version of this article was originally published in Nov. 2022. It has been updated with new information.

Meaghan Cameron
Meaghan Cameron is Deputy Editor of Restaurants at Eat This, Not That! Read more about Meaghan