Currently the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon, Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s been in the mixology business since 1996. He’s a leading figure in the current cocktail renaissance: he helped revive barrel-aged cocktails, his blogging about the art of the cocktail has inspired bartenders across the country and his work’s been acclaimed in publications like the New York Times. Morgenthaler talked to to disclose the secrets of his trade, clear up the misconceptions about bartenders and to dispel the myths around drinking culture. HOW TO GET THE BARTENDER TO SERVE YOU

Morgenthaler’s “secret” to receiving prompt service at the bar is simple and obvious: line up at the bar, wait your turn and be polite. “The prevailing myth is the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” says Morgenthaler, “so people think they’ll get served quicker by waving their hands at the bartender, waving money at him or blurting out some pithy saying to worm their way into a bartender’s heart. It’s absolutely not true.”

Since the bartender is standing behind a counter looking out at a wall of people, they know who is there and a good bartender has an innate sense of who is next. Your best strategy is to plant yourself squarely at the bar and patiently wait your turn. Rude behavior is actually counterproductive. “I know bartenders who straight-up skip over people being obnoxious,” he says. “If the rude people are going to get frustrated and leave, that’s just fine by us.” A MAJOR BARTENDER’S PEEVE: CREEPING ON WOMEN

The number one peeve and a major way to get on a bartender’s bad side is disrespecting women. Busy as they are behind the bar, bartenders notice guys creeping on women when the women don’t appreciate the attention. “It’s 2014; most women going to a bar are not looking to be slimed all over by whatever drunken fool happens to be standing near them,” says Morgenthaler.

Obviously, lots of people meet and hook up in bars, but it’s the sexist presumptions and behaviors of aggressive men that really get on a bartender’s nerves. “You still see these guys lurking around with their outdated assumptions,” continues Morgenthaler. “Their attitude is, ‘If a woman’s in a bar by herself, she must be looking for sex; I should get really, really drunk and offer her sex!’ Logical thinking. Right? Wrong. Grow up.”DON’T CALL BARTENDERS “MIXOLOGISTS”

“I don’t know any bartender who calls himself a mixologist who isn’t an asshole,” laughs Morgenthaler. The term actually began as a joke. “Your bartender is basically a pharmacist with a limited inventory and you see him when you’re feeling down,” explains Morgenthaler. “And he mixes up something to make your feel better. The term ‘mixologist’ started as a tongue-in-cheek term comparing a bartender to a doctor or a pharmacist. Sometimes I’ll call what I do ‘mixology’ but I never call myself a mixologist.”

The term has been adopted by reviewers, and some bartenders, to distinguish alcohol artisans from the neighborhood barkeep, but Morgenthaler views its use as unnecessarily pretentious. “The difference between a bartender and a mixologist is that a bartender has three ways of doing things and mixologists don’t,” says Morgenthaler. “No one in this industry takes seriously someone who self-identifies as a mixologist.”


Bar staff are not walking databases of every drink recipe and they don’t mind looking it up or having you explain it to them. “I know the classics,” says Morgenthaler, “and I have a book in my back pocket to look up recipes. There’s no shame in not knowing every single cocktail and mixed drink by heart. Chances are if it’s not on our menu we can make it for you, but we may have to look it up.”

The present cocktail renaissance has created a certain type of customer who gets bent out of shape when they can’t get an obscure cocktail mixed up immediately. “Once in a while we’ll get a customer who is maybe ‘overeducated’ about their alcohol and they think that it’s some sort of game when they order,” continues Morgenthaler. “They seem to believe if a bartender doesn’t know every drink ever created, that somehow makes them less of a bartender. Those kinds of customers tend to prey on my younger staff.” THE SECRET TO SCORING FREE DRINKS

“There’s one secret to scoring free drinks, and that is…be a super attractive woman,” says Morgenthaler. If you can’t be a super attractive woman, then don’t go looking to skip out on the bill for your libations. “If you go out looking for free drinks, you’re going to be disappointed,” he says, adding with true barkeep wisdom, “If you go out in life looking for free anything, you’re probably going to be disappointed.”

Morgenthaler concedes there are, occasionally, other ways of procuring a drink on the house. “Being a regular is a good way to get a free drink every once in a while,” he says. “Being a nice person. Having manners. Tipping well and regularly. Those all help to get a little extra love from your bartender. Being a dick will get you nowhere.” BARTENDERS ARE NOT UNEDUCATED

A bartender is not uneducated just because they work in the service industry. “I have customers ask about my background who are shocked to discover I attended university and have a degree in architecture,” he says. “I’m not here behind the bar because I don’t have a choice or because I’m uneducated or lazy. I enjoy working with my hands.”

According to Morgenthaler, his profession is appealing to those who enjoy meeting people, like the hours, appreciate the money that can be made through tips and are excited by the artisanal challenge of mixing the perfect drink. Fortunately, in his home base of Portland, his job is generally appreciated. “In Portland the service industry is a very well respected career choice; in other cities, not so much,” he says. “This is an attitude I don’t get because in any profession it takes a lot of intelligence and it takes some level of education to do well.” WHY AND WHEN A BARTENDER WILL CUT YOU OFF

Why’s the bartender cutting you off? The answer is simple: you’re getting too drunk. In the majority of states, bar staff are required by law to cut off service to a customer who gets too intoxicated. For Morgenthaler, it’s also an ethical issue. “It’s a moral obligation, not just to you as a guest but to the community at large,” he says. “If you get too drunk, you’re not just affecting yourself, you’re affecting the rest of the community.”

The impact of a sloshed lush on those around him ranges from falling down and making others care for him to street fighting to drunk driving.. Morgenthaler informs us there is one other situation where being refused service is not due to extreme intoxication. “If you’re not too drunk and you’re getting cut off at a bar, it is because you’re kind of an asshole.”


Morgenthaler wishes his career were just a big party, but the job is fraught with long hours. Bar staff may enjoy meeting and socializing with their clientele, but bartenders are on the clock. “When you see me at one A.M. I’ve been there on my feet since noon,” he says. “You’re having a great time and it’s a fun atmosphere and we may love our jobs, but it’s hard work. And there’s no big party for us in the bar when we kick you out, just an hour of cleaning and a host of other duties we do at three A.M. before slinking home for sleep.”

There’s also an idea he often encounters that bartenders are picking up a new chick from the bar every night. “Sure it happens. But again, we have that work when the bar closes. Any woman that’s still waiting for you at four in the morning and who is wide awake and ready for sex is probably a pretty special person,” he says. “Typically we’re tired, we’re exhausted and we’re filthy from mopping the floors. We want to go to sleep, not get laid.”BARTENDERS HEAR YOUR CONVERSATIONS (THEY USUALLY TUNE THEM OUT)

The frenetic pace of most bars means an overwhelmed bartender isn’t going to be able to give much attention to your juicy conversation with your pal. “Often we’ll have some customers gossiping or saying something naughty and they’ll look up at me and say, ‘You must be listening to every word we’re saying,’” Morgenthaler says. “I’ve got a million things to do while simultaneously calculating math in my head and trying to remember 12 orders. Your catty comments about a coworker or the epic of your latest sexual conquest are not going to penetrate my distracted state.”

Obviously, some juicy snippets do reach the ears of the bar staff. “We do overhear some pretty crazy stuff from time to time; however, most people’s conversations are so boring that I tune them out,” he says. So don’t worry, most bartenders don’t care about your secrets because they’re just not that interesting to a stranger.THE CAUSE OF HANGOVERS

At least once a week a customer will tell Morgenthaler that switching between drinks and mixing alcohol automatically leads to a hangover. “It’s a myth. To our bodies, it’s all just ethyl alcohol and flavoring. Hangovers are caused by how much you drink,” he says. “These drinks don’t react with each other in some sort of magic way—vodka and red wine doesn’t have some kind of chemical reaction that makes your hangover worse.”

No matter how many times he explains this fact, people will still argue with him. “I think they’re drawing from their personal drunken experiences,” says Morgenthaler. “They tell me, ‘I’ve been drinking tequila all night, I can’t possibly switch to gin. The last time I drank tequila all night and had a gin in the mix, I was sick for three days.’ Well, no. Your three-day hangover was because you had 17 tequilas and one gin cocktail, that’s why you were so sick. It was the number of drinks that did it.”