A birthday can be like a mini-holiday, let’s call it You Day, and on You Day it’s understandable to want all the attention and all the perks that come with being the celebrated person. However, though the attention may be all on you, when you go out to a bar to celebrate your birthday with friends, how you get along with the bartender could be the difference between a fun and memorable night and being home in bed by 9 p.m.
Landing your group in the bartender’s good graces should be top priority when you step inside that bar on your birthday. These people know you’re just trying to celebrate another year of living, and they are there to help facilitate your good time, so follow these bits of advice and your group will have the best bar birthday ever.
Bartenders agree that the most annoying group of customers are the celebrators who ask for “something special” while having no clue what they actually want to drink.
“That’s kind of like a running bartender’s joke…it’s people just coming up saying it’s their birthday and then not really knowing what they want,” says Rémy Walle, head bartender at RPM Seafood in Chicago.
Paul Kim, a bartender since 2008 currently working as a brand ambassador for Woodford Reserve Distillery, adds that when met with one of these vague requests, he would usually reach for whatever sweet, fruity alcohol was available that the bar was trying to get rid of. He says most other bartenders would just make a house cocktail and pour it into a shot glass. “I feel like it would always be like ‘ooh it’s my birthday or it’s my friend’s birthday, can we get like fun shots or party shots?’…they’re never specific about it,” says Kim.
Knowing your order can only benefit you. Walle explains that bartenders are more than happy to bring out a special pour or something exclusive to the bar when you’re able to specify what the birthday person enjoys drinking.
Be patient and when you do figure out your order, it’s much better for the bartender if you place your order all together rather than each person coming to the bar individually. “And when [the server or bartender] comes back to ask if anyone wants another round, people should order even as they have a little bit left, so as to not have the server/bartender keep going back and forth every time,” advises Jose Martinez, a bartender with six years of experience.
If you genuinely have no idea what you want to drink, but you want to take shots that are “fun” and go down smoothly, there’s no shame in ordering a buttery nipple, a blow job shot, or whatever other sweet sip is available.
“I think those were shots from the 90s that people think are just funny to order,” says Walle. Sometimes the name of the drink, the presentation of it, and the way you drink it (no hands) is more fun than the actual drinking, and that’s totally fine.
“My go-to was always lemon drop shots. It’s basically just like vodka lemonade in a shot, but it’s a little bit stronger,”says Martinez. “It’s pretty standard because it’s easy to drink, it’s tasty, it’s sweet, and you can put some sugar on the rim to make it nice and pretty.” The simplicity and crowd pleasing nature of the lemon drop shot are also why Walle considers it a go-to if a customer wants a “fun” shot.
Both Martinez and Walle also called out Kamikaze shots (vodka, lime juice, and orange liqueur) and Vegas bombs (Crown Royal Whiskey, Schnapps, and an energy drink) as common celebratory orders.
Whether you’re looking for rounds of shots or some celebratory cocktails, the one order Martinez says to avoid on your birthday is anything blended. If you happen to notice the bar has a slushie machine, then it might be okay. But he cautions, “No bartender ever looked forward to making a drink and blending it.”
Finally, if you are to walk away from this article with any bit of wisdom, it is the following: Demanding free shit on your birthday is not cool.
“The most annoying thing is asking for free shit,” says Kim. “Nine times out of 10, I’m not going to give it to you. But, if you’re bringing good vibes and I notice it’s your birthday, odds are I will offer it to you.”
Walle considers throwing out the fact that it’s your birthday immediately after the bartender greets you the “tackiest thing.” Can’t say I blame him or any bartender for feeling this way. How would you like it if upon meeting you people started angling for freebies? The whole “it’s my birthday” routine can get old pretty quickly.
“People probably shouldn’t go in with the expectation that they’re going to get free drinks for their birthday…if anything I think that good etiquette is for all your friends to know that it’s your birthday and not let you pay for a drink,” notes Martinez.
Best advice: play it cool. Let the free drinks come to you. And as always, don’t be a jerk and don’t forget to tip well (and often). Happy Birthday!