Pay It Forward

At one of my first bartending gigs in NYC, a small Midtown dive, a regular said to me, You make better drinks than the owner. But that’s because he does the books, right?

By better, he meant stronger. In fact, I poured strong Jack and Cokes for this loyal customer because he consistently tipped very well, typically five dollars per drink, or upwards of twenty five per cent on his tabs.

As a drink dealer, I never even consider attempting to seduce customers into giving me a good tip by giving away the bar. However, I do recognize loyalty and generosity by pouring stronger drinks and occasionally comping a round for people who show up and throw down night after night.

I’m not perfect. Last night, a customer at my current bar complained that his Three Olives Berry Vodka mixed with Sprite was not strong enough. Give me some more medicine, he wailed. I’m dying!

I did not acquiesce because I’d never seen the guy’s face before.

After he’d signed his tab and left, however, I saw he’d left an eight dollar tip on an eighteen dollar tab. Good man, I thought. Next time I’ll take care of him. If he’d returned to finish his half-full glass, I would’ve topped it off.

The couple in Iowa who left their harried server a one hundred dollar tip on a sixty six dollar tab has generated much internet buzz. Former servers themselves, the couple wrote a note on the tab saying they’d been in the server’s shoes before and that they wanted to pay it forward.

As a bartender, I want to pay it forward, too. For this reason, when a customer tips me well, I’ll serve him or her first when my bar is slammed, and I’ll make his or her drinks more potent. It’s a truly symbiotic relationship.

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