They welcome you with a smile. They listen to your life struggles and celebrate with you during happy moments. And, of course, they keep your drink full. Bartenders are the crux of society in many ways. There are more than half a million bartenders in the U.S. All of them keep establishments going that many people rely on for community and fun. And they never hesitate to lend an ear.
December 3 is National Bartender Day — a time to say “thank you” to these hard-working individuals and keep their tip jars nice and full. Here’s a look at the history of bartending. You’ll also learn how to support your neighborhood bartender, and how to up your bartending game at home.
Bartenders have been around forever. Maybe not literally, but it seems like it. Bartenders — or some version of them — have been in existence for hundreds of years in all different cultures.
There were more than likely some versions of bartenders in ancient cultures. Documentation, though, goes back to at least the 1400s in Europe. Innkeepers not only ran their inns, but they also ran the bars. They also made their own ales and spirits to keep their guests happy and comfortable.
In the late 1800s, bars in the U.S. became popular places to socialize. (Formerly, they had been seedy, untrustworthy spots.) Bartenders began concocting their own recipes and dressing up for work. A man named Jerry Thomas was one such bartender and saloon wonder. He wrote the first cocktail book in the U.S., called The Bartender’s Guide. Thomas nicknamed himself “the Jupiter Olympus of the bar” — and rightfully so.
Around the same time, Black bartenders were excluded from white saloons. In response, they founded their own organization called the “Colored Mixologists Club” in 1898.
Women had their own hand in the bartending game, as well, though nearly not as much. In 1895, there were just 147 women employed as bartenders — compared to nearly 56,000 men.
Fast forward to Prohibition Era, a time that took a major toll on bartenders across the country. In fact, many bartenders chose to change professions or even move to other countries to continue bartending legally. Still, bartending was holding strong with underground speakeasies. This so-called “dry” era even produced a drink we all know and love — the gin and tonic.
Now, bartending is a common and admirable profession. Bartenders train hard for their job, and they often have to work their way up to more prestigious bars. They’re also constantly learning and creating new drinks in order to keep your drink options vast and delicious.
Still, bartenders earn an average of just $11.64 an hour (not including tips). Now, more than ever is a great time to support your favorite bartender.
Bartenders are always ready to fill your drink, have a chat, or provide you with a little extra support. Here are three ways you can support them.
One of the best ways to let someone know you support them is, well, money. Whether you’re at a fancy cocktail bar or your local dive bar, throw an extra tip on your bill or in the tip jar. Not only will this let your bartender know you appreciate them, but you might luck out and get some top-of-the-line service moving forward.
Bartenders love to make cocktails — especially some of their own concoctions. If you know one of your bartenders recently added their own recipe to the menu, give it a try. Or, if you’re feeling lucky, tell your bartender to have fun and make their favorite drink for you. You might just find your new favorite go-to cocktail.
Above all, say “thank you” to your bartenders. Whether it’s a bartender you’re meeting for the first time or one that you’ve been visiting for the past decade, let them know you appreciate their service. If you enjoyed something particular — like a specific cocktail or the way they were super quick with your drink — let them know that, too. They’ll appreciate knowing you appreciate their hard work.
Not just anyone can be a bartender in a public establishment, but anyone can take on some bartending from the comfort of their own home. One way to celebrate National Bartender Day is to experiment with some bartending at home.
Anyone can crack open a beer or pour a glass of wine. But to make a complex, delicious cocktail? That takes expertise — and the right accessories.
Before you go wild with bartending, build up your at-home bar. Here are some great basics to stock your at-home bar:
Don’t forget a decanter to hold your spirits or your wine. This Prestige Classic Wine Decanter is sure to fit in at any at-home bar, or you can get fancy with this Square Engraved Decanter Set. Check out our collection of Prestige Decanters for more ideas.
For more at-home bar inspiration, check out these home bar accessories for bossy bartenders.
Once you’ve got the equipment, it’s time to get the cocktails flowing. At Prestige, we have so many cocktail ideas that are easy, unique, and delicious. Check out these unusual tequila cocktails, unforgettable Christmas cocktails, or refreshing summer cocktails (if you’re trying to imagine it’s still summer!).
Whichever cocktails you choose, don’t hold back! Experiment, and enjoy the many flavors that cocktails have to offer.
At Prestige, every day is National Bartenders Day. Whether you’re out at the bar or honing your bartending skills at home, appreciate the people who keep your drink filled. After all, they surely appreciate you.
Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for more bartending-inspired fun!
How are you going to thank your bartender this weekend?