HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Bar staff practice: yea or nay?

This may have been discussed before on CH, but I'm not sure how to search for it so excuse me if it has.

We like to sit at the bar and eat at our favorite restaurants (we are in NYC). More and more I am seeing this practice: a service bartender will make a cocktail and when done mixing it, before putting it up for pickup by the wait person, sticks a straw in the drink, syphons off a sip or two (by putting a thumb over the end of the straw and capturing the liquid) and then tastes the cocktail. I assume this is for "quality control." Many times the server picking up the drink will do the same thing before serving it. Have others noticed this in whatever area you live in? What do you think of this? There really is no hygiene issue here; it's all done without the bartender putting his mouth anywhere near the drink. I guess it's like a chef with his tasting spoon, the biggest difference being the chef does his tasting in the privacy of the kitchen. Opinions?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Here's a pretty good discussion.

    I, myself, am ambivalent about it.


    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Thanks for the link. It's very informative.

      1. re: ttoommyy

        I have no problems with the bartender sampling my cocktail, but I find it a bit redundant if the server does the same. Unlike you, I don't think I've ever seen a server take a sample.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          I think the server tasting the drinks might be to differentiate drinks that look alike, etc. if the bartender is not readily available to advise which is which. We go to some pretty well-known, respected and high end restaurants here in NYC and have seen this happen pretty regularly. Like I said before though, I don't have a problem with it at all.

    2. I have never seen this.

      1. No issue AT ALL.

        The bartender checks the quality of the drink he/she is making.

        Cooks in the kitchen do the same thing, they always taste the food (mostly sauces) to check if the seasoning is good and there are not flaws.

        1. In general - it all makes complete sense to taste. Particularly when it's a more involved cocktail with numerous ingredients.

          However, I do think that there is something that would strike me as odd and similar to someone "eating off my plate" (or rather glass). In the kitchen, I expect the chef to taste the soup from the pot - not from my bowl. So if such cocktail tasting occured from the shaker or where the drink was made - it would strike me as more of a direct correlation to the chef's tasting. Tasting out of the glass seems more like a spot check of a manager evaluating a bartender than a bartender actually altering a blended cocktail.

          1. I have seen servers "taste", I thought it was to "ID" the drink.

            1. Excuse the stupidity of this thought..why would this be necessary? If I'm ordering a Rusty Nail (while wearing my velour leisure suit, I know...) and the bartender measures out the correct amount of Drambuie and scotch, why would this be an issue? In a kitchen, many chefs may have had a hand in the dish, but the bartender who's mixing my drink should know the quantities s/he poured, right?

              1 Reply
              1. re: pinehurst

                I would assume the bartenders do the tasting with more complicated/complex mixed drinks.

              2. I personally have no problem with this and the reasons for the taste have been well discussed already.

                Honestly, if something like this bothers you probably shouldn't dine out. I'm not here to try and gross anyone out however restaurant employees are generally pretty careful with they food/beverage handling when in front of customers......if most of you really knew what goes on suddenly a taste with a clean disposable straw wouldn't seem so bad.

                2 Replies
                1. re: jrvedivici

                  Not worried about it from a hygiene standpoint, but from a competency standpoint. I don't visit bars that often, but the bartenders are experienced enough to eyeball a pour in a mixed drink to perfection without pipetting two sips for QC. Maybe my choice of cocktails is too mundane. :-)

                  1. re: pinehurst

                    Not trying to be sarcastic at all however I do believe your last statement is probably accurate. If you see a bartender dipping a straw in a Vodka and Club I agree completely the bartender has an issue.

                    In todays liquor enviroment there are so many new flavored vodka's which create an entire new exoctic drinks which do carry a careful balance of flavors to come out with desired tastes(s). I again have no problem with this method of quality assurance then something like I have witnessed at Joe's Crab House where they litterally pour many of their mixed drinks out of a tap similar to beer!! No joke, many of their signature cocktails are premade and just poured into a glass via a tap.

                2. I place I've had this happen almost all the time is Mexico when a bartender mixed a margarita "authentica" with fresh limes, a dash of sugar/syrup/sprite, b/c every lime has its own characteristics, and they have no way of knowing if it was on the sour side, or too sweet. that way they can adjust before serving. and I appreciate

                  1. Seen it before and have no issues.

                    1. I've seen bartenders do this in San Francisco. It's usually when they are making something complex or customizing the drink to your request. Definitely a good thing that they take the time to make sure it's right.

                      I don't recall ever seeing a server do it.