Ordering A Drink This Way Is A Red Flag For Bartenders

Sometimes, retro is a good thing. But when it comes to ordering drinks in "fingers," it's a big old signal to bartenders that you're not who you say you are.

The ever-so-unscientific unit of measurement dates way back to Old West saloons, says Westword. People would use the bartender's fingers to indicate how much liquor they desired (two fingers' width is more than one, for example). However, it's a pretty inconsistent system that has been largely panned for obvious reasons. Nowadays, if a person asks for one finger (in a non-ironic fashion) they'll get a ¾-inch pour, which is about an ounce. This helps the bartender to know exactly how much to pour, and also how much to charge.

In addition to being an extra, unnecessary headache for bartenders (just order it the regular way, already), ordering in "fingers" is also a giant sign to bartenders that the person doing the ordering is likely underage. It's a little bit of good old-fashioned overcompensation at play here.

Why ordering in 'fingers' is a bad idea

Wondering how an outdated ordering style could possibly signal illegal drinking intentions? Bartender Emma Witman writes in Business Insider, "It's a joke among our crowd that the under-21s order in 'fingers' to try to seem more sophisticated — and less underage." Take a chance on this ordering style, and Witman will ask to see identification. She's got a job, and she isn't afraid to do it right, people.

If you're asked to produce an identification card, go ahead and do it (assuming it's not a fake). The bartender will examine the card to make sure it's the real deal, and they might ask a few questions to verify that it's yours, per Bartender School Online. They won't even stick with the obvious stuff, necessarily. Many seasoned bartenders will ask what "sign" you are (as in horoscopes), instead of date of birth. If the ID is from out of state, they may go so far as to ask what the capital of that state is.

Avoid all this hassle by ordering like a normal, modern person — in shots. You're not packing a six-shooter or courting a saloon worker, after all.

The key is how you order

"It's less about the drink you order, and more about how you order," wrote one Reddit user. They then add that they'd rather have a customer order "20 different kinds of pisco sours," than not exhibit proper bar etiquette. (For those unfamiliar with mixology, this particular drink requires a lot of precision, as the egg white on top needs to be the perfect consistency, per Serious Eats. It's not exactly the best drink to order when there are 40 other people in the queue.)

That being said, the Redditor wrote that making multiples of that cocktail is preferable to dealing with an indecisive customer. A major request of bartenders everywhere is to be sure of what you want before you place the order.

For example, some customers apparently try to order "Tito's tequila," which isn't actually a thing. Not only is this frustrating for the bartender (as well as everyone else on line), but it could also potentially show your inexperience at the bar. After all, many people know that Tito's is a brand of vodka.

Don't act entitled

Another bartender added a point to the Reddit thread, commenting, "Add in there those people who feel self-important enough to shout their order at you out of turn when there are clearly 40 other people waiting patiently to order. Instant enemy."

And chances are, if you're at a crowded bar or club, your order won't be heard over the talking and loud music anyways. So, as stated before, wait in line for your turn to order. And while you wait, memorize your drink orders so you can properly articulate them to the bartender when you're up to pay.

Still, don't channel acting assertive into disrespectful behavior — acting rude won't get you anywhere. Jenn Tran, a bartender who's served in a variety of different nightlife establishments, told Pacific Standard, "If you snap your fingers at me, I promise you, I will never serve you." The same applies for throwing your credit card at the bartender or whistling at them. Just don't do it. At that point, you might not even get served, let alone getting even the most simple cocktail.

What to do instead

Some bartenders might give you a look if you order an Irish Car Bomb or a Frozen Mudslide on your night out. But as cringy as those drinks are, they aren't the worst things you can order. On Reddit, bartenders agreed that they dislike when customers are unprepared to order and ask for an abnormal amount of modifications.

One Reddit user and self-identified bartender shared a list of annoyances, including when a customer asks for chasers before just ordering Sprite after the bartender lists all of the other options. Another hypothetical, yet common, situation is when the person just tips 5% after all the trouble they've put the bartender through. This user's comment received nearly 6,000 upvotes and ended with the statement, "You have just made an enemy at the bar, and I will put you at the bottom of my priorities."

"Normally, I just walk away and wait for them to get their sh*t together, but sometimes, they sorta hook you in to their circle of madness, and they won't let go," the Reddit user continued. However, there are things you can do to make your bartender's night easier.

For starters, make sure you know what to order and that you have a working credit card. And if you can, order all of your party's drinks at once instead of later adding them to the order. Just because you want to have fun on your night out doesn't mean you should ruin the bartender's shift.