To effectively establish the parameters of a good bartender, one must look at the subject from 2 perspectives; the customer and the bar owner/manager. The attributes that hold importance to one in most cases are not the same for the other. It is the bartender that finds the middle ground that will ultimately be deemed, by his customers, peers and employers, a good bartender.
The bartender’s importance and stature varies geographically. In Florida, for instance, the bartender is the best guy in the bar to know. Everyone in Florida is a “bartender”, much like everyone in Hollywood is an “actor”. Waiters and waitresses will tell you they are only waiting tables until they can “get a bar gig”. In some states in the Midwest, however, the bartender, and hospitality people in general, are looked upon as uneducated and lower class. Still, as a customer in a bar, you will want to know and have the respect of the bartender.
As a customer, you want prompt service, a clean area in which to drink, and a drink made properly so that the taste is neither overpowering nor weak. Those parameters are also what the manager expects. Some have said that a god bartender will give a customer a free drink or two. The manager would disagree. Maybe one expects only a few seconds before the bartender pours another. That is unrealistic unless you are drinking in a small bar with few customers. A good bartender gives as much attention as his business allows, pours drinks to recipe standards to ensure the proper taste, and keeps a clean bar. The good bartender also asks his manager to comp drinks to good customers because a good manager will always comp a few to loyal guests or big tippers. It is not the bartender’s right to, without permission, give away a drink. One cannot expect a gas station attendant to give away a gallon of gas, yet bartenders and owners are expected to give away liquor, which in many cases, is as expensive as gasoline.
So, before you rate your bartender, know the rating system. Understand the bar you are in. If you get your drink timely, it is tasty, and the bartender is friendly, then leave a big tip and you will get ongoing great service. If you walk into a busy bar or nightclub, tip extra big on your first round, look the bartender in the eye, and say thank you. You will get great service the rest of the night. If you are not happy with your bartender or service, by all means, tell the manager. Trust me, they want to know. And, you may even get a free drink.