Culture Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick'  

Donn Saylor
175 votes 29 voters 6.3k views 24 items

List Rules Bartenders only: vote up the bits of professional jargon you use productively at work.

There's something magical about what a bartender does. A bartender's skill goes beyond their obvious talents for getting patrons blitzed. There is both a science and an art to creating drinks, and the world of professional mixology is filled with its own behind-the-bar slang, industry-specific jargon, and secret codewords. Bartenders perform alchemy behind their shiny countertops, amid the twinkling glasses and amber bottles, and they've been brewing up their magic for millennia. Throughout history, they've maintained a more or less consistent presence in societies.

As far back as Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, bartenders have played an important role in bringing people together, keeping thirsts quenched, and ensuring the troubles of the day are forgotten. Over the centuries, they've had plenty of time to develop their own substantial, unique lingo.

Behind The Stick is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick'
Photo: Simon_sees/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0
1 8 VOTES
Behind The Stick

Meaning: Serving drinks from behind the bar. The term refers to what used to be the wooden stick of the tap lever that is pulled to dispense beer from a keg. Those pouring drinks were, technically, working behind the stick.

Use It In A Sentence: "John and Maureen are behind the stick tonight, and Nancy and Beth are cocktailing."
 

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Dirty is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick'
Photo: Evan Swigart/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0
2 6 VOTES
Dirty

Meaning: Adding olive juice to a martini makes the drink a dirty martini. The more olive juice one adds, the dirtier the cocktail.

Use It In A Sentence: "I'll have an extra dirty martini, four olives, stirred and not shaken."

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86'd is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick'
Photo: Patrick Heusser/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
3 16 VOTES
86'd

Meaning: A menu item or ingredient that is currently out of stock or otherwise unavailable. The term is used in both bars and restaurant kitchens. There are multiple origin stories for the term, several of which center around bartending. According to one version, bartenders in the Old West often served powerful, 100-proof liquor. When a patron became too rowdy, the barkeep would serve them less potent, 86-proof liquor, thus 86'ing the drunken customer.

Use It In A Sentence: "We ran out of tomato juice, so we've 86'd Bloody Marys for the rest of the night."

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Bartender's Handshake is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick'
Photo: Stefan Giesbert/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0
4 13 VOTES
Bartender's Handshake

Meaning: A complimentary shot given to a friend or colleague of the bartender. It can be served either upon the guest's arrival or with the check at the end of the meal or round. Traditionally, it's a shot of Fernet-Branca, but sometimes it's a regional favorite or house specialty.

Use It In A Sentence: "Here's your check and a bartender's handshake to end the evening."
 

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