If you’re gonna go with ice cubes, make ‘em big. Like, Rubick’s cube big. This is one of the takeaways I gleaned after interviewing three people you might call “ice cube experts,” or bartenders.

Recently I spoke with three New York bartenders and learned everything from how to make a quick but impressive cocktail to whether or not there’s a best way to get a bartender’s attention on a busy Saturday night. Below, their answers to rapid-fire questions culled from some people who have been known to drink on occasion: the Man Repeller editorial team. Bottoms up!


Sarah, Tending Bar All Over Bushwick & Ridgewood

Sarah Yordkum, 28, works at Bootleg Bar, Old Stanley’s, Marcos and Aunt Ginny’s. They’ve been bartending for eight years.

What is your favorite ice cube shape and why?
Big cubes because I like to take my time sipping a good tequila on the rocks.

Is there a good way to get a bartender’s attention when the bar is crowded?
Unless you want to tell us the bathroom is out of toilet paper, or there’s broken glass somewhere, no. We all have a system of how we serve people on a busy night. If you wave in my face or yell at me, you mess up my system and will wait longer.

How has bartending changed your style?
I wear a lot more loose-fitting clothes and sneakers that are good for standing around for hours.

Are you flirting with me?
If I’m asking you to take a shot with me… yes.

Do you judge patrons based on what they order?
Asking for a mojito, Long Island Iced Tea or any type of frozen drink (if it’s not advertised) in a dive bar makes me think you just turned 21. ID please!

Do people actually say “bartender’s choice?”
I do get that once in a while. It’s annoying but I will usually make something really fruity that I wouldn’t ever drink.

Weirdest interaction you’ve had behind the bar?
Once, a very intoxicated girl kept trying to get my attention by badly dancing in her seat. Kind of hard to describe how she was dancing, but she was basically wiggling in her seat and locking her eyes onto me. It was so uncomfortable. The bar was busy but when I got to her, she leaned over and said “Hey! You’re really pretty!” In that moment I smelled death: Her hair caught on fire from one of the candles on the bar! I yelled, “Girl! You’re hair’s on fire!!!” and immediately gave her a wet towel. I didn’t serve her anything and said she should probably go home.

What’s your drink order?
Espolon on the rocks.

Have you ever witnessed a memorably incredible or terrible date or pickup attempt? Do tell.
A woman was on a date with a guy who ordered for her. He was being the worst by waving his hands at me to get my attention. It was clear that she wasn’t having a good time and even flirted with me when he would go to the bathroom. After he closed out and stepped away for a minute, she re-adjusted his crappy tip to 50%, gave me her number and left the bar before he came back. I’m now good friends with her.

Best day on the job so far?
Whenever cute puppies come into the bar is the best day.

Best story you’ve heard behind the bar?
I serve a lot of people who are also in the service industry. A girl told me once she served a table of six and their bill came out to around $500. One guy paid the tab for everyone and the change left over was 12 cents. 12 cents as a tip?! She ran after him and threw the change back at his face and went back inside. All of his friends realized he didn’t tip and went in and tipped her properly.

Share a party trick: What’s the easiest way to make the most impressive looking drink?
Shaking and straining any liquor into a chilled coupe glass with a lemon twist.


Shannon, Tending Bar at Glady’s & Nationwide

Shannon Mustipher is currently the Beverage Director at Glady’s, host and founder of Women Who Tiki, and guest bartender at various events nationwide. Shannon’s first cocktail book, Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails will be published by Rizolli on March 19th.

What is your favorite ice cube shape and why?
A big cube. Necessary to enjoy a perfectly diluted spirit or spirit-forward drink.

Is there a good way to get a bartender’s attention when the bar is crowded?
Eye contact and a nod. Please don’t wave — I saw you when you came in and am glad you came! To that end, trust that you are not being ignored. I may have my hands full but am carving out a few moments during which I can give you my undivided attention.

How has bartending changed your style?
I went to art school and used to wear some loud, bright, all-over-pattern type stuff. These days I go for a more subdued, focused look; I’m into uniform dressing. Lots of monochrome — white, navy, gray or black. The guest is the focus; I’m here to facilitate a good time rather than draw attention to myself. For an extra bit of flash, I like to up the accessory game — a watch that has a bright wristband, nice bar tools — which bring a little drama to the show of making a drink. I like to look understated behind the bar and to wear items that can withstand the occasional spill.

Are you flirting with me?
YES. Everyone likes a compliment every now and again. That said I have never hit on nor pursued a guest. I don’t mix work and personal stuff.

Do you judge patrons based on what they order?
NOPE. Maybe how they order: waving, throwing money on the bar, etc, but not what. Vodka soda? I’ll stir it up and garnish it real nice. Martini when I’m 10 customers deep? I’ll make sure it’s the silkiest one you ever had. Soda water? Good on you for staying hydrated. If you like it, I LOVE it.

Do people actually say “bartender’s choice?”
Bartenders choice is the BEST — I live for it, hence my preference for working at smaller bars. I regard the cocktail menu as a last resort. It’s personal, it’s a sign of some kind of rapport and an opportunity to win trust and make an impression — to go above and beyond. It’s never the same; everyone is different and I tailor the drink to the customer’s taste, the hour, and the occasion. Starting with a few questions — Refreshing and light or spirituous? Favorite liquor? Last drink you enjoyed? — is how I get a read on where to go. From there, I typically use a classic as a point of departure — a margarita, daiquiri, negroni — and add a little twist. In a best-case scenario, it’s easy enough to make at home but memorable enough to make it worthwhile for both parties.

Do you actually give out life advice, as the stereotype goes?
I try not to. If I do, it’s usually along the lines of: “Do you need to do something about it right away?” or “Will you be happy with this choice in five, ten, or 15 years?” I prefer to offer a different perspective rather than a prescription, and let the guest take it from there.

What’s your drink order?
A classic Havana-style daiquiri — rum, sugar and lime, shaken and served up.

Do you have a good sense of when someone comes to the bar to meet someone else romantically versus not?
There are a few signs: excessive watch or phone checking, looking over the shoulder, fidgeting with hair or jewelry, declining to order until the other person arrives. I’m right about 90% of the time.

Best day on the job so far?
So many. The first Women Who Tiki pop-up last spring at Meme’s Diner is up there — I worked with four of my favorite ladies in rum and behind the bar (Dani de Luna, Paz Maella, Teylor Smirl and Chelsea Barrett) and served a room full of smiling faces old and new. It was so inspirational and sweet — the best kind of fun.

Share a party trick: What’s the easiest way to make the most impressive looking drink?
Flaming garnish. A flamed orange peel, or edible gold flakes or glitters. Things come and go but the human fascination with — and appetite for — a little flash shows no sign of falling out of fashion.


Madison, Tending at Robert Bar

Madison Barker, 25, has worked at Robert Bar in Brooklyn for almost three years.

What is your favorite ice cube shape and why?
A classic clear big rock. There is some level of work to get it completely clear with no white or gray, and sipping on whatever it is inside always makes me feel elegant.

Is there a good way to get a bartender’s attention when the bar is crowded?
I’m going to go ahead and call it the “look.” I swear if I lock eyes with you and we exchange (either you, or I, or both of us) a nod, a smile or a wink — I’ve clocked you and will get to you as soon as I can.

How has bartending changed your style?
Well, for one it’s afforded me the opportunity to buy things I like and admire. In another way: I’ve gotten exposure to a wide range of people and it’s easy to start conversations about items I like — the bonus there being I might pick up a suggestion for a new stop on my shopping trips.

Are you flirting with me?
Yup.

Do you judge patrons based on what they order?
Sometimes. Mostly I’d say the judgment comes when you order a classic cocktail, and tell me you want it served the way it’s traditionally prepared.

Do people actually say “bartender’s choice?”
I do get that every once and awhile. I only feel pressure about this when I’m slammed and don’t have time to garner all the information I need to make a properly tailored cocktail. I really don’t want to make someone something they don’t like, so I start out with a few questions: What’s your go-to spirit? Would you like something citrusy or something more spirit-forward? That way, the chances are much greater that I’ll make you something that you’ll like and neither one of us will be displeased with the results!

Do you actually give out life advice, as the stereotype goes?
I try to steer away from actually doling out anything too intense. Truly, just listening to other peoples’ stories and about their days gives me a great deal of empathy, and being able to empathize with someone and support them is usually the most helpful.

Have you ever received great advice from a drunk person?
Someone once told me to just keep putting my shoes on. I’m not 100% certain of what they meant, but I’ve come to think of it as just keep going.

What’s your drink order?
At the moment: an Averna on the rocks with a side of seltzer.

What makes a good regular?
Someone who is patient (bartending can be tedious and busy at times), who asks you how you are and ideally knows your name. Bonus points if they bring food, especially for those that work in a bar without any!

Can you tell when someone is there for a date versus not?
Sometimes. Most of the time they’ll walk through the doors and be on the lookout. If the date can’t be found they take a seat, and (if they even bother to take their coats off) immediately take out their phone.

Have you ever witnessed a memorably incredible or terrible date? Do tell.
No one memorable thing, but it’s always really lovely to see two people that are truly engaged with each other. It somehow manages to make me both really happy and super jealous!

Best day on the job so far?
Any day it turns into a dance party. I love when everyone in the entire space is having a good time — it’s a really beautiful thing to help create.

Share a party trick: What’s the easiest way to make the most impressive looking drink?
Lighting stuff on fire.

Photos by Bridget Badore

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