Gallery: Ask a Bartender: What's the Worst Mistake You've Ever Made Behind the Bar?

Blender Distaster
Blender Distaster
"Turning a full blender on without putting the lid on it.  We had to repaint the ceiling." — Richard Middleton (Brennan's of Houston)
Spiked Milk
Spiked Milk
"When I first started bartending, I was a little...creative with my resume.  I had never bartended at all. So I read a bunch of books and memorized all of the drinks I could. The first drink I made was a White Russian, but the ratios were so completely wrong that I basically made vodka and milk.  I owe that poor woman a drink." — Jen Ackrill (Rye)
Roy What?
Roy What?
"When I knew nothing and was technically too young to be pouring liquor I served a very kind old man a Roy Rogers when he had ordered a Rob Roy. I am still mortified." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)
No Card, Huge Tab
No Card, Huge Tab
"I switched two guys' credit cards.  Sent one home with the other's card. That would've been bad enough, but one of the guys had a $1000.00 banquet tab from the restaurant and now no card to pay for it with..." — Michael Lay (Restaurant 1833)
Broken Glass in the Ice
Broken Glass in the Ice
"Everybody makes mistakes behind the bar, but I think the one that kills every bartender is when we break a glass into our ice well.  That just kills our vibe." — Nate Howell (Cusp Dining & Drinks)
Improvising
Improvising
"The worst mistake I've ever made behind the bar was probably in my early stages of bartending. I didn't know all the old classics so I would just make it how I thought it was. I quickly learned not to shake a Manhattan." — Robert Ferrera (Swine)
Pricey Wine
Pricey Wine
"Serving a $250 bottle of wine instead of the $60 bottle that was ordered. We did not even catch the mistake until the next day’s inventory." — Jared Krauss (Catch)
More Broken Glass...
More Broken Glass...
"Opening night at Susanna Foo (in Radnor, PA) I was working service bar and learned the hard way why you don’t leave your drink next to the ice. Glass shattered everywhere and oh how quickly I found what it was like to be in the weeds." — Jason Brooke (Zavino)
Shots, Shots, Shots
Shots, Shots, Shots
"Years and years ago when I was first behind a bar—and I imagine most can relate —I got super excited and irresponsible with the shots. This is something you learn the hard way. I blacked out and saw the video later. Looking back it was a monumental experience—the moment you chose to be a professional." — Greg Sorrell (The Patterson House)
Cosm-ato
Cosm-ato
"A woman once asked me for a Cosmo. I was super busy behind the bar so I put in vodka and triple sec, then when reaching for the cranberry, I grabbed tomato juice. I made the drink and never even noticed. Needless to say, she did not enjoy her Cosmo very much." — Jesse Anholt (Wallsé)
That's What I Meant...
That's What I Meant...
"I once greeted a guest with "How are you today, Sir?" to which (she) replied "Fine."  I felt awful for a while." — Roger Bailey (Filini Bar and Restaurant)
Digits
Digits
“Gave my number out to a regular—you just don’t do that.” — Carlos Yturria (E&O Asian Kitchen)
Give Me $20!
Give Me $20!
"The one I never forgot was at my first bartending job. Basically, I had an old guy walk out on his check so I walked about two blocks and got to him. He seemed all confused and said he thought he'd paid—told me his memory wasn’t as good as it once was and gave me $20. I walked back to the bar, only to see a $20 bill sitting on the floor. He had paid and I felt like a jerk for chasing him down. I looked for him for about a week, and when I finally saw him again, I rushed out to give his $20 back! The poor guy had no memory of that ever happening and had no idea why I was giving him $20. The lesson was—keep an eye on everything—even the floor!" — Bill Riley (Talde)
Salty Simple
Salty Simple
"I was opening a new restaurant and during our Friends and Family night my barback accidentally used salt to make simple syrup instead of sugar. I ended up making about 10 mojitos before realizing our error. Needless to say, I now always inspect my ingredients before I start a shift." — Armand Rodriguez (Juvia)
Flying Shaker
Flying Shaker
"I used to work in a flair bar, when I was just a kitten bartender, and I once did a double flip behind my head with a tin that had the contents of a Screaming Orgasm—but the tin was wet and it pinged out of my fingers onto the lady who was belly up to the bar. She was covered in cream liqueurs. I gave her that one on the house!" — Hannah Lanfear (Boisdale)
Eggy Manhattan
Eggy Manhattan
"I’m pretty sure I once put an egg white in a Manhattan while making a Ramos at the same time." — George Costa (Pub & Kitchen)
Glass in the Well...
Glass in the Well...
"One time, I needed to salt the rim for a margarita and I decided to dip the glass into the ice well. Glass broke. Had to melt the well. Never did it again." — David Welch (Lincoln Restaurant & Sunshine Tavern)
Oops, My Head
Oops, My Head
"I dropped the jigger once and I wasn’t paying attention; when I bent down to get it, I scraped my forehead on the metal pouring spouts on the bar. It wasn’t a pretty sight when I came back up, especially to the group of girls sitting at the bar." — Elmer Mejicanos (Tony's Pizza Napoletana & Capo's)
Knowing It All
Knowing It All
"Years ago when I began learning a lot about spirits, their history and production, there were a few times I would engage in conversations with guests about their drink selections. I remember calling out someone for incorrectly speaking about a spirit and I look back on that moment and am so embarrassed for making that person feel inferior." — Pamela Wiznitzer (Dead Rabbit)
'Er, I Meant To Do It That Way'
'Er, I Meant To Do It That Way'
"Absolutely nothing. No. 1 rule of bartending: I meant to do it that way…" — John McCarthy (Greenwich Project)
That's Not Virgin...
That's Not Virgin...
"Making a virgin cocktail NOT VIRGIN, and it was placed in front of an eight year old. Luckily we caught it before things got real interesting. " — Aaron Ranf (Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen)
Close It Out
Close It Out
"Once, I had a pair of guys who wanted to move to the bar area from a table and asked me if they could do that and transfer their tab. I felt that I told them they were absolutely welcome to do so, but somehow they thought I told them that they would have to close out their tab with the server (reversing the usual bar to table tab process) before they could come to the bar. Then, after they moved to the bar, with their beers, I had to hunt down a bottle of wine for a couple at a table that took me out from behind the bar for approx. 5 mins. When I came back, they were gone and no one had gone to the bar while I was away to see if they needed anything. That came back in the form of a scathing Yelp! review." — Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)
Olive-jito
Olive-jito
"The mistake that sticks with me out of pure embarrassment is the time I reached for the simple syrup, grabbed the wrong bottle, and sent out a mojito made with olive juice." — Chad Musick (Sip Tasting Room and Rooftop Lounge)
Wrong Tab
Wrong Tab
"Aside from serving that questionable guy one last drink, on a couple of occasions I've handed the wrong party the wrong tab. Fate is never so kind as to let you hand them the "higher" tab (where the would point out the mistake)—always the cheaper tab, which they quickly pay and leave. I lost $50 from my pocket my first month on the job because of that." — Dan Bronson (The Strand Smokehouse & Crescent & Vine)