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Ask a Bartender: What's the Best Kind of Night at Your Bar?

Jon Harris of Firefly in D.C.

A busy Saturday night at your favorite bar might have a great energy, and for the bartender, lots of tips—but on Tuesday, you get to relax a bit more, have conversations, try drinks you haven't before. We asked bartenders across the country: What are your favorite nights at the bar where you work?

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Dave Ellis of FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar in Bloomington, MN

"I almost always prefer it to be slammed; nights where I leave and think to myself 'I got my butt kicked' are great for tips and time goes a lot faster. However, I don't mind a slow night every once in awhile—it gives me the opportunity to get to know my guests on a more personal level and build a clientele." — Dave Ellis (FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar)

"Steady. I'm too old and easily annoyed on those slammed nights. Over that. I like a mellow easy-going crowd out to have a good time. Saturdays at my current bar are typically good. I loathe Fridays." — Jonathan Harris (Firefly)

"I love being slammed on the service pass and having to make drinks for a few people in front of me at the bar. One of my former bartenders said "money grows in the weeds" and I love that saying. The energy of a night when the whole bar is clicking together—not like a montage from Cocktail, but just knowing where everyone is and dancing around each other with the same sort of high-energy controlled chaos—is one of the best feelings. The night flies by and the money is usually pretty good; customers can pick up on your energy at either end of the spectrum." — Tyler Drinkwater (Harlow)

"Busy is always best.  Even though there is less time to chat with the guests, a full bar outweighs everything. It gives the restaurant a great atmosphere with lots of energy that is fun for the staff as well as the guests. " — Kris Doyle (Trattoria Neapolis)

"A slow, steady stream of industry folks." — Josh Berner (Zentan)

"I love being able to chat with our guests and build a relationship with them. It gives us bartenders an opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life." — Juan Coronado (The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS Hotel South Beach)

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Trent Simpson from La Urbana in San Francisco

"I like the mix of a busy Sunday night where you have a good neighborhood crowd, some industry folk, the kind of pace where there's always something to do, but you can carry on a few different conversations and guests will intermingle as you help other customers." — Trent Simpson (La Urbana)

"I prefer a full house, high-volume night. Time goes by faster, and you should still be able to connect with guests regardless. You have to able be have multiple balls in the air at once and still maintain a connection with your guests at the bar—at least that's what I challenge myself to be able to do. Can't say that's always accomplished, but it's good to have goals right?" — Dan Rook (South Water Kitchen)

"My favorite time to work is just before the rush. You'll have regulars, industry friends, and complete strangers mingling in front of you, looking to grab a cocktail and maybe a bite before it gets too busy. It's a great time to get to catch up with them, meet someone new, and maybe teach them a little about cocktails if they're curious." — Chris Amirault (The Eveleigh)

"While Friday and Saturday nights are great dancing out to a bit of Britney, my favorite night of the week is Tuesday. Tips-wise, we're not overstaffed so we still make money. And it's busy, but not too busy, so we can shoot the shit with customers." — Kevin Peters (Golden Cadillac)

"I'm blessed to spend my Mondays working at a very small bar in a densely packed industry neighborhood. Everyone thinks it's about the money, and of course that's a perk, but getting to serve people who really get and appreciate what you're doing makes Mondays the absolute best day of the week. Plus, a 2 a.m. close on Mondays means I get a chance to sneak out and visit some friends' bars, a rare treat." — Dan Bronson (The Strand Smokehouse & Crescent & Vine)

Greenhook Ginsmiths

Miri Kolici of Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel in NYC

"I prefer a couple of busy nights a week where I'm working nonstop; it pushes my boundaries to be faster and better." — Miri Kolici (Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel)

"I love equally the nights that I am slammed to the point of just barely surviving, and the night that I have time to taste and talk up my favorite things." — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

"Fast and steady. There is time to have conversations with guests, pay attention to their needs, build a rapport, make money, and have fun with them and my coworkers. It also challenges my repertoire of drinks, jokes, social situations, and points of service. Being slammed too hard is bad, because it's stressful, and guests don't get the attention they deserve. Slow is terrible, because no one makes money, and it gets boring. No one gets into the service industry to stand around, do nothing, and have no one to talk to." — Jim Kearns (PLAY)

"I love Mondays. It's always steady and my friends know where I am.  The consistent stream of regulars makes me feel like a celebrity. It's a great feeling when you know everyone's name at the bar." — Thomas Gebbia (Thistle Hill Tavern)

Nate Howell of Cusp in Pasadena, CA

"My favorite nights behind the bar are when it's slammin' and all the people at the bar are interested in our bar, asking questions, reading the menu. Not just ordering what they get everywhere, but the guests who take time to enjoy the experience we offer. But I love the vibe when it's rockin' and rollin'!" —Nate Howell (Cusp Dining & Drinks)

"I really enjoy being busy—nothing is better than not being able to even check your phone for the time, and by the time you get around to doing so, it is time to start breaking the bar down and cleaning up!" — Ryan Prevost (Kabocha)

"It is rare to have a night where business is steady. It is always a rollercoaster. When you have a steady night you appreciate it." — Erik Sorensen (Freddy Smalls)

"I like it to be busy enough that there isn't a lot of idle time, but there is enough time to really make connections with the people at the bar." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

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Kevin O'Reilly from Castle Hill Inn in Newport, RI

"In order for a bar to be fun, it needs to be packed. If we have all of our preparation done we can keep up. I love to see guests making new friendships and that seems to happen more when they are packed together. I also enjoy the challenge of showing guests attention and hospitality in the middle of seemingly chaotic scene—it makes them feel even more special." — Kevin O'Reilly (Castle Hill Inn)

"I love a busy Friday and Saturday night getting my ass kicked in the service, followed up by a chill Sunday night when I can chat with people who are in the bar to push their boundaries and try new things." — Matt Tocco (Pinewood Social)

"Whenever there is good energy, good people, the vibe is right, and people are spending money, not getting too tipsy, and having a great time." — Derrick Bass (Willie Jane)

"I like busy. I want to be able to share some laughs with folks, but I don't want to be the focus of the evening. People come in with friends and I am simply there to supplement and ensure that they have a good time." — Kevin Thurston (Snack EOS)

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