Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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They’re the unsung heroes of the food and drink industry, but once a year on December 8th*, they finally get their due. In 2019, National Bartender Day falls on a Sunday (Funday), so make a point of celebrating the people who do far more than make your drinks. After all, a bartender is often like a therapist (or at least a really, really good listener), and some of us would be hard-pressed to find friends with half the attention span.

So, just how can you celebrate a profession that’s been around since antiquity? Here are five ideas for making the occasion special for your favorite bartender.

*World Bartender Day, a separate, international holiday, is on February 24th.

History of the holiday.

The profession of bartending has been around for thousands of years, dating back to ancient civilizations. However, the holiday is relatively new.

The spiced-rum brand Sailor Jerry established National Bartender Day in 2011, wanting to recognize bartenders for their often under-appreciated role. The holiday is meant to encourage people to support these men and women through generous tips and more (we’ll delve into some other ways you can celebrate below). 

Sailor Jerry chose the date in honor of the repeal of Prohibition, which occurred on December 5, 1933. (The holiday occurs three days after the anniversary.) Among other materials, the brand offered this toast to be read on the occasion:

“Here’s to the men and women who give up their late nights out, so we can have ours. Who make our drinks, pour our shots, and give us our nightly meal of nuts and pretzels. We honor their hard work and their unwavering patience. Without them, we would be out on the street or even worse, stuck at home. We raise our glass in solidarity.”

5 activities to recognize National Bartender Day

Ultimately, National Bartender Day is a time to show your appreciation for your bartenders. Here are a few more specific ideas for doing just that.

Visit your favorite haunt or try a new one.

Do you have a usual local bar that you just love? Gather a group of friends (or fly solo), and head on over. Instead of getting your usual beer, why not try something you’ve never had before? If the bar has a menu, ask your bartender what her favorite drink to make is (or just ask for her favorite drink to make in general). You could also ask for dealer’s choice.

Alternatively, check out that new bar that just opened up down the street or the long-established joint you’ve been meaning to try but never quite got around to it. Who knows? It could become your new go-to spot.

Tip your bartender.

According to Bartender Training Center, some 55% of a bartender’s salary comes from tips. That means they’re relying on customers like you for more than half of their salary. You should always tip generously, especially when your bartender goes above and beyond by lending a sympathetic ear or making a particularly delicious or involved drink, but National Bartender Day is definitely a time to throw in a little extra. If you usually tip 20%, for example, make it 30% to show your appreciation. Also, keep in mind that the dollar-a-drink rule shouldn’t be applied to cocktails, which involve a lot more work and finesse than pouring you a draught.  

Buy your bartender a drink.

How often does your bartender spot you with a free drink on her or a round of shots? On National Bartender Day, turn the tables and let her know that you want to buy her a drink for a change. (Don’t be embarrassed or insulted if she turns you down, though. Some bartenders don’t drink on the job.) Who knows? This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

Make (or ask for) a drink with Sailor Jerry.

Pay homage to the man — err, brand — who started it all. If you’re at home, whip up a cocktail using Sailor Jerry. Check out some of the recipes on their website, like the Spiced Rum Old Fashioned or Spiked Apple Cider Rum Punch. If you go to a bar to celebrate the holiday, ask for a cocktail made with the spiced rum. Don’t forget to let your bartender know why you’re doing it — she may not even be aware of National Bartender Day — and, of course, remember to tip generously no matter what you order.

Listen to your bartender.

Bartenders are people, too! So many of us share the intimate details of our lives with sympathetic bartenders who listen to us with all the empathy of a good therapist. And they, too, have difficult experiences, heartbreaks, family problems, professional troubles and other issues. The ultimate way of showing your appreciation for someone who’s constantly lending you a supportive ear and maybe even giving you some solid advice is to do the same for her. You don’t have to make a big deal about it; just saying, “So, what’s going on with you?” is enough. If she does open up to you, listen without interjecting with your own perspective or problems, unless she seems to want your advice. Sometimes, we just need someone to listen.

Looking for more ideas on how to make the most of National Bartender Day? Spread the word! Posting about the holiday and your favorite bars and bartenders on social media will encourage others to take part in the holiday and support the bartenders they know, too. There doesn’t seem to be an official hashtag, but the ones below will get the message across:

#NationalBartenderDay

#BartenderAppreciationDay

#BartenderAppreciation

One final note: We love bartenders and always want to show our support and appreciation for them. But, as always, remember to support them responsibly!

Happy National Bartender Day from all of us at Fairygodboss!

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