Badass Bartenders Share Their Sage-Like Life Advice

Jay Sprogell/Thrillist
Jay Sprogell/Thrillist

A great bartender wears more hats than Johnny Depp wears scarves. In a given shift, they can be a mixologist, bouncer, DJ, chef, and reluctant janitor. But throughout time, bartenders have also functioned as dispensers of knowledge, taking on the roles of therapists, professors, philosophers, and prophets. With that in mind, we tapped some of the best bartenders in America to glean from them the best advice that they give to patrons. Take it with a grain of salt. Or a rim, actually. 

Don't be afraid to fail

"Try to approach following your dreams with the mindset that it’s a ‘win-win’ situation. I think everyone gets so caught up in their ultimate end-goal, they have this tremendous fear of failing. People forget all the benefits of just attempting to do it. There is so much joy in just doing the thing you love that while having an end goal keeps you focused, who really cares where you end up." Eileen Wilson, bartender, NoMad Bar (New York City)

Appreciate the little things. And the cheap ones.

"Sometimes it just takes cheap whiskey and weird people to have a good time." Eric Alperin, director & co-owner of The Varnish, Half Step, Bar Clacson, The Slipper Clutch, and Penny Pound Ice (Los Angeles, California)

True love is a capable bartender

"I’ve worked with a few amazing bartenders over the years who taught me: 1. It hurts sometimes, but EAT BREAKFAST 2. When you get in the weeds, don't become selfish become realistic 3. If you're lucky enough, fall in love with someone who knows how to make a good daiquiri." Samantha Germani, beverage director, Walnut Street Café (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Write a business plan for your life… and know when to ditch it for Cliff and Norm

"Take some time to figure out and put on paper your life goals and values and then to stay true to those in everything that you do. In essence, write a business plan for your life. Business plans help guide a company in order for its stakeholders to make a return on their investment. Similarly, defining your goals and values will help you make a return on your investment of time, money, and other non-monetary contributions to achieving what you want to achieve in life -- and hopefully find and maintain happiness along the way. This will also help you to know when to say, 'fuck it!,' and when to eat pizza, drink whiskey, and watch reruns of Cheers." Justin Lavenue, co-owner, The Roosevelt Room (Austin, Texas)

Take things as they come

"One step after the other." Ivy Mix, head bartender and co-owner, Leyenda (Brooklyn, New York)

Live your life eight hours at a time

"Sleep for eight hours, work for eight hours, play for eight hours. Do that every single day of your life in those proportions, and everything'll work out fine." Andrew Abrahamson, director of Single Spirit Bars at 213 Hospitality (Austin, Texas)

Mind the steps

"My favorite quote is by Martin Luther King because it reminds and encourages me to work on self-development one day at a time: 'Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.'" May Lay, bartender, Novela (San Francisco, California)

Cut yourself off if you want to seal the deal

"If you're on a hot date and it's going really well, I would advise that you skip that last round. That last drink usually just ruins the next part of the evening." Vikram Hegde, beverage director, Toro, Little Donkey, and Coppa (Boston, Massachusetts)

Get by with a little help from your friends

"I always say, if you see yourself heading into the shit and you need help, ask for it. Nobody needs a hero. Just get the job done. A hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich." Chris Bostick, owner and creative director, Half Step (Austin, Texas)

Eat all the cheese

"Life is too short; eat cheese as much and as often as possible. Travel as far and as often as possible, and see through your eyes, not your camera. And, be nice even when your president isn’t." Alicia Walton, owner and operator, The Sea Star (San Francisco, California)

Keep your head up

"No matter how bad it seems, no matter what shit sandwich life serves you, the sun still comes up tomorrow and you, my friend, will get through it." Charlie Papaceno, bartender, Industry Alley Bar (Dallas, Texas)

You do you

"Be your own person. Don't put yourself into debt or poor health by feeling like you need to do what your friends do -- spend what they spend, drink what they drink, etc. Your friends should respect you for doing what makes you happy and healthy." Micah Melton, beverage director at The Aviary, AlineaNext (New York City)

Save your bad habits for after-hours

"No matter what industry you're in you need to maintain good habits along with a good work ethic.  Once you begin to carry bad habits at work, you'll find they're extremely hard to shake and get rid of, and sadly very noticeable." Chris Hannah, head bartender, Arnaud’s French 75 (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Maybe don't listen to the bartender

"The best life advice that I can give is that nobody should listen to anything I say about life. I'm a 35- year-old single barman with no kids (except for my bartenders) and commitment issues. Bar and drinking advice, no problem, but any more and you might want to look elsewhere." Russell Davis, co-owner, Academia (Austin, Texas)

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Anastacia Uriegas is an Austin-based food/drink/culture writer who dreams of eating sushi made by Jiro. Follow all of her food and drink bucket list adventures: @anaurie.