How to Talk to a Bartender

Longtime slinger Chris Zantua dishes on how best to get his attention (and how to lose it), and what trick actually does get you a little more booze for your bills

Photo by Jon Estrada

Photo by Jon Estrada

You’ve got your striped dress shirt on. (Or, if you’re a female, likely something tiny. And snug.) You’re clutching a credit card, or maybe a sweaty wad of bills, and now there’s nothing but three feet of polished lumber standing between you and a hard-earned buzz. That and the person standing on the other side, that is. Now, there are times when the services of a mixologist/bar chef/intoxicologist are required, and there are nights when all that’s needed is a tender of the bar. For nearly a decade, 33-year-old Chris Zantua has been slinging drinks all over this Valley. Here, he steps away from his soda gun at Rehab and quenches our thirst on all things bar basic.

How did you get into the biz? 

I worked my way up from a server to bartender in a restaurant in Summerlin.

Did you go to bartending school? 


What’s the greatest thing about bartending?

When I was single, it was all the numbers I got. But now, it’s that [the work] comes easy. It feels like I’m part of the party.

 What’s the worst?

The hours are crazy; sometimes I go all day, nonstop. Then it’s time for inventory …

 What about bartending in Las Vegas is unique?

People are always up for going out. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1 p.m. or 1 a.m., they’re drinking. And not just drinking—they’re drinking.

When the bar is six-deep, what’s the best way to get your attention?

Eye contact and patience work best. I can see you’re there, man, trust me. Yelling and waving money around makes me angry and is just plain rude. When you come to my bar, address me like a person, I’m not your assistant that you can talk down to. Be polite and respectful. If you can do that, I’ll make sure you have the best experience.

 Describe the busy bartender’s ideal customer.

[The customer] should know exactly what he wants, order a common drink like vodka soda, or rum and coke, have payment ready, and leave a tip—at least a dollar per drink. The transaction should be quick and seamless!

And the worst?

The worst customer is broke, doesn’t know what he or she wants, and asks thousands of questions. Like the song says, “If you ain’t got no money, take your broke ass home!” Please don’t ask vague questions like, “What do you have?” Be specific: “What vodkas do you carry?” Also, order everything at once—ordering drinks one at a time will get you on the shit list. Don’t ask about prices; doing so will only make the bartender think you are cheap. If you want to get hooked up with a strong drink, you have to hook me up with a strong tip.

If I shamelessly flirt with you, will it get me a heavier pour?

Nope. I hear it all the time.

While we’re on the subject of flirting, what’s the best way to pick up a bartender? 

Run into them at the gym.

What’s the craziest day of the year in Vegas to be on your side of the bar? 

Memorial Day was a jungle.

What about flair—can you juggle?

I think I’m better than I am. I’ve definitely dropped my fair share of bottles.

What drinks are the biggest pain in the ass to make?

Old Fashioneds and mojitos—I hate muddling.

Reveal a bartending secret.

Less ice doesn’t mean more liquor. Also, never order doubles, order on the rocks. It’s a better deal.

What’s your personal hangover cure? 

Two shots of pickle juice in the morning.

Was the recent lime shortage particularly trying for you?

Lime shortage? What lime shortage? By the way, the most underrated garnish is the olive. Try putting a few in your Jack Daniel’s.

Let Zantua make you a drink; he’s behind the stick Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Rehab Pool at the Hard Rock Hotel.