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What is a Cocktail Waitress?

By Kate Monteith
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A cocktail waitress is a woman who serves drinks containing alcohol, such as gin, vodka, rum, tequila, and whiskey. Cocktail waitresses deliver assorted wine, beer and mixed alcoholic drinks known as cocktails to individual tables, usually in a public setting. Cocktail waitress jobs are available in bars, taverns, clubs, casinos, and restaurants where alcoholic beverages are served. In the United States, cocktail waitresses depend heavily on tips for their overall income.

A good cocktail waitress is expected to record the drink orders for several people at once, convey the orders to the bartender correctly, garnish each drink, and serve the whole order without spilling a drop. She is also expected to retrieve empty glasses, pick up crumpled napkins and other debris, and clean the tables to prepare for the next customer. At the end of a shift, cocktail waitresses may be required to assist in restocking the bar, washing glasses, balancing the till, and general sweep-up.

The best cocktail waitress jobs often require some previous experience in a fine restaurant or bar. There are perhaps thousands of different alcoholic beverages available, and the various names for cocktails are innumerable. Only an experienced waitress has the knowledge and confidence to take multiple drink orders successfully. However, a beginner might qualify for a position as a barmaid in a beer and wine tavern, where the pace is slower and drink choices are fewer.

It is interesting to note that male cocktail servers are more often assigned to be bartenders, and do not usually leave the bar area to serve drinks tableside. A good cocktail waitress makes every customer feel welcome, and she is typically one of the friendliest servers in a restaurant. She should be comfortable communicating with inebriated guests as well as a demanding bar staff. She will usually exhibit a good memory, patience, and a great deal of stamina.

Some restaurant jobs require male and female servers to deliver cocktails. A waiter or waitress will usually inquire if anyone wants a drink before taking the food order. The server might suggest a particular cocktail or specialty drink if given the opportunity. The profit from alcohol is worth the effort. A single round of alcoholic drinks can add greatly to the restaurant bill, and a long tab for alcohol can send the server’s tip percentage into the stratosphere.

Casinos are known to employ some of the most experienced cocktail servers in the world. Oftentimes, casino cocktail waitresses wear costumes that reflect the theme of the venue. It is common for cocktail waitress's costumes to be quite revealing, with short skirts and low-cut tops. Perhaps the skimpy uniforms help to attract the customers’ attention away from the casino games, even if only for a moment, to receive a drink from a friendly waitress.

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Discussion Comments
By Glasis — On Mar 16, 2014

In the United States, cocktail waitresses, regular waitresses and bartenders must be 21.

A waitress who is under 21 cannot even legally handle alcohol or alcoholic drinks.

Liquor licensing and other authorities take the rules of who is serving the alcohol as seriously as they do to whom it is being served, so bar and restaurant owners need to be careful.

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