A Scottish bartender's rules for once-a-year drinkers this Christmas

It's the festive period and to ensure everyone has a fun time at their Christmas parties we asked Frank Murphy of The Pot Still to lay out some ground rules for casual drinkers to ensure they drink (and act) sensibly this Christmas. 

Published 14th Dec 2018
Updated 20 th Sep 2023

Over to Frank...

Hello and welcome to Frank Murphy's best practice for bar-goers this festive period.

Those who take the black and man the pubs and bars are heroes but only human. Our reserves of patience, stamina and bladder control are legendary, but this time of year sees a swelling of the hordes at the bar, many who may not have seen a beer tap in the metal since last Christmas.

Frank is the owner of the Pot Still Whisky Bar in Glasgow.

For those enthusiastic but under-experienced drinkers, here is a cut-out-and-keep guide to how to enjoy a night in the pub like a pro.

1. Last Orders

Last things first: when the bar team call time, that's it. No ifs, no buts, no coconuts. We have a time we are allowed to open and a time we have to close. BY LAW.

15 minutes after that, all booze must be done. If you don't understand, agree or want that, we don't care. IT'S THE LAW.

And we're done in after a Friday night shift so your imprecations for "just one more", "a quick shot", "no-one will notice" etc. - will fall on deaf ears.

2. At the bar

Buy rounds. Know the round. Have payment ready for the round.

If you get to the counter, get a bartenders attention, THEN ask everyone what they want, you are beneath contempt and will die a thousand gruesome deaths in my mind's eye.

Also if you can remember the round, the sober person in front of you, whose job it is to remember rounds, can as well.

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If it's on a list, give us it. We can read your handwriting.

One drink at a time holds you, me and everyone else waiting behind you, back.

3. Waiting for your drinks 


Many have been lost for hours having been "just nipping to the loo" while the under siege bartender can only dream of such release and peace.

You order, you wait.

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4. Trying to get the attention of the person behind the bar

Clicking, whistling, clapping, shouting, waving - all things you do to get your dog to heel.

These will not work for the human being on the other side of the bar. So please don't.

5. Glass Collecting

Thank you for trying to help and stack glasses but please don't try.

Chances are well be cursing your name in the glassware as two pints remain resolutely welded together.

Sometimes we actually just bin them rather than try and risk them shattering in our hands.

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6. Shots 

If you normally enjoy an odd glass of wine or beer every now and then, when the colleague who's out every weekend suggests shots, think twice. Then three times.

And then decline.

You're already probably going to regret this tomorrow without wondering what made you lose those last few hours and why you are now waking up with a hangover from hell, in bed, covered in bits of last night's kebab.

7. The staff

Finally, we're at work. Hard pressed. With a sea of humanity in front of us and a clock that's MOVING TOO SLOWLY.

So if we're not smiling, there's likely a reason. Perhaps you ARE the reason. In any case, please be respectful, feel free to tip for good service and finally, please don't tell us to smile.

In the interest of impartiality, we also asked some other bartenders for their rules. 

8. Order the Guinness first

(Submitted by Megan Macdonald)

This one is pretty obvious, if you have a big round of drinks, it's best to order the pints of the black stuff first and foremost. It helps the bar staff and makes sure other people will get served quickly after you.

9. Tip

(Submitted by Callum Walker)

It's the season of good will after all, so if you receive good service or you see staff doing their best on a tough night, why not show a little appreciation.

10. Don't try to keep up with the heavy drinkers

(Submitted by Dennis Vansant)

Try not to start your night too early but if you do remember you don't have to keep up with those around you, if you're starting to feel a little tipsy it's a good idea to follow the “no new drinks before you finish a pint of water” rule.

11. Be ready when it's your turn

(Submitted by Dan Vine )

When it's busy and you are asked by the bar staff "are you waiting? What can I get you?" and don't answer it's very likely they'll move on to someone else.

Also, most bar staff will ask if you want ice in your drinks. If you don't answer they will put ice in your drink. Don't then ask them to take it out if you didn't answer properly the first time.

12. If you get refused service don't get angry at the staff

(Submitted by Zoe Anderson)

If you don’t normally drink and decide to go crazy because “it’s Christmas”  and end up stocious. Don’t be abusive when the bar staff refuse to serve you any more. You won’t remember, but they will.


Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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