To keep it short, bartenders pour drinks from high up for show and for fun.
There is no technical reason why pouring a drink from a height is better than pouring it nearer the glass. However, many bartenders opt to “put on a show” to increase their tips.
Tips for getting tips
One tip is that showmanship impresses customers. Many, in turn, express their appreciation for the free entertainment by digging deeper into their pockets for that vital income-boosting tip.
There are several cool moves a bartender can make to impress his customers. Tossing and spinning bottles a la Tom Cruise in Cocktail (1988) is one way, though we would suggest you build up to it by practicing on bottles of water in the privacy of your home before you try it out with the boss’s expensive cocktail liquors.
Mixer mixing mastery
Bartending neophytes often shake cocktails in a mixer in an offhand manner, quickly showing the customer their boredom with this repetitive task. More experienced bartenders, to earn a good tip, use mixers to perform tricks that dazzle. This is harder than spinning bottles due to the peculiar shapes of most mixers, but the more challenging the trick, the more impressed the customer, and hopefully, the better the tips.
Pouring drinks from a height
Pouring gassy drinks from a height
This little trick has a sneaky little gotcha; pouring a carbonated drink like a lager requires different skills than pouring liquor. To pour a beer or lager from height and get the head (the frothy bit at the top) just right is a matter of experience–there is simply no shortcut to it.
Pouring liquors from a height
On the other hand, pouring liquor from a height is no great, arduous task. It requires little expertise–unless you’re pouring out shots by eye, in which case, we tip our hats off to you!
Luckily there is an aid that makes pouring out shots a bit easier, whether at height or not: the pour spout.
Pour spouts are those often shiny bulbous gizmos you see atop liquor bottles. They help accurately measure out shots of liquor, and the very best pour spouts help prevent accidental spills and protect liquor from its arch enemies: air and dampness.
Pouring from high up–why you should practice it
Say you’ve got customers standing five deep at the bar; do they really want to see you messing around doing tricks, or do they just want their drinks? There’s a time and place for everything, and pouring from high up is possibly the least offensive yet showiest display you can give when your bar is at its busiest.