The Bartender

"What can I do you for?"

"I'm Guinan. I tend bar and I listen."

Working in a bar is never easy. You have to deal with lowlifes, drunks, soldiers who will harass the female entertainment and some of the clientele with their better armed arsenal, and the average Joe who confesses his life problems to you as you pour him another round. This is the life of The Bartender: he pours a round and just quietly listens and observes the setting.

Unless, of course, he's asked for advice. Just how valuable this advice might be depends on the story, but when you're desperate and maybe a bit drunk, it might seem like a good idea. Expect him to hear "I'll Tell You When I've Had Enough!" pretty often. The real weirdos will be the ones who get Drunk on Milk.

Depending on the setting, this character may also be a Knowledge Broker, as alcohol tends to loosen lips.

Many bartenders are known only by their nickname. They also often take up the duty of a quest givers in any fantasy (or science-fantasy)-themed Tabletop Game.


  • Blueno from One Piece took advantage of this as he disguised himself as one for several years to find any information about an ancient Warship.
    • Makino owns a bar in Fuusha village.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell TV series, one of the Major's underground contacts is a bartender.
  • Bartender, predictably, is an anime centered around a Bartender, his bar and the stories of its patrons.
  • Mirajane of Fairy Tail is this for the entire guild.
  • Meliodas of Nanatsu No Taizai is the owner of the Boar Hat bar.

Comic Books
  • At the center of the Criminal universe is Gnarly, the ex-boxer who runs The Undertow, a dive bar frequented by crooks, con-men and people who just plain run out of luck. Like most bartenders, he has seen and knows a lot more than he lets on, and is extremely judicious in applying it.
  • A Nice Guy bartender shows up in one story in Preacher and ends up helping Tulip's best friend with some sage advise while she's feeling down about her (lack of a) love life. And then, because this is a Garth Ennis comic, we get a hilarious (for us, not for him) story about how he ended up chemically castrated after he got mistaken for a child molester by the police.
  • Kadies in Sin City usually has waitress Shellie in the role as an earpiece as evident by Dwight's background confessions seen in many stories. Her (and Kadie to a lesser extent) seem to be able to get Marv calmed down, no easy feat.


  • Anatomy of a Murder has Alphonse Paquette, bartender of the Thunder Bay Inn and one of the witnesses to the murder of Barney Quill.

  • Justin Callahan of the Callahans Crosstime Saloon stories by Spider Robinson.
  • "Mac", who runs MacAnally's in The Dresden Files. MacAnally's is one of few places which is neutral ground for supernaturals, so every non-"vanilla human" in Chicago will drop by sooner or later. He doesn't talk much, though.
  • Larry Niven's Draco Tavern stories are told from the perspective of the human barkeep to an alien Bar of Weirdos.
  • Aberforth Dumbledore, the barkeep of the Hog's Head in Harry Potter.
  • The Ship Who Searched by Mercedes Lackey has a scene where the male lead pours out his woes to a bartender and receives some good advice — along with a Lampshade Hanging, as it's revealed that a lot of bartenders in this future setting have received formal training in psychological and relationship counseling because of how often they're in scenes like this.
  • In The Shining by Stephen King, Jack talks with Lloyd the bartender, someone he knew before coming to the Overlook, but in this particular case, it's actually the Overlook serving as bartender.
  • Xavier runs a bar in Lonesome Dove.
  • In The Lord of the Rings Barliman Butterbur hands down private letters among some of his customers and shares with them important information. Though he sometimes errs in giving advice, Gandalf trusts him and makes him his deputy Quest Giver.
  • Discworld:
    • In Soul Music, Hibicus Dunelm, proprietor of the Mended Drum, knows what the routine is when a solitary figure is Drowning His Sorrows. Unfortunately, he tries it on Death, and the resulting conversation leaves him rather uneasy.
    • Mr Cheese, the owner of the Bucket, the Watch pub in Men at Arms is described as a good listener. He listens to things like "another beer" and "keep them coming". And he knows what to say: "Certainly, sir" and "Credit? Of course!"
    • The bartender at the bar where Silverfish, Detritus and Gaspode are drowning their sorrows in Moving Pictures, on the other hand, has learnt it's best not to say anything. "It may never happen" or "It could be worse" don't go down well with his clientele, because it has and it was.

Live-Action TV
  • The Big Bang Theory: Invoked Trope in one episode. When Sheldon sees Penny working the bar, he expects her to act like the typical bartender, pouring drinks for him to drown his sorrows in and offering him sage advice.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Beer Bad" Xander gets a job as bartender and looks forward to acting as The Confidant to pretty girls, only to get run off his feet and insulted by arrogant frat boys. When one pretty girl does look ready to pour out her troubles, Xander brushes her off because he's too busy worrying about Buffy getting plastered with those same frat boys. He ends up quitting his job in a huff just because the owner brewed up some cursed beer that turned those drinking it into Neanderthals. Some people just can't be satisfied.
  • Cheers: Sam Malone not only tended the bar, he owned it. At least for a while. Both Woody Boyd and Ernie "Coach" Pantusso worked as bartenders at the Cheers bar as well.
  • Deadwood: Al Swearengen tended the bar, when he wasn't being the town's crimelord.
  • Eastenders: Has The Queen Vic(toria) pub, which is basically the centre of Albert Square. If you run it, you're in charge of the square. Usually, bad things happen to you, too. Several characters fight for the title King/Queen of the Vic.
  • Life on Mars (2006): Nelson is an oracle nonpareil who may just be the protagonist's subconscious. He's also a Fauxreigner in that he plays up a Jamaican accent so people don't take him too seriously ("Folks just seem happier with the other Nelson"). He turns up again in the very last episode of Ashes to Ashes, which reveals (MAJOR spoilers): that he's more or less the British coppers' equivalent of St Peter.
  • The Love Boat: Isaac "your bartender". Always willing to lend an ear.
  • Revolution: In the pilot episode, Miles Matheson, at first, until Charlie Matheson came looking for him.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Quark. While more self-serving than the average example, he genuinely enjoys talking to people and getting to know them, and laments turning down a more profitable career as an Arms Dealer due to it being impersonal.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Guinan, source of the above quote.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: In the original pilot "The Cage," the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Boyce, has a drink kit to use when he wants to get a patient of his to open up. As he says "Sometimes a man will tell his bartender things he'd never tell his doctor."
  • Boaby the Barman at the Clansman in Still Game. It's not clear if his surly attitude is the cause or result of the constant abuse he gets from the clientele.
  • One sketch in A Bit of Fry and Laurie involves a bartender that manages to simultaneously offer his customer advice and bar snacks through a Hurricane of Euphemisms.
    Laurie: "Let's face it we haven't slept together for years. The best she can hope for is a bit of-"
    Fry: "Savoury finger?"
    Laurie: "And naturally, she won't give me so much as a-"
    Fry: "Good juicy tongue in the back passage!"

  • Toby Keith's song "Hope on the Rocks" is from the point of view of a bartender who acts as a confidante for all those who come to drown their sorrows.
  • "The Wishing Well" by Trent Willmon is a similar storyline to the above song.

  • Dino Attack RPG has this role filled by siblings Bart and Carrie Enderson. Ironically, they're both Secret Keepers to two mercenaries that despise each other.
    • There was also an unnamed pirate bartender who appeared in Greybeard's flashback.

  • Nick, owner of Nick's Pacific Street Saloon, Restaurant, and Entertainment Palace in The Time of Your Life.
  • Bye Bye Birdie has Charles F. Maude of Maude's Roadside Retreat, Sweet Apple, Ohio.

Video Games
  • The bartenders in the Quest for Glory games are usually of the rough, shady, and not very friendly variety. Probably a member of the Thieves' Guild.
    • Pretty much a given, since the Thieves' Guild is under the bar in game 1, in game 2 the bartender is a minion of the most prominent criminal in a corrupt city, and in game 5 the entire bar is owned by that same person; there aren't any taverns in games 3 and 4.
  • Telma in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, to The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask's Mr. Barten, the keeper of the Milk Bar in Termina.
  • A Turian bartender in Mass Effect 2's Dark Star lounge lampshades the advice-giving portion of the Bartender trope; if Shepard attempts to milk him for gossip, he suggests you ask around before commenting that he doesn't get "why humans always ask him that."
    • Another lampshade is hung by Aethyta, the Asari bartender on Ilium, who turns out to be a Matriarch. When the character asks what she's doing tending bars, when Matriarchs are supposed to be councilors and figures of wisdom, her reply is, basically, "that's why Matriarchs make the perfect bartender."
      • The third game reveals that she's Liara's father (no, not her "other mother", her father) and was keeping an eye on Liara's intel-broker activities for the other matriarchs. She moves to a bar on the Citadel once the Reaper war starts.
    • In Omega, a Batarian bartender tries to poison Shepard, but since this is Shepard, he fails. Shepard then has the option to return to either force the bartender to drink his own poison (Renegade), get a paranoid Turian to shoot him (Paragon) or tell him to scram (also Paragon). He's promptly replaced by a salarian.
  • Tapper
  • The elderly and professional George Watstatt from Reality On The Norm, sometimes replaced by the young and eager Dave Nihilist.
  • K from Shin Megami Tensei IV. Formerly a Samurai commander, he became this upon retirement. He mellowed out, but he still helps out the new generation by managing Challenge Quests and, as per trope standard, advice dispenser.


Web Original

Western Animation
  • Moe Szyslak from The Simpsons, voiced by Hank Azaria.
  • Futurama has a robot named iZak work as a bartender at times, parodying Isaac from The Love Boat (see Live Action TV).
  • In Bravestarr, Handlebar was the resident bartender in New Texas. He fought more than he listened, though.
  • Horace, from Family Guy, who is the proprietor of the Drunken Clam in Quahog.
  • Arthur: The Brain works part-time at his parents' ice cream shop, filling this role in later seasons.