Drinking with Ghosts: Bartender Superstitions and Beliefs

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: January 20, 2024
  • Time to read: 5 min.

The world of bartending is shrouded in mystery, with tales of ghosts and spirits haunting the very establishments where drinks are mixed and served. For years, bartenders have shared stories of strange occurrences and eerie encounters, leading to a rich history of superstitions and beliefs surrounding the craft of mixing drinks. In this blog post, we’ll explore the fascinating world of bartender superstitions and beliefs and the eerie tales passed down through the generations.

The History of Bartender Superstitions

Bartending has a long and rich history, dating back centuries. With this history comes a variety of superstitions and beliefs held by bartenders around the world. From warding off evil spirits to bringing good luck, these traditions have been passed down from generation to generation. Some of the earliest known bartender superstitions date back to the 1800s when barkeepers believed that serving a customer with crossed arms was bad luck. As the industry grew and evolved, so did the superstitions and beliefs held by bartenders. Today, these traditions continue to play a role in the world of bartending.

Bartender Superstitions and Beliefs

Bartenders have long-held beliefs and superstitions about the presence of spirits and ghosts in their establishments. Here are some of the most common beliefs:

  • Spirits of Former Patrons: Many bartenders believe that the spirits of former patrons can still linger in the bar. They may set a place at the bar for these spirits or keep their favourite drinks on hand in case they return.
  • Ghostly Apparitions: Some bartenders report seeing ghostly apparitions or hearing unexplained sounds in the bar. These sightings are often attributed to the spirits of former employees or patrons who have passed away.
  • Lucky Charms: Many bartenders keep lucky charms behind the bar for good luck. These can include anything from horseshoes to four-leaf clovers.
  • Curse of the Last Drink: Bartenders may avoid serving the “last” drink of the night, as it is believed to bring bad luck to the bar and its patrons.
  • Toasting the Dead: Some bartenders will pour a small amount of a patron’s favourite drink onto the floor as a tribute to their memory.
  • Saging: Saging is a ritual where the bartender burns sage in the bar to ward off evil spirits and negative energy.
  • Muddling the Devil: It is said that muddling a cocktail is a way to keep the devil away. Bartenders will often give the cocktail a few extra muddles for good measure.

These superstitions and beliefs are still common in many bars and have been passed down from generation to generation. They add to the mystique and charm of the bar industry and make for interesting stories and traditions.

Famous Haunted Bars

These bars have a history of strange occurrences and unexplained events, making them a popular haunt for both the living and the dead.

  • The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado – The inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining,” this hotel is said to be haunted by several ghosts, including the ghost of a former housekeeper who still tidies up the room.
  • The Bowery Hotel, New York City, New York – This upscale hotel is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of a woman who committed suicide in one of the rooms.
  • Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, New Orleans, Louisiana – This historic bar, built in the 1700s, is believed to be haunted by the ghost of the infamous pirate, Jean Lafitte.
  • The Pine Barrens, New Jersey – This area of southern New Jersey is known for its ghostly tales, including the story of the “Jersey Devil,” a creature said to haunt the woods and prey on unsuspecting visitors.
  • The Drovers Inn, Loch Lomond, Scotland – This historic inn is believed to be haunted by several ghosts, including a former owner who committed suicide and a young girl who was murdered on the premises.
  • The Grenadier, London, England – This pub is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young soldier who was beaten to death after cheating at cards.
  • The Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, Louisiana – This plantation is believed to be one of the most haunted places in America, with over a dozen reported ghost sightings.
  • The Stanley House Hotel, Darlington, England – This hotel is said to be haunted by the ghost of a former owner who died in a car accident, as well as a young girl who drowned in the hotel’s swimming pool.
  • The Green Park Inn, Blowing Rock, North Carolina – This historic inn is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of a former owner who committed suicide in one of the rooms.
  • The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, Massachusetts – This inn is believed to be haunted by several ghosts, including a former owner who still walks the halls and a young girl who died in the building.

Should you find yourself visiting these cities, perhaps visit them… if you dare?

Modern Bartending

Modern bartending has come a long way from the days of Jerry Thomas and Harry Craddock, but some superstitions and beliefs persist in the industry. Bartenders today may not believe in ghosts, but they still hold onto certain traditions and rituals that bring good luck and success.

For example, many bartenders believe that the first drink of the night sets the tone for the rest of the evening. They may go to great lengths to ensure that the first drink they make is perfect, believing that it will lead to a successful and profitable shift.

Others believe in the power of certain ingredients, such as herbs and spices, to influence the mood and energy of their customers. They may incorporate these ingredients into their cocktails to create a specific atmosphere or to invoke certain feelings in their guests.

Overall, modern bartenders recognize the importance of creating a memorable experience for their guests, and many believe that superstitions and beliefs can play a role in achieving that goal. Whether through attention to detail, the use of certain ingredients, or simply a positive attitude, bartenders continue to embrace the traditions of their craft while pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the world of mixology.


While many people may dismiss the idea of ghosts and spirits in bars as mere superstition, for bartenders and patrons who have experienced strange occurrences, it’s a very real part of the bar culture. Whether it’s a friendly ghost or a malevolent spirit, the presence of the supernatural in bars adds an extra layer of intrigue and mystery to the already fascinating world of bartending. So the next time you visit your favourite watering hole, keep an eye out for any strange happenings – you never know what kind of ghostly encounters you might have.