Why Bartenders Believe in Throwing Out the First Drink: Unveiling the Mystery

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: January 20, 2024
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Step up to the bar, and you’ll notice bartenders doing some interesting things that seem to have no explanation. From throwing out the first drink to avoiding certain orders, bartenders have their own unique set of superstitions. But why do they do these things? In this article, we’ll dive into the world of bartender superstitions and explore the history and meaning behind some of these quirky beliefs.

The Origin of Throwing Out the First Drink

One of the most well-known bartender superstitions is the practice of throwing out the first drink. This tradition dates back to the early days of bartending, when it was common for patrons to bring their own glassware to the bar. Bartenders would throw out the first drink in a patron’s glassware to ensure that any accumulated dust or debris would be removed before the drink was poured.

As glassware became standardized and the practice of bringing personal glassware to the bar fell out of use, the tradition of throwing out the first drink remained. It evolved into a superstition that throwing out the first drink would bring good luck and ward off bad spirits. Bartenders also believed that throwing out the first drink would ensure that the rest of the drinks would be perfectly balanced and well-made.

Practical Reasons

Despite the superstitions and historical context, there are practical reasons for throwing out the first drink. These reasons relate to the quality of the drink and the customer’s experience.

  • Cleaning the Lines: The first drink poured from a tap after the lines have been cleaned may contain excess cleaning solution, making it unsafe for consumption. To avoid any health hazards, bartenders throw out the first drink.
  • Temperature Control: The first drink may not be at the optimal temperature. If the tap or keg was not at the right temperature, the first drink could be too warm or too cold, affecting the quality of the drink.
  • Presentation: The first drink may not look good, particularly if the bartender is pouring a new keg or has just replaced a tap. A foamy or messy first drink could ruin the customer’s experience and lead to a complaint.
  • Tasting: A bartender may taste the first drink to ensure it is of good quality before serving it to the customer. If the taste is off, the bartender will throw it out and make a new drink.

Overall, throwing out the first drink is a practical measure that bartenders take to ensure the quality and safety of the drink and enhance the customer’s experience.

Superstitious and Symbolic Reasons

While practical reasons may be the most obvious explanation for why bartenders throw out the first drink, many superstitious and symbolic reasons contribute to this practice. Some of the most common reasons include the following:

  • Warding off evil spirits: In many cultures, it is believed that the first drink of the night is the most likely to be cursed or tainted with bad luck. By throwing it out, bartenders can protect their customers and their establishment from any potential harm.
  • Ensuring good luck: Conversely, some bartenders believe that throwing out the first drink can actually bring good luck to the establishment and its patrons. This is often done on special occasions or holidays when people are looking to celebrate and have a good time.
  • Showing respect: In some cultures, throwing out the first drink is seen as a sign of respect. This may be done to honour a deceased loved one or show reverence for a particular tradition or belief.
  • Establishing order: Finally, throwing out the first drink can be a way to establish order and set the tone for the evening. By starting fresh with a new drink, bartenders can signal that it’s time to move on from the day’s events and embrace the night ahead.


Despite the practical and symbolic reasons for throwing out the first drink, there are some misconceptions surrounding this practice. Here are a few of them:

It’s Just a Ploy To Get Customers to Order More Drinks

While it’s true that some bartenders might use the practice of throwing out the first drink to encourage customers to order more, this is not the primary reason for the tradition. Most bartenders who follow this tradition do so out of respect for the history and culture of their profession.

It’s a Waste of Alcohol

Some might argue that throwing out the first drink is a waste of perfectly good alcohol. However, the amount of alcohol in a single drink is relatively small, and most bars and restaurants factor in the cost of discarded drinks when setting their prices.

It’s an Outdated Tradition

While some might view throwing out the first drink as outdated or unnecessary, it remains an important tradition in many parts of the world. Whether it’s done for practical or symbolic reasons, throwing out the first drink is a way for bartenders to honour the traditions of their profession and show respect for their customers.


In conclusion, throwing out the first drink may seem strange and superstitious to some, but it has both practical and symbolic reasons behind it. While some misconceptions may exist about this practice, it remains a long-standing tradition in the bartending world. Whether you believe in superstitions or not, it’s always interesting to learn about the history and traditions of the craft. So next time you see a bartender tossing out that first drink, you’ll know there’s more to it than meets the eye.