Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to nudge your bartender to give you a bigger drink

By Katrine Lund Skov & Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Low on cash?
At the end of the month, when the money is low, we often find ourselves Friday night at a bar stuck with the problem of maximizing fun (read: alcohol) at the lowest cost. To many this means ordering cheap brands, but here’s how to nudge your bartender to fill the glass more than he intends so you can stick with the good stuff.


In the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, Wansink explains how the shape of glasses has an effect on just how much people pour into them. As it turns out, people pour 20 to 30% more fluid into a glass when it is short and wide rather than tall and slender.

If you have problems believing this, then you might want to read up on Wansink’s study.

In this Wansink asked 45 bartenders pour up 40-ml. of liquor into various types of glasses. While some of the bartenders were men, some women, some young, some old, some working at expensive restaurants serving Dom Pérignon, others working at places usually serving tequila shots, they all had at least 5 years of experience. While the bartenders didn’t have much of a problem when the glasses were tall and slender, none of them were able to pour the right amount of liquor into glasses when these were short and wide. Instead, they poured 37% too much up.

Thus, if you want to maximize the amount of liquor relative to cost, please ask your bartender to give you a wider, though shorter glass, instead of the regular tall and slender one. You might just end up with a bigger drink which ultimately will allow you to stick to the good stuff.

Low on calories?
Fortunately, this nudge can also be used the other way around. When serving expensive or high calorie drinks for yourself or for your dinner guests, give them tall and slender glasses. For water, use the short glasses.

How come a simple design can fool us?
If you take a look at the figure to the right, which line do you find longer?

The vertical one!

Nonetheless, this is not the case. Both lines have the exact same length. However, we automatically find the vertical line longer due to a visual illusion. This is also what happens when we, or even the experienced bartenders, are pouring up liquor. The tall and slender glasses appear smaller, than the low and wide glasses, why you can nudge a bartender, your guests or even yourself to drink more or less all depending upon your intentions.

P.s. One of us, Pelle, used to be a bartender for many years. He also makes the mistake. Still, as you probably have noticed most regular restaurants have adopted the standard counter nudge of using measuring cups and like instruments. More expensive restaurants, however, are still usually too proud to use such rude instruments for their fine liquors.

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