You’d think that as the consolers of broken hearts, the keepers of elixir secrets and the adventurers of the early morning hours, that bartenders would make for great stories. As it turns out, there are very few memorable bartenders in film history. They most often appear in minor roles, mixing a drink for main characters here and there. The two films dedicated to bartenders on our list below are anything but memorable. And although some of the characters you’ll recognize faster than the time it takes to down a shot, perhaps the colorful stories of bartenders were meant for the bar in real life.
Lloyd the Bartender, The Shining, 1980
In horrific fashion, Stanley Kubrick brings Stephen King’s novel to life. But life wasn’t exactly something enjoyed by Lloyd the Bartender. Lloyed and a full bar of bottles suddenly appear in the empty bar of the closed-for-winter Overlook hotel to satisfy the thirst of Jack Nicholson’s character. After granting Nicholson credit, serving him a bottle of bourbon and giving him clichéd relationship advice, the eery Lloyd disappears almost as quickly as he appeared along with all the empty bar’s bottles of booze with him and a little bit more of Jack’s sanity.
Gary the Bartender - The Big Lebowski, 1998
Although you only ever see his arm as he serves a drink, Gary plays a crucial role in the film - he serves The Dude the Caucasians that loosen his mind, produce unforgettable quotes and ultimately provide for a highly entertaining comedy. Actually, Gary is fairly versatile, able to mix a White Russian, efficiently pop the cap of a couple of Oat Sodas, and serves a mean Sioux City Sarsaparilla, a non-alcoholic American fizzy drink ordered by The Stranger as the tumbleweeds roll past. Oh, and he also brings The Dude his phone calls.
Sascha, Casablanca, 1942
Obsessed with his boss’s short-term girlfriend, Sascha has a soft spot for his hard nosed boss, Rick Blaine played by Humphrey Bogart, shown when Rick arranges for a couple in danger to win enough money at roulette to get to the US. Legend has it that Leonid Kinskey, the Russian actor that portrayed a bartender at Rick’s Café Américain, was a drinking buddy of Bogart’s. Considering Bogart’s normal daily alcohol intake, we can assume that Kinskey was probably doing more drinking than acting.
Doug Coughlin, Cocktail, 1988
Tom Cruise may play the central character in one of 1988’s highest grossing - and utterly panned - films, but the more interesting cocktail creator is Cruise’s Australian friend and mentor, Doug Coughlin, played by Byran Brown. The Aussie regularly schools Cruise with “Coughlin’s Law”, advice he seems to improvise for the naive Cruise depending on the situation on their path towards “Cocktails and Dreams”. Although the actors spent a lot of time thickening up their bottle juggling skills for the film’s bartending theatrics, the plot is decidedly thin.
The Coyote Ugly Girls, Coyote Ugly, 2000
“Scantily clad, fit women serving drinks”. The pitch sells itself in Hollywood and the producers of this film apparently knew how to get people into the theatre seats before even considering the story of which there is very little. Based on the story of a real bar in Manhattan launched by woman who, like the films producers, knew how to get people through the door, Coyote Ugly makes for entertainment - if you’re an 18 year-old US university frat boy.