Posted On: May 23, 2022

Cocktail vs. Bottle Service: What's the Difference?

What is Bottle Service?

Bottle service is the act of buying a whole bottle of liquor or champagne at a table in a swanky nightclub, bar, or lounge.
How is this different from regular table service? This "bottle service" implies that service is for a higher-class establishment with wealthy patrons and elite privileges. Bottle service isn't just about buying a whole bottle of alcohol – it's about the elevated experience and service that goes along with it.

Although bottle service can be traced back to Japan in the 1940s, where it was customary to buy an entire bottle of sake for the table, the modern bottle service tradition came out of a nightclub in Paris in the late 1980s. When you visited Les Bains Douches, you bought a table that came with a complimentary bottle. Similarly, at many modern clubs, you'll see a "minimum spend" (before tax and tip) required to reserve a table. 

By the early 2000s, bottle service gained momentum and was the standard VIP experience at high-dollar establishments worldwide. In the U.S., it's most popular in areas such as Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles, and New York.

When there's a market, clubs love bottle service because they can charge a substantial markup on the price of liquor – sometimes over 1000%. The cost of a bottle includes mixers as well. Still, more importantly, you're seated in an exclusive area of the club with restricted access (the "VIP section"), making bottle service popular among celebrities

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What Is A Bottle Girl?

A "Bottle Girl," or a bottle server, is a cocktail server who works at expensive establishments to serve top-paying clientele. Bottle girl roles are expected to provide their clients with a top-tier level of services. 

People in this role usually serve bottles of alcohol to special guests in clubs and other high-end establishments. The real challenge in this role is providing elevated service while establishing the client's desired atmosphere. Providing exceptional service while knowing how to read the client is crucial to a bottle girl's success. By mastering this position, bottle girls can earn a large sum of money throughout the night. 

Although terms such as "cocktail waitress" have been replaced by gender-neutral terms such as "cocktail server," the role of a "Bottle girl" has not seen progression within the industry. Bottle girls still face requirements on appearance, dress, and weight and are frequently the recipient of sexism and harassment in the workplace. While this position does promise the potential of high financial reward, these servers must be aware of the potential risks they face

What Does a Bottle Girl Do?

Due to this "elevated level of service," bottle service waitresses need to be cocktail waitresses at the top of their game.

But there are also…supplemental duties. Patrons aren't paying that much for privacy and liquor. Bottle girls are frequently expected to entertain their tables by doing elaborate bottle presentations, joining guests for shots, and dancing for or with them.

When you get a job as a bottle girl, there's often a contract that dictates your appearance (yes, really). The contract specifies how much weight you're allowed to gain, as well as the club's standards for hairstyle, body adornment, nail length, and wardrobe. Bottle girls also tend to "age out" of the job.

The title is sexist because the job is, honestly. Many former bottle girls report rampant harassment and body policing.

Why do they stay? The money, of course. Like most cocktail server jobs, the money's inconsistent, and in the case of a bottle girl, your ability to lure club patrons into buying bottle service directly affects your bottom line.

But it's possible to make thousands of dollars in one night, and the party lifestyle that the job demands can also be appealing to many.

Opportunities to be a bottle service girl are few and far between, due to the exclusivity of the job. You're much more likely to find work as a cocktail waitress, or cocktail server.

What is a Cocktail Server?

Cocktail servers provide table service to patrons at all types and levels of drinking establishments.

They don't make the cocktails – that's what the bartender is paid to do. They're the adult beverage equivalent of a restaurant server.

What is a Cocktail Server's Job Description?

A cocktail waitress is responsible for taking drink orders, conveying the order to a bartender, and delivering drinks to the table. They also need to keep an accounting of the bill and process payments. Cocktail servers are expected to provide fast, friendly, and accurate service.

Like a regular waitress, a cocktail server handles multiple tables at a time and makes a tipped wage. They may be expected to clear and clean tables, take inventory, and restock items that run low.

While cocktail servers may also handle food at establishments with a limited or full menu, their primary job is focused on alcohol service. To be a cocktail server, you must become knowledgeable about cocktails, liquor, beer, and wine. You also need to be familiar with local, state, and federal liquor law.

After all, you're responsible for preventing illegal sales to minors and intoxicated persons.

That's why many states or employers require a bartending license, which you earn by completing on-premises alcohol seller/server training. Online, self-paced courses are available in most jurisdictions. They're a convenient and effective way to learn the law and move your resume to the top of the pile.

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