How to Serve Cocktails Safely



Preventing violence due to unnecessary over-drinking is part of your job. To keep patrons safe while they enjoy themselves, you must be able to recognize the signs of intoxication and know how to intervene with intoxicated patrons to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.


Signs of Intoxication

While alcohol affects everyone differently, some common signs of intoxication include:

• Slurred or slowed speech

• Losing one’s train of thought

• Red eyes and an inability to focus

• Decreased alertness

• Staggering or inability to walk

• Reduced fine motor skills, such as being unable to light a cigarette or to place poker chips on the table, etc.

• Drinking extremely quickly

• Acting overly friendly or inappropriate


When is Enough, Enough?

To monitor how much a patron is drinking, use the traffic lights system (versus trying to remember the number of drinks that he/she has consumed). Here’s how the system works:

Green: The patron shows no signs of intoxication, is in a good mood and is not drinking rapidly. You have the “green light” to serve him or her.

Yellow: The patron is not yet intoxicated, but may be drinking quickly, is in a “down” mood or is showing signs of impairment. You should stop serving this patron before he/she becomes intoxicated; proceed with caution.

Red: The patron is showing signs of intoxication, may be depressed, aggressive or angry, is drinking fast with the intention of getting drunk. You should STOP serving this patron and seek assistance in removing the patron from the facility safely.


Intoxicated Patrons

You have a right and a duty to refuse service to patrons who are intoxicated. Keep the following in mind when trying to cut someone off:

• Politely deny service and offer food or alcohol-free drinks.

• Avoid threatening statements like “You are drunk.” Instead, put the focus on yourself by stating “If I serve you another drink, I may lose my job.”

• Offer to call the patron a taxi or a friend for a ride.

• Be firm. Once you’ve refused service, don’t back down.

• Stay calm and remain in control. Serve other customers to avoid unnecessary conflicts.

• Be courteous while dealing with someone who may get unruly.


In the event of a violent incident, fill out an incident report documenting the measures that you took to control the intoxicated person. This will assist in defending against liability.


At E.B. Cohen, we understand the inherent risks that are associated with the service of alcohol which allows us to provide risk management solutions that ensure your patrons are safe. Contact our Professional Insurance and Risk Management today to learn more.

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