The British pub is an icon, known around the world, but they’re very different from a typical bar in the states. Let’s talk about that. Here are 5 big differences between British and American bars.

1: Our bartenders typically make no money.

While the bartenders in America are able to make huge amounts of tips from week to week given the culture, British bar staff will often make less than £5-10 in a shift.

That being said, the wages for a bartender in the UK are typically a little higher than in the US, around £8 (or $12) an hour. If you’re looking to make more cash in the UK hospitality industry, working as a server in a restaurant is almost always more lucrative.


2: If a cocktail isn’t explicitly on the menu, you probably can’t have it.

When we visited the US, one thing I was surprised to see was fairly short cocktail menus in most bars. It turned out that this was because American bars typically only list their specialities, as bartenders are generally expected to know the classics by default.

However in the UK, many bars will list their full repertoire of cocktails and the staff will only be trained to make what is on the menu. While drinks like Negronis are now starting to appear on some pub menus, unless you’re in a high end bar its probably best to stick to the list.

3: Food may be served for really weird hours.

If you’re at an independent pub or bar, you may well find that the kitchen is closed in the afternoons, defining a break between lunch and dinner service.

That being said, it was only in the late 80s that pubs were able to serve alcohol between 2:40pm and 6:30pm – repealing the World War One “Defence of the Realm” Act, designed to keep the workers at munitions factories from drunkenly blowing themselves up.

Rose Villa Tavern

4: Our pubs look way cooler.

One of the benefits of having what we call “history” in the UK, is that many old pubs look like a set from Harry Potter. While you won’t be able to indulge in a butter beer in almost any of them, you will be able to rejoice in a combination of stained glass windows, uneven floors, ceiling beams and doorways so small as to hand out concussions like an American football college scholarship.

5: We love gin more than anything right now.

While the image of the Pub is often of the “warm” real ales that are pumped by hand from the cellar (so actually served around 11 degrees Celsius), you’re more likely to find Gin & Tonics the order of the day. Craft spirits in the UK have been lead by gin, not whiskey and many pubs now have long lists of gins available.

Oh, and don’t even mention tonic from a gun, we’ll have bottled tonic thank you very much!

Gin & Tonic

Of course, we also have some of the best cocktail bars in the world here in the UK, and they’ll make you whatever you’d like, along with the thriving independent bar scene. If you’d like to hear more about these, or what I missed in this video, let me know in the comments!

Music: “Secret of Tiki Island” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

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