The Best Bartenders in Movies, TV, and Cartoons, According to Real Bartenders

From Boston to Coronation Street to the far reaches of the universe, beverage pros (and a couple of actual rock stars) raise a glass to their fictional counterparts.

Woody Harrelson, John Ratzenberger, Kelsey Grammer and George Wendt on 'Cheers'
Woody Harrelson, John Ratzenberger, Kelsey Grammer and George Wendt on 'Cheers. Photo:

Paramount Tv / Kobal / Shutterstock

Some occupations lend themselves to stage, screen, and pages better than others. That's not to say we can't all flatter ourselves with the notion that Hulu, Shonda Rhimes, or A24 is going to come knocking at our inbox with offers to turn our daily travails into an eight-episode series or Oscars-sweeping sensation, but barsand the people who work in them — feel especially well suited to storytelling. I took an oddly early interest in this milieu, spending hours as a kid with my dad listening to tapes of Duffy's Tavern, a sitcom that ran on NBC's and CBS's radio networks from 1941 to 1951. It featured the show's creator Ed Gardner as Archie, the titular New York City tavern's manager and bartender, getting into all manner of shenanigans with customers and vendors voiced by the likes of Lucille Ball, Lena Horne, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby. Duffy’s Tavern created a world so big, wacky, and idiosyncratic that it eventually spilled over into a 1945 film, a 1954 TV show, and a British spinoff called Finkel's Café. Was it weird that an elementary school kid in the late '70s and early '80s was getting her kicks listening to a decades-old radio show set in a bar? Apparently not, because the hits just keep on streaming.

Archie was neither the first nor the last great character showing up behind the stick. If I take 15 seconds I can rattle off Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan in the film Cocktail, Sam Malone and the whole crew on Cheers, Rosie on M*A*S*H, Jake Johnson as both Nick Miller on The New Girl and Grey McConnell on Stumptown, Sascha at Rick's Café Américain in Casablanca, Wuher and Ackmena at Chalmun's Spaceport Cantina on Mos Eisley in the Star Wars universe and I'm just getting warmed up. But save for some cater waiter stints, I've generally been on the other side of the garnish tray. So at the recent Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans, I took advantage of the sheer volume of actual beverage professionals (plus a couple spirits-loving musicians on hand spinning records), to ask them about their favorite fictional bartenders. There were plenty of spirited picks, but one of them — start guessing now — earned waaaayyy mo' accolades than the rest of the pack.

The Call

Lloyd (played by Joe Turkel), The Shining

"Lloyd has this old school elegance, like he's been there for a long time. I love bartenders that are like fixtures in places. Obviously he's been there for a long time — a ghost trapped in the hotel. I feel like Lloyd's a neat spirit bartender, or he'd just be like, gimme a whiskey and would pour you four fingers of whiskey. And you will soon join him if he keeps doing this." — Neal Bodenheimer, co-owner of Cure and co-chair of Tales of the Cocktail

Tiffanie Barriere

This neighborhood bar is where all the drama went down.

— Tiffanie Barriere

Bet Lynch (played by Julie Goodyear), Coronation Street

"I don't even know if anybody is gonna know who I'm referring to, but her name is Bet Lynch and she was the barmaid at the Rovers Return in Coronation Street, set in Manchester. I grew up on the TV show. My parents made me watch it with dinner every night for years. She was a tenacious, mean lovable barmaid and she was a queen. Dirty Den from Eastenders gets my nod of approval as well, but I was always more of a Corry guy. She's gonna serve me a warm pint of bitter. I always used to ask why don't any of them actually ask for an order? All anybody asked for is a pint and that's all you get. I'll have a pint and I'm like a pint of what?" — Noah Villeneuve, founder of Club Soda

Nate Drake (played by Tom Holland), Uncharted

"Actually it's kind of lame, but I adore Tom Holland and he played a bartender in Uncharted. He was only a bartender for I don't know, two scenes? But he studied for it for weeks. And I was just like, who doesn't love Tom Holland? He's amazing." — Saydee Lea, bartender at Williams and Graham

Jim the Bartender (played by Paul Ainsley), Three's Company

"So there was a bartender, I don't know his name, but I can see him at the Regal Beagle. Adorable blue eyes, feathered hair. It was a neighborhood bar and he was always so welcoming. He was fast, he was good looking, and he just added to that vibe. He gave that welcoming energy, like a bartender does. Three's Company was definitely naughty, with all the double entendres, so sexual — but it was all silly sexual. I thought, that's what a bar should be. This neighborhood bar is where all the drama went down. It was so fun, and I love the bar scene, itself. When they were going from the apartment to the bar, I was like, yeah, I wanna hang out in this place, at the Regal Beagle." — Tiffanie Barriere, drinking coach

F&W Staff Pick

"Popping in on my Summer Friday because someone has to say Steve from Sex and the City or I'll be upset, and I'd obviously want him to make me a Cosmo." — Merlyn Miller, F&W social media editor

Guinan (played by Whoopi Goldberg), Star Trek: The Next Generation

"We've also got Whoopi Goldberg, the EGOT herself, on Star Trek. She wore those cool glasses and had this big, fluffy, long hair. Whoopi bartended. She did. It was an imaginary space, which isn't that what a bar does? It was whatever people needed it to be. You imagine what you wanted and Whoopi said OK. It's futuristic, huh? Tell a bartender what you want and they make it. I can't remember the character's name, but I'm watching it tonight." — TB

The Premium

Isaac Washington (played by Ted Lange), The Love Boat

"Isaac 'Double Guns' Washington! I can't remember a single drink he made, but I'm pretty sure he made Pina Coladas. But I think that he always lended his ear to the guests when they had a question or problem. He embodied that helpful psychologist slash bartender, and I love that." — Derek Brown, founder of Positive Damage, Inc.

"Isaac gave the best advice to make sure people had a great time while they were on their vacation. That's the biggest part of a bartender's job." — Zachary Johnston, drinks editor for UPROXX

F&W Staff Pick

"I’m going old school. It’s a tie between Woody on Cheers or Isaac on The Love Boat.  For The Love Boat, I think I would order a Mai Tai. I’d get a Boilermaker from Woody, although if there was a remake of that show, he’d probably be mixing up cannabis cocktails too." — Cheryl Slocum, senior food editor

Woody Boyd (played by Woody Harrelson), Cheers

"He's so easygoing and loving and kind of the baby of the family. Everybody was showing him the ropes and he was absolutely endearing and lovable. As an operator myself, I think about when I hire someone, how they'll fit into the team. Everybody has a role, and he fit right into his." — Alba Huerta, owner-operator of Julep

The Top Shelf

Moe Szyslak (voiced by Hank Azaria), The Simpsons

"I used to watch Cheers when I was inappropriately young, but Sam Malone is tied with Moe from The Simpsons. The Flaming Moe is one of the greatest drinks of all time — I hope we can all go for one tonight. Wait, OK, I've got to go with Moe as my favorite fictional bartender." — Patrick Carney, drummer for The Black Keys

"Wait, why are you calling Moe fictional?" — Dan the Automator, music producer

"He's a lovable little goof and also he can't tell a bunch of kids on the phone when he gets the call at the bar. I'd want him to make me a Flaming Moe. Or a Cough Syrup, 'cause I'm from Houston." — Robert Björn Taylor, beverage consultant

Jackie Summers

You don't go back to a bar because you had a great drink; you go back to the bar for the bartender.

— Jackie Summers

"With Mo, as harsh and as tight as he is under all of it — and you've gotta get through a lot — he's a good person. He really is. He's hilarious. He got jokes. It is what it is with him. I want him to make me a  Flaming Homer. I want something on fire. I want you to blow it out. I wanna chug it and I want to feel amazing. Or I'll just take a Duff." — Keyatta Mincey-Parker, bartender and founder of A Sip of Paradise

"He's an absolute mess. He is unapologetically craven. I feel like there has been this whole thing in media to portray mixologists as these highly sophisticated people. To me that just means they don't know actual bartenders. Moe is an actual go-to-your-local-bar bartender, and I can relate to that because I drink professionally. There are so many times when you can go anywhere and get a great drink, but I've said this for years: You don't go back to a bar because you had a great drink; you go back to the bar for the bartender. I would go sit at Moe's bar every week." — Jackie Summers, creator of Sorel

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