A Game of Over or Under: Bartenders Guessing the Age of Possible Patrons

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Tony Maples Photography


You may have been on the side of the bar, sweating bullets, with your sticky fingers clutching your fake Texas ID, waiting to see if you’ll be given the opportunity to show everyone just how cool you are at underage drinking… but have you ever been the bartender? Not only do they have the responsibility of getting everyone’s drink orders correct, but they also have to make sure they’re not serving someone illegally, which means being able to effectively tell if someone is at least 21 years of age.

A video posted on the WatchCut Video YouTube channel recently went viral showing a group of bartenders who were asked to determine whether each individual from a random cross-section of potential patrons was of legal age to drink, simply by looking at them. Some of the “tricks of the trade” which they would normally use (and those who were underage would try to counteract), turned out not to be so tricky after all.

Close to two million viewers have watched the bartenders trying to guess who’s underage through the “tells” that they think are dead giveaways. Things from walking style, to skin tone, mannerisms, to tattoos… none of which can ultimately reveal whether a person is 21 or under considering the broad array of personal tastes and even genetics that can affect how someone looks. After watching the video, it was clear that it’s a much tougher job being the one on the other side of the bar trying to venture an educated guess as to whether your ID is fake or not, and you really are of legal age to drink. And we’re not entirely sure those that were watching weren’t there to simply take notes!