How to Tip a Bartender Properly

How to Tip a Bartender Properly

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Tipping -- not only appropriately, but well -- is a good thing to know how to do. Many people (including dates, bosses, and coworkers) view how a person tips as a reliable criterion of character. Knowing when and how to do it will ensure good service, show others that you're "socially groomed" (neither a cheapskate nor a showoff), and may cause people to like you more. In general: it's better to tip generously than badly, but there are critical limits on both ends of the spectrum.


  1. Being patient for the first round is the key to an enjoyable evening, whether the bar is visibly "busy" when you walk in or not. Other things outside your purview -- shift changes, for instance -- may result in slow service of your first drink. A little patience goes a long way in these crucial first moments.
  2. Always be ready to pay when you order. Have your money out, or close at hand. Don't wait until the drinks are made and your server has "totaled out" your round before you take your wallet out. Fishing for money not only wastes your server's time, but annoys others waiting for their drink orders to be taken. (Supposedly, you're there to socialize with them; and if you make them wait, you alienate yourself from them.)
  3. Tip $1 per drink as a baseline, lacking anything better to go on, even if the only visible drink preparation involved is opening a bottle of beer. This will vary, depending on the kind of bar you're in. This is why crowd assessment matters. A tip of $1 per drink is often an "acceptable" tip. On complicated orders, a bit more is always deeply appreciated. Typically $1 is an acceptable tip for a beer (draft or bottle), but tip $2 for mixed drinks. More if its a complicated mixed drink.
  4. Overt and consistent over tipping will make the bartender remember you. Pay cash and tip at least $10.00 your first round. Then you can give the bartender your credit card and start a tab. This way the bartender remembers you. If you see someone else doing this, chances are they work in the hospitality business, it is a very common practice and one that will not leave you standing in a 30 minute order line. A bartender will not remember any tip under $5.00 unless you are a regular. Remember that at a nightclub you are paying the bartender with your tip to save you time, at a bar you are paying the bartender with your tip to not worry about his liquor costs.
  5. If you are ever comped any food or drink, your tip should equal the amount of the price of the drink or food. This is a quick way for the bartender to learn who will be a good tipper. Remember that 10% of patrons account for 75% of a bartenders tip, you will save yourself tons of money by being a good tipper and in that top 10%.
  6. When at an "open" bar, always tip as much as you would if you were purchasing a well drink. The open bar saves you money by allowing you to keep the money you would normally spend on tips and to drink call liquor at a well price. (Remember that the $14.00 single well drink in South Beach or Cape Cod is the $4.50 single well in Boise, Idaho. So adjust your tipping according to region.)
  7. Tipping for the whole night at the beginning of the night is very common, this is especially seen among people who work in the hospitality industry and go to the same bars a lot. Be sure however that your bartender is not going to be cut and replaced before you are ready to go, also make sure that the people with you are planning on staying somewhere as long as you are. The typical beginning of the night tip is $100.00 folded in your hand and given to the bartender as you are shaking hands. The person who gives this $100 is off the hook for tipping the rest of the night and as long as they are paying for drinks this tip will cover up to 3 additional people. Any drinks bought by the additional 3 people are expected to be tipped.
  8. Budget the cost of your tips into the cost of your drinks and distribute them more-or-less evenly over the course of your night out. Tipping a bit high early on in the evening is fine, and may expedite service later, but don't "tip out" completely on your first few rounds, unless you want to get thrown out, later.
  9. There is never a good excuse for not tipping a server. Rude service may deserve a lower tip, but service needs to be considerably bad. If the service is truly horrible then pay your tab, leave a tip, and find another bar.
  10. Servers (including bartenders) usually have to give a percentage of their nightly earnings to bussers, food runners, barbacks, dishwashers, and/or doormen/bouncers (some in fact actually have to pay a bar owner for the privilege of working at a bar.) If you leave no tip for a server because you disliked your drink, you're not punishing the owner; you're punishing the server. Not only are you stiffing the server because you didn't like your drink, but he still has to pay out the above mentioned staff whether he gets tipped or not. The "tip out" comes from his sales figure, not his actual tip pool.
  11. You will save yourself money in the long run by tipping well. A bartender might give you a drink he poured incorrectly, he might "forget" to write down a few or possibly most of the drinks on your tab, you might even get comped free food or VIP.
  12. Local customs are very different however most bartenders work for $2.15 an hour and survive on their tips. Nationally hotel bars are very relaxed and do not worry much about liquor costs as they are seen as a hotel amenity. The exception to this would be hotel bars in resort cities or casinos where the bartenders are often paid $15.00 and up an hour and are many times in the local union. Large nightclubs are often staffed by bartenders who pay for the privilege of working there. These bars are usually very concerned about liquor costs, bottle exchanging (pouring poor quality liquor in high quality bottles) and bootlegging (purchasing a bottle at a regular liquor store and pouring it in a bottle labeled for sale at a per drink establishment) are also very common. A recent trend that patrons should be aware of is label swapping sparkling wines especially in by the bottle and VIP lounges. This is accomplished by unscrupulous employees having labels printed of expensive Champagne that they affix to cheap bottles of sparkling wine. The employee will ring up the cost of the cheap champagne in the register while telling the customer that they owe the much more expensive price. With the difference between the prices of premium Champagne and cheap sparkling wine often being between $200 and $300, the unscrupulous employee pockets a decent sum by selling a few over the course of a night.


  • If you get another drink without having to ask, do tip a bit extra. If you didn't want another drink, refuse it politely, and consider tipping if it is a genuine gesture, not an overt effort to earn more tips. (Wasted drinks will come out of your server's paycheck, in which case it's best to teach them not to anticipate your intent without punishing them too much -- especially if you ever intend to return.)
  • Always get the bartender's name on the first round. Once you've got it, use it! Nothing annoys bartenders like being called "Hey Barkeep!" repeatedly over the course of a night by one unruly patron, which is a surefire way to get you 86ed for no good reason.
  • Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- goes farther than good manners! A person who is rude, but who dependably tips, will almost always be served after a patron who is both patient and polite.
  • When ordering discounted bar drinks such as specials, happy hour drinks, etc., it takes the same amount of work no matter what the cost to you may be. If you can tip the normal tip (see above) plus the difference in price, this is good. While not strictly necessary, it's not considered "overtipping".
  • Budget the tip as a part of the cost of the drink. Servers and bartenders depend on tips to make up most of their pay.
  • Tipping higher at the first round may help ensure the bartender comes back to you quicker the next time you come back. It also may ensure future rounds will have a bit more alcohol if ordering mixed drinks. Be careful though: your tip from the first round will quickly be forgotten. It is far better, in the long run, to tip as consistently as possible.
  • Tipping in different countries varies. For example in the UK, it's rare that anyone tips a bartender for a round of drinks served at the bar (although such an unusual gesture may well get you served faster next time). If in the UK, it's acceptable to offer to buy the bartender a drink, normally with the words, "...and one for yourself," when he's told you how much the round cost. Don't worry - he or she won't opt for an expensive cocktail, but the gesture for a soft-drink or soda will normally be gratefully accepted, and ensure you get served quicker next time.
  • Simply calculate the total cost of the drinks and tip 20% this will make any bartender happy. If your round was 25$ and you watched him/her open 5 beers the tip is five dollars. This will assure you future rounds and any and all assistance from the bartender in the future.


  • Tipping advice often comes from people who make their living on tips. That's why you get conflicting advice such as "Tip based on the work done if you get a discount, but tip based on the price if little work was done." Remember to take that into account when receiving advice on the matter.
  • Staff (by law, in most states) are sober. Patrons, by definition, are not. Do not assume you are more clever than staff. If you must, do not be surprised to find your hindquarters hitting the pavement for reasons you can't understand, regardless of how you tip.
  • Do not ever argue to the point of fighting with the bartender on duty. The chances of your winning are slim to none. The bartender is the captain of the ship. If you know you are right, ask to speak to a manager. If you must, you can ask for the name of the owner of the bar, but in most states, the manager/bartender on duty is not legally obligated to provide you with this information.
  • Losing your cool will get you thrown out and/or get the police called on you. The police will almost always believe a sober bartender, backed up by sober staff, over patrons with alcohol in their bloodstreams.
  • Don't waste your time complaining about prices. Chances are, the bartender doesn't set the prices.
  • If you order something complex, tip to match.
  • Never, ever assume that a bartender or any other bar staff member (a) knows where to buy drugs or find prostitutes, (b) has drugs to sell you, (c) will sell them to you if they have them.
  • Remember that bartenders depend on the state they work in to certify them as liquor handlers.

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