• The Cocktail Snob

A Guide to Tipping Your Bartender

Image by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

This is a topic that has been on my mind for some time. As a person who frequents bars and restaurants regularly, I respect the hard work of ALL hospitality professionals-everyone from the bar back to the executive chef. But of course, there's a very special place in my heart for the bartenders-America’s unsung heroes. They work tirelessly day and night to ensure a clean, safe, welcoming atmosphere in an extremely high-stress environment.

Bartenders see us at our best and our worst. They toast with us in our moments of triumph and help us drown our sorrows in moments of tragedy. They’re our therapists, our confidants, our sounding boards, and so much more. They are curators of the vibe, MCs of ambience...the list goes on and on. But the main point is that they do a lot to earn your money. That’s why it is very important that you tip accordingly.

Now, I can’t speak to tipping outside the U.S. However, what I do know is that in this country, undertipping or not tipping your bartender is disrespectful. It is cringe-worthy and downright embarrassing to see what folks consider to be a tip these days.

The subject of tipping is one that brings up a lot of feelings, so I went straight to the source for this one. I chatted with a few of my favorite bartenders in the city to get their thoughts on this hot topic. Trust me, some of their dos and don’ts will surprise you.

Photo by Aurélien Lemasson-Théobald on Unsplash

DO tip at least 15%

Although a 20% tip is the hospitality standard, a tip of at least 15% tip is greatly appreciated by bartenders for mixed drinks and wine. But really, unless your bartender is completely useless, I’m of the opinion that 18% tip should be the bare minimum. This is the case whether you’re in a fancy cocktail bar or your neighborhood dive. For beer and shots, it’s okay to leave $1-$2 per beverage.

DON'T forget that bartenders are working to make a living too

Remember-some folks in the hospitality industry don’t make minimum wage. The generosity of the bar patron is what bartenders rely on to make a living wage. In a city as expensive as New York City, many bartenders depend on the tips they make each night. So do your best not to stiff them.

DO tip, even if you’ve been comped drinks

If a bartender has gifted you a free drink, you should still tip. What better way to show your appreciation for their kind gesture? I recommend tipping at least 15% on the actual cost of the drink or a dollar or two per shot.

DON'T wave cash in the air to get their attention

For the love of God, never wave cash (or anything for that matter) to get a bartender to notice you. They’re human beings-not your slaves. They see you standing there and will get to you as soon as they can. Just be patient.

DO overtip if you can

This is especially true for cocktails, which are complex and require effort to mix and shake. And many of them have more than 3 ingredients. Plus, if you tip a little extra, they might be generous enough to comp you a round that night or in the future. If not, they’ll at least take extra care in making your drink or offer to make you an off-menu cocktail. And always overtip, if you’ve received exceptional service.

So there you have it. Everything you need to know about tipping your bartender. What are your thoughts on tipping?

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