For the longest time, the standard tip for a bartender at a bar or restaurant was $1 for beer and $2 for cocktails. But with the price of beers – and more expensive craft beers becoming more prevalent in particular – and drinks having significantly increased of late, does is that unwritten rule still apply today?
Based on my many experiences in bar and with bartenders, here is a rundown of when it is okay to tip $1 and $2 and when it labels you as cheap.
Generally, Americans tip 15-20% of the tab at a restaurant for food; drinks can be a little more. It is still okay to tip $1 on a beer and $2 on a cocktail when the price of a beer is $7 or less and a cocktail is less than $10. That’s right in the standard percentage range.
Today, most places don’t deal in cash and instead present you with a hand-held device when you close your tab which includes our choice of the tip amount as either a percentage or a dollar amount. When you’ve had a few drinks, or if you like the looks of the bartender, you’ll likely tip more than the standard amount.
Now, I will break down the specifics of beer tips and cocktails tips. And yes, tipping bartenders is different on beers than it is for mixed drinks as this related article explains i great detail.
Tipping Bartenders On Beer
If a bartender simply twists the top off a beer bottle, giving him or her a buck for it seems a pretty good tip for something that took all of five seconds. Pouring a brew from a tap requires a little more effort – tilting the glass, not getting too much foam in it, for instance – then a buck is sufficient.
Now, if you walk into a place with dozens of taps (and these days tap handles at some bars are not identified) or it has several choices of bottles or cans, you may ask for recommendations from the bartender. And this is when he or she really earns their tip. Or not.
• If they simply hand you a beer menu or point to a QR code, they are not assisting you at all and don’t deserve any more than a buck. Heck, they really don’t deserve a tip at all but that’s your call. If you’re in and out for one beer and unlikely to never return, then don’t feel guilty about it.
• If a bartender asks what type of beers you like (lager, ales, etc.) and then says something along the lines of “we have such-and-such which you may really like, or here’s something similar,” then they are earning a tip of more than $1. If they offer you samples so you can choose your desired brew, then they are being a good, attentive bartender. And in those cases, you should tip at least $2 per beer.
Tipping Bartenders On Cocktails
There are two reasons cocktails result in bigger tips than beers. They are often more expensive than brews and the bartender has to make the drink instead of just handing you an open bottle or pour it from a tap. Here’s a general guide to tipping bartenders on cocktails.
• Basic one alcohol, one mix drinks are the quickest and easiest to mix, so they fall in line with the $2 tips.
• More complicated drinks, such as a cosmopolitan, martini, margarita or pina colada require more time and more ingredients and deserve a bigger tip.
• Mixed shots require even more ingredients and thus deserve an even bigger tip.
• If a bartender does a “free pour” – that is, turning the liquor bottle upside down without any cut-off device on it – and does what is known as a “generous pour” then heck yeah tip him or her more than two bucks.
General Tips On Tipping In Bars
Here’s some general tips on tipping in bars.
• If I’m going to have more than one drink, I’ve found it better to tip at the end rather than on a per-drink basis. You can still give a bartender a good tip but you also save a little bit of money this way.
• An exception to the above rule is if I want a strong cocktail or am new to a place I know i will frequent. I will then tip twice standard amount because I want them to get to know me as good-paying customer. This strategy works best during slow times with only one or two bartenders on duty because they can notice you. If it’s busy and there are three or four bartenders, any of the bartenders can sweep by your spot, pick up the money and place it in the tip jar and be gone in a flash; in this scenario you didn’t get the credit from any bartender for leaving a good tip.
• Tip more in a bar you frequent than one in which you don’t go to often or will never go to again. Not only is it good to know your local bartenders but it’s good for them to know you. When you walk in, you want them to say “oh hey, Kevbeaux is here!,” rather than “oh no, here comes that damned cheapskate again.” Plus, when the bar is super busy, you’ll always be able to get a drink. If I’m a one-and-done drinker at a bar (either I don’t like it or the service sucks or I am out of town and unlikely to ever return, I’ll generally leave the standard tip.
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