How Much to Tip Your Bartender

You sit down at a hot new bar and order a drink. The bartender makes it, you pay and then there’s that nagging feeling: Did I tip enough? Did I tip too much?

How much to tip is perhaps the most difficult dilemma you’ll encounter while on the town—besides deciding what to have. To help you out, we turned to’s illustrious advisory board. Together, this group of mixological luminaries has decades of experience behind the stick, and we got some great advice.

First off, tip a percentage of the tab, not a flat rate. Dushan Zaric, Allen Katz and Jim Meehan recommend leaving at least 20 percent, no matter if you’re ordering beer in a dive or a fancy mixed drink at a high-end lounge. Gary Regan is even more generous: Tip “as much as you can possibly afford,” he says.

A few situations merit extra tipping. If it’s happy hour and drinks are discounted, Zaric suggests dropping at least $2 per beverage, while Katz says a tip of 25 percent is appropriate. And if you’re lucky enough to get a freebie, Katz says to add a minimum $5 to what you’d have tipped if you’d had to pay for it.

However, tipping extra on the your first round isn’t necessary—“a large first tip (followed by smaller tips) suggests you want special treatment as a guest,” Meehan says, but “a well-run bar with a good bartender should not solicit or encourage this type of tipping.”

There’s also no reason to tip more generously if you’re paying with a credit card versus leaving cash. And if you see a tip jar on the bar, ignore it: Both Zaric and Katz prefer to leave their tips on the bar, as this lets staff keep better track and properly divide up tips at the end of the shift.

What if you get bad service? Don’t dock the tip. “What goes around comes around,” Zaric says. “I sucked once too as a server and people still tipped me.” Eventually, he got better: The best tip Zaric ever received was a whopping $1,000! To be fair, it was on a $1,000 tab.

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Discussion (33)

  • duhast posted 2 weeks ago

    For servers and bartenders [FOH] you have a base wage and then tips. Owners want FOH staff who can handle a high volume. The more high volume capable staff you have the less labor you have to spend on. In a margins business keeping your labor dollars low is important. The incentive for staff to want to take on high volume [i.e work more efficient and hard and take minimal breaks if any] is to take in TIPS. Without tips there is no incentive other than to keep your job.

  • angele.landries posted 2 years ago

    Where are you people getting the notion that the server has to pay taxes on that alcohol. There is a sales tax that pays for the taxes on the alcohol. The server only has to pay taxes on their tips and hourly wage. Not how much the customer spends in the restaurant.

  • angele.landries posted 2 years ago

    JORDAN... Oh, please. I used to serve and you only have to pay taxes on what income you earn. After all it IS called INCOME taxes. The customer already pays a tax (used to be 8.5%) for pre-prepared food. So no, the server does not have to pay taxes on sales. The customer does that with the consumer tax on the receipt. Get your facts straight. The server only has to pay taxes on their income, and their income only consists of their hourly wages and tips. Many servers (illegally) only pay taxes on their hourly wages and don't even report tips because there is no way for the government to prove how much they made in tips. Therefore even if a server gets audited it would be impossible for the IRS to say they owe any money for the tips that were not reported, because the IRS can't prove how much the server made in tips.

  • terdelou posted 2 years ago

    You know what your right! We should stay home and drink and then perhaps an asshole like you will be out of a job, because obviously you've must have been stiffed a few (oops did I say a few) HA a bunch of times due to your such SWEET (*cough cough*) personality. Go to Hell and Hell no I would NEVER EVER tip fully if the person doesn't deserve it, and if I had a person like you, I would NEVER tip. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. Ahole!

  • btreat1 posted 2 years ago

    also, overhead for the food, is what pays wages… ceo's realized this, decided to have tips for waiters, and the ceo takes what a waitress would make. don't hate on me, because i realize your all tools.

  • btreat1 posted 2 years ago

    tipping?! don't make me laugh, i don't tip because, i believe that a waiter should be paid as any other employee, they WALK FOOD AROUND… they require no skill other than writing, an memory. a cook however, should be paid in tips so the food isn't shit. yet you claim i shouldn't tip for a bad waiter? why should i pay for bad food? why should i pay someone's wages, when that is the companies responsibility? also, if you have a problem with the fact i don't tip, try get a different fucking job…you take the job, it's not required to tip. accept the fact that people shouldn't have to spend inflated fees on prepared food, that is usually not fresh, and then tip? i'll cook at home, i'm a better cook then half the restaurants i've been to anyway. just ask my girlfriend.

  • Taylor posted 2 years ago

    I always hate reading comments on articles about tipping/the industry/etc because of peoples ridiculous opinions. I work in a french bistro, make about 1k a week in tips. so 60k a year cash take home, give or take. I, as well as most servers and bartenders, would be very displeased if tipping were abolished in exchange for wages. Generally, people that complain about tipping/don't want to tip/whatever are either poor or low class, and those types don't usually come in to where I work so its not really an issue for me. I'm dissapointed if I make less than 20% on a check, but have enough tables/make enough that some cheapskate isn't going to bother me much.

  • Bob posted 2 years ago

    You're all idiots! Restaurants will never change to an hourly wage so if you want to be served, tip! Otherwise go to McDonald's. To get stiffed (to a way lesser extent, but still the same) is the same as you working at your job for the week and your boss telling you "I don't feel like paying you for your hard work this past week." "And on top of that, you'll still have to pay your coworkers (janitors etc.) some of your wage that was expected and pay your taxes too with the money from your savings...since I didn't feel like paying you."

  • Kate posted 2 years ago

    Fact is, the tipped employee wage is set by the United States Department of Labor and not the employer. The tipping percentage has increased over time because the cost of living has increased over time. If you don't agree with the tipping practices, then don't go out.
    These comments in opposition of tipping probably comes from a deep seated unhappiness with your own job and your wage. Serving is just another job with it's own set of skills and training. You can tell when you are being served by someone doesn't care about what they are doing but this is more about them not having any pride in what they do. In this day and age, more people spend much of their work day behind a computer so maybe that one and one human contact is what people crave.
    There are some terrible servers out there, there are some dismissive bartenders, I can personally attest to this because I have worked with some of these people. So, let the manager know, don't go back to that restaurant, if you do go back to that restaurant request somebody else; hell, tip them 15% instead of 18%. Whatever you decide to do don't make a sweeping judgement of all tipped employees because it simply isn't right. I've had doctors who are rude and dismissive but I still have to pay them for services rendered; don't get crazy, I don't think that doctors are the same as servers but it's just to illustrate that there are people everywhere that are terrible at their job.

  • Kate posted 2 years ago

    Generally speaking, hookers don't get tips. Perhaps you know better than I on the subject though. If the hooker you go to goes the extra mile for you then by all means tip said hooker. I imagine though that if he or she agrees to service you then they are already going that extra mile.

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