Much to the dismay of all American bartenders, there are a lot of people out there who don’t know how to properly tip. Whether its foreign tourists who aren’t used to tipping or people who simply don’t think bartenders are deserving of a full 20 percent for “just pouring a drink,” there are a lot of people out there who aren’t giving bartenders their due.
If you’ve ever wondered about the appropriate tip for a cocktail, we’re here to settle the matter once and for all. We asked bartenders from across the country what they expect customers to tip after receiving excellent service. Take their advice and follow the proper etiquette when you want to thank your bartender for a drink well done.
“I always find this a strange question, but it’s an important one. Would you consider tipping less than normal for the meal you just had? Why is there a stigma about tipping on a cocktail because it is ‘just a drink?’ Tipping a bartender on a cocktail is like tipping both your cook and your server. The bartender stopped everything he or she was doing and gave you a menu, poured you a glass of water, looked you in the eye, took your order, made your drink and then served it to you, all in a reasonably short amount of time with (hopefully) grace, charm and a smile. I don’t think that cocktails are as important as food because they aren’t a necessity, but I hope people think about the process of getting that drink as more than pouring soda from a gun into a glass and calling it a cocktail. That certainly does not deserve a thoughtful tip, but someone who is genuinely being hospitable and crafting something just for you should be rewarded. Society has deemed tipping to be that reward, so don’t be scared to do so.” — Matt Seigel
“Tipping is defined as ‘giving a sum of money as a reward for services,’ and tips should be valued by those who receive them. With that said, it is our job to offer the best experience possible for anyone who orders something from our bar. We put a lot of time and effort into our drinks and if the customer feels we have given them services worthy of a reward, then I think no less than 20 percent should be acceptable.” — Cody Goldstein, The Horny Ram
“Tip 20 percent on the bill.” — Natasha Torres, Bar Moga
"Tips should be based on the customer's experience. If the bartender merits a big tip, give it to him or her and top it off with a big smile. This works both ways, like if the bartender is rude and provides a poor experience. We understand it's all based on the customer's satisfaction." — Ricardo Rodriguez, Lolo’s Surf Cantina
"Industry standard is 20 percent (at a minimum), but if you have a bartender spend a couple of minutes making you a perfectly balanced cocktail, feel free to up that percentage. Remember, most bartenders get paid around $2-3 per hour from their employer and usually have to tip out bar backs and food runners and split the rest with other bartenders. So for every dollar you leave, maybe 20 cents is going in the bartender’s pocket.” — Jim McCourt, Prohibition Charleston
“In my opinion, you should tip at least 20 percent—more than that if you know the person and/or they make something that is really great and can talk to you while being busy." — Kendall Moore, Zero Restaurant + Bar
“First of all, tipping is ‘optional’ and a touchy subject for most. Guest perception is key here, and I firmly believe that most people tip according to the service they received. I also believe that this carries over into the bar. If you received an out of this world cocktail and your bar experience was amazing, then you will likely be inclined to tip high on a smaller check containing just a cocktail or two. If you are at a high volume bar with minimal interaction, then you will likely tip minimally. I believe you should tip whatever you feel is necessary for the experience you received. There is no percentage or dollar amount attached to any tipping, in my opinion. If you have a truly amazing bartender, take care of him or her as he or she takes care of you! Bartending is 100 percent all about hospitality and how well we take care of guests—the tipping will naturally reflect the performance of the individual.” — Morgan Zuch, Datz