How Much Should You Tip a Bartender? (We Found Out!)

Don't forget to tip your bartender!

In a restaurant, you normally tip at the end of your meal while in many bars, it’s quite common to tip throughout the night as you pay for each round of drinks. Your generosity or lack thereof, will often determine how attentive your server is.

Tip well and your server will check in often and deliver your drinks promptly, tip poorly and you may have trouble getting the server’s attention.

Throughout the United States and Canada, it’s customary to tip… but how much should you tip your bartender?

We talked to bartenders across the country to gain some insight into what constitutes an appropriate gratuity.

Most of the bartenders we spoke with agreed that 20% should be the baseline for tipping. To calculate your gratuity, multiply your total bill by .2 (or divide by 5). If you’re paying in cash, round up to the nearest dollar after tacking your 20% tip on to the total.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the topic of tipping.

Why Should You Tip Your Bartender 20%?

If a 20% gratuity seems overly generous, there are a few things you should consider.

In many places, servers and bartenders are paid less than minimum wage. People employed in the service industry often don’t have health benefits and they really depend on tips to supplement their lower hourly rate and make a livable wage.

While pouring a draft beer doesn’t take much time or effort, mixed drinks and trendy cocktails can be more complicated. You also have to take into account all of the other work that a bartender does before the first customer of the day walks in.

Fresh fruit needs to be cut into wedges for garnishes, additional fruit is pressed for juice, simple syrup needs to be made, and mint leaves need to be separated from their stems.

It takes a lot of work to have fresh ingredients on hand for cocktails!

Cocktails with fresh ingredients

How Much Do You Tip a Bartender per Drink?

Suppose you’ve decided to go the cash route. You want to pay for each round of drinks as the bartender brings them to you. How much should you tip per drink?

The rule of thumb is to tip $1 per beer, glass of wine, or simple mixed drink. You should tip $2 per cocktail and, if the bartender spends additional time making you a fancy cocktail, your tip should likely go up to $3 – 4 per drink.

Obviously pouring a few pints of Stella will take a lot less time than making everyone at the table a Long Island Iced Tea!

Oh yeah… if you’re lucky enough to be in a bar with a 2-for-1 drink special, the classy move would be to tip for two drinks.

Tipping Is the Best Way to Show Your Appreciation!

If you’ve had an enjoyable evening out with great cocktails and lively conversation, why not show your appreciation by leaving a generous tip?

And remember, even if you don’t love the bartender, a lot of bars and restaurants pool their tips. A portion of all gratuities are distributed among the bartenders, servers and kitchen staff.

By Michael

Chief mixologist and cocktail enthusiast at Swizzle Club.