Cocktail Etiquette: How Much Do I Tip After A Round Of Cocktails?


3 minute Read

This is how you should tip on a round of cocktails

When it comes to a sit down meal, tipping is usually pretty straightforward: you pay up a certain percentage of the food’s total cost. But when it comes to a liquid meal, people are often confused about what is appropriate for gratuity. However, tipping on drinks is just as important as tipping on dinner. First off, it’s the right thing to do, but it’ll also make returning to that bar a more pleasant experience for you in the future. So, how exactly do you tip on a cocktail? Here’s what I believe is proper protocol.

On A Good Meal, You Should Tip 20%

I’ll start by saying after any meal, unless something went badly, tipping 20% is a good starting point. That’s a fifth of the cost of your whole meal. This baseline tip percentage does differ from city to city – some people tip 15% or 18% – but the idea is the same: you allocate a certain percentage of your meal’s cost to your server. I tip on the total cost including tax. On a reasonably priced meal, the difference of tipping before or after tax is usually pretty marginal, so I think it’s worth it to have good manners.

Treat A Round Of Good Cocktails Like A Meal

You wouldn’t treat filet mignon like a burger from the drive-thru, so don’t treat an intricate cocktail like a rum & coke (no offense to the rum & coke). Assuming you’re happy with your service and cocktails, the goal of your tip should be to reach 20% post-tax. With smaller tabs and cheaper drinks, however, you can easily tip $2 per drink. For instance, if you get two $7 cocktails ($14) factoring in a tax of 8.75% ($1.60), your total tab is $15.60. A 20% tip ($15.60 divided by 5) would be $3.12. Let’s say you tip $2 per drink, totaling $4. That’s about 90 cents over what’s required ($4 minus $3.12), but since it’s a minimal difference and a smaller tab, it’s good form to tip $4.

But let’s say you’re buying $12 drinks, and you rack up four of them ($48). After a tax of 8.75% (approximately $5.50), your total comes out to about $53.50 ($48 plus $5.50). If you tipped $2 per drink, you’d be at $8. However, a proper tip would be $10.70 ($53.50 divided by 5). Even if you tipped pre-tax, a 20% tip would be $9.60 ($48 divided by 5). In this case, it’s better to tip 20%.

This may seem confusing, because there’s no exact science to it. However, on smaller tabs with cheaper drinks, it’s generally better to tip $2 a drink, and on larger tabs or with more expensive drinks, it’s better to calculate 20% of your total costs and use that amount as tip right of the bat. When in doubt, bust out your phone and divide your total costs by five. Your tip should be very close to that number.

If You Had A Really Great Time, Throw In A Little Extra

The difference between a great bar and an outstanding bar is the degree of hospitality. No matter how delicious your cocktails were, taste is only part of the drinking-out experience. You want to leave feeling like you had an awesome, worthwhile time, and the people who create the atmosphere that leaves you feeling that way deserve to be rewarded. A bartender will often go above and beyond to ensure you leave the bar in a good mood. Maybe he doubled as your therapist, or maybe she poured you an extra shot – actions like this go above the call of the duty and should be acknowledged. While I’m not saying you should always tip extra, if for whatever reason when you receive your tab and you find yourself thinking, wow, that was a really exceptional experience, throw in a couple extra dollars. Think of it as good drinking karma.

Try To Tip In Cash

I understand this isn’t always the most convenient thing, but when you can, tip in cash. Your bartender will go home with his or her tips that night, as opposed to when the next paycheck arrives. To avoid confusion, on the tip line of your receipt, write tip in cash. You don’t want anyone to think you’re stiffing them.

When It Comes Down To It, It’s All About The Golden Rule

No, I’m not talking about The Lonely Island song, I’m saying treat others like you’d want to be treated. Think about how you’d feel if you spent hours waiting on someone, only to find yourself with a measly tip. But if you follow good tipping etiquette, you could just make someone’s day. Or in this case, their night. Happy drinking!

Images via Shutterstock.com

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