How much should I tip the Bartender?

This is a question I get asked a lot from friends and readers.  Many people are curious to see what bartenders think is a good tip.  It’s a tough question to answer and it can get very complicated.   I will do my best to give you the answers you need so your bartender doesn’t want to kill you!! :)

Let me preface this by saying that every bartender knows exactly what every customer is leaving him or her on the bar.  Even when I worked in the busiest nightclubs and was six deep at the bar, I knew who was stiffing me and who wasn’t.  If you think for a second, that your bartender doesn’t know how good or bad you are tipping, you’re wrong!  We see everything and even though we look busy, we know exactly what tip you left us on the bar.

How much should you tip?  I would say that every bartender is pretty much happy with a dollar a drink.  If I pop eight bud lights for you I don’t expect an eight dollar tip.  That’s ridiculous.  But if I make you a Cosmo, French Martini, Johnny Black on the rocks and a Malibu Baybreeze….you may want to tip more than a dollar.   It obviously depends on what you and your friends are drinking.  The more complex your order is, the higher the tip should be (as long as you have good service and good drinks). If your bartender is rude and obnoxious I highly advise you give him or her a second chance.  Every bartender has had bad days, and nights.  If they continue to be rude and give you poor service, then you have every right to tip them less.  Here is a list of things of what not to do when tipping your bartender.

Money Piles (on the bar or behind the bar)

If 2 people are having drinks together and decide to combine their money on the bar, that’s fine.  But when you get large groups of people leaving piles of money on the bar the bartender usually gets screwed big time.  One of the first problems you run into is the cheap guy.  This is a guy who throws a 10 on the pile (or no money at all) while everyone else is throwing down 20’s.  Then he orders drinks for an hour and never throws another dollar on the pile.  Then 3 of the guys in on the “pile” meet 3 hot chicks and order 6 shots of patron and the pile shrinks a lot.  The guy who just put a twenty on the bar and ordered a bud light sees only 5 bucks left in the “pile” and gets real pissed off.  The biggest problem with big “piles” is as the night goes on people get real drunk and start to leave.   When these people are hammered they forget to see if there is any money left for the bartender as a tip.  I have had occasions when I have served large groups for hours and been left five dollars.  I think I can speak for all bartenders that we do not like money piles.  If you must insist on a money pile, put someone in charge of it.  Make sure this person tips the bartender periodically throughout the night, while the “pile” still has money in it.


If a bartender gives you a buyback you should tip him/her.  Some bartenders say you should tip the price of the drink but I think that’s a little extreme.  Whatever you do don’t stiff the bartender on a buyback!  If you get a buyback, don’t say thanks and walk away.  If you need change for a tip, then ask for it.  If you stiff your bartender on a buyback, there is a good chance you will not get another one.

Don’t feed us a line

If your going to stiff the bartender, do it with pride.  When you tell the bartender your going to tip him/her later, they know it’s a line of shit.  Most bartenders would rather have you stiff them, instead of telling some bs story.  If your not going to tip the bartender all night, at least have the balls to do it without lying to his or her face.

As you can see tipping the bartender can get complicated at times.  If you’re doing a dollar a drink you can’t go wrong.  If your bartender is rude and you continually get poor service, then your tip should reflect that. If your bartender is great then your tip should reflect that also.  Best of luck.




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