Don't Forget to Tip Your Bartender


When out getting a drink, don't act like a chump! Remember to always tip the bartender correctly.

This sounds like a DUH type of statement, but you’d be amazed that even as we approach the year 2015, people still don’t know how to tip their bartender. You see I still do a bit of drink slinging from time to time here in the Los Angeles area.

I mean, you would think in the City of Angels where alcoholic refreshments average $12 a piece, and the median household income is $55,145 people would know the rule of thumb. What’s the rule of thumb you ask? It’s super simple, I’ll explain:

  • 1 drink ordered up to $9 = $1 tip
  • 2 drinks ordered from $10-$15 = $2 tip
  • 1,2 or any other # of drinks ordered that total $16 to over $20 = 20% tip

There it is, three equations that anyone and everyone who cares to partake in a drink out at a watering hole, no matter what city or state you’re in, should commit to memory. And keep in mind; these are merely minimums to tip. If you have the means to leave more, please do so.

Your bartender will most definitely focus on making your experience much more pleasant by keeping your glass full, probably while pouring with a heavy hand!

Now here’s my most recent experience of tending bar that led me to pen this piece. I was working an event for 65 CPA’s (now keep in mind, CPA’s on average make over 82,000 per year). The company covering the event that night paid for each individual’s first round; after that, each drink would only be $5.

This is a long way from the LA average of $12, remember? Stocking the bar was a nice selection of spirits and wine; a pinot noir and chardonnay from Napa; well alcohol that included Jim Beam bourbon, Finlandia vodka, Captain Morgan rum, Don Julio tequila and Beefeaters gin. And although there were a number of mixers, we were sans beer; HEY don’t get mad at me, take it up with the event host who didn’t select any brew!

Anyway, I was splitting the bar with another bartender and bar-back, so I busted out the customary tip-jar for occasions where I’m not so sure just how much money I’ll be walking with at the end of the night. The event started out even keel, as wine was the order of the hour. I mean you never want to be the first guest at a party throwing back Jack and Coke’s. Do you?

Now as more and more invited guests trickled in, the hard liquor started being requested. Yet the ratio of drinks to tip was a lot less substantial than we had hoped; around 7:1. Soon enough, the majority of 65 guests had blown through their first round and were now onto the $5 bonanza round; I mean come on, this is a hell of a deal for a great assortment of well liquors!

But then the stupid questions began; “Did you guys get any beer?” “Can I have my fifth Coca-Cola refill?” “Let me get a big cup (yes, he said cup) of red wine.” The absolute worst part about these people who graduated from college yet clearly never went to any campus parties was…you guessed it, they never left a single buck!

You’re a Certified Public Accountant, make close to 90G’s a year, got your first round for free and now don’t want to tip anything for a $5 tequila sunrise?! Shame on you! When you get things on the house or at a discounted rate it’s customary to tip your service professional better, not worse! Why isn’t this common sense? Really, tip etiquette needs to be a class taught in universities. 

Now I won’t pigeonhole all the CPA’s in attendance, some were decent enough and left between 2 and 5 dollars each visit, but this was few and far between. The guy with the 5 glasses of coke? Yeah, he must have forgotten his wallet at home. Regardless if you ask for soda or water, by the time you scoop up your third non-alcoholic drink, it’s time to pony up a buck, just in good faith.  

So according to my calculations, that night, we the bartenders poured around 165 drinks. 100 of which cost the individual $5. How much gratitude did we have in the till when the night ended you ask? A whopping 89 bucks. That breaks down to $1.85 per drink.

For one bartender $89 is fine. For two and a bar-back to split evenly, not so much. Had these folks followed my tip equation chart and tipped, let’s say $2, factoring in the low costs of the drinks and said occasion, our pull-in should have totaled $330. $110 would have felt much better in my pocket.

The moral of the story is simple: don’t act (tip) like you’ve never been out on the town before; especially if your company is picking up most of the tab. And if you honest to goodness don’t know how to tip or simply don’t want to, either don’t leave your home, or tip a nice $10 spot on your first drink and be done with it. Your bartender will remember.