How Much To Tip at a Bar (In Every Scenario)

How Much To Tip At A Bar

Tipping has become a bit of a minefield topic. How much is enough? Should I tip with every drink? Should I tip at night’s end? How much should I tip in a particular scenario?

Tipping at a bar shouldn’t leave you in a cold sweat. There should also be no confusion about what is the right tip and no guilt about whether you left enough.

So then, how much should I tip at the bar?

The basic scenarios are sitting at the bar, having a table in a bar, cash vs. card transactions, and visiting a distillery or brewery. Each of them comes with its own set of unwritten rules. At least a dollar or two per poured drink is standard, while 20 percent minimum in a cocktail bar or on the total bill is fair.

We’ll unpack and consider the “rules” on how much you should tip at the bar. Each scenario is different and has different considerations. We’ll guide you through each of these to help you tip your bartender and server well.

Different Scenarios Need Different Considerations

Tipping your bartender or server is good manners (and good karma), and it puts food on their table.

Not tipping well may lead to short pours, drinks that are just not right. Or even poor service. Nobody wants a terrible drink, and nobody wants to feel abused by customers—tipping is a two-way street.

Tipping shows your appreciation and can sometimes make sure you get the best service or comp drinks. It is not always clear how much you should tip.

But don’t fret, we’ll look at different scenarios and the best way to navigate them.

Sitting at the Bar Counter

Sitting At The Bar Counter

Sitting down at the bar—whether a fancy hotel cocktail bar or your local establishment—is a nice way of socializing with friends and watching the action behind the bar. Either way, it is good manners to tip your bartender.

High-End Cocktail Bar

Most consider tipping at least 20% the norm—whether per cocktail or at the end of the night when the check arrives. It can get tricky, though, because tipping on a $12.20 cocktail can get messy with the mental arithmetic involved.

Try to tip generously (over 20%). The longer it takes, the harder it is to make a difficult cocktail. And the fewer patrons the bartender can serve (and they lose out on tips).

Craft Beer Bar

This can get tricky, but you’d still tip more for a decent steak than a hamburger. Some customers think a bar is just a bar…

The bartenders at craft beer bars actually spend a lot of time learning about the beers they serve and crafting the menu. They also share their expert knowledge when they guide your choices.

Consider tipping a bit more than the standard $1 or $2 per drink.

The Local Bar

Between $1 and $2 per drink is considered fair.

Some bartenders say it helps when you tip at the beginning as it establishes goodwill, while others say it doesn’t matter. A busy bar is a busy bar, and goodwill won’t change that.

Also, avoid waiving money at your bartender. It is poor manners and will (probably) lead to getting slower service.

Drinking Just Water

Even if you don’t receive a check for drinking soda water with bitters or just cold water from the ice water dispenser, it is good manners to tip at least $1.

Think of it in these terms: you are occupying a space where your bartender could have served someone else a $12 cocktail and received a bigger tip.

Editor’s Tip

Tip on the grand total of the check after tax, not the subtotal. Remember, we all have bad days, even bartenders and servers. If the service isn’t up to par, tipping 15% is a good practice.

However, do not leave a tip if your bartender (or server) crosses the line into violating basic human decency or is being racist.

Table Service at the Bar

Table Service At The Bar

If a server brings drinks to your table, you still need to tip. Mostly, the staff shares the pool of tips at the end of their shift.

Usually, tipping starts at 15% if they only serve food and drinks. But, when they go above and beyond, helping with menu choices or wine selections, tipping should begin at 20%.

Also, make sure you check whether your bill includes gratuity. If it does not include it, consider chipping in a few more dollars. The server and bartender have to deal with a lot of different people. They also need to earn a living.

Cash and Card Transactions

Cash And Card Transactions

Card payments are usually a sign to a bartender that they might not get a decent tip. Customers skimp on the tip when the bill gets big, which is unfair to the bartender or waiting staff.

20% on the total after tax is the least you should tip. Also, consider tipping in cash rather than with your card. It is a gracious gesture, and the staff will appreciate it.

Visiting a Distillery or Brewery Bar

Visiting A Distillery Or Brewery Bar

While some think it is unnecessary to tip the staff at a distillery or brewery, it is good manners. And it shows your gratitude towards the staff.

When the staff is helping you with tasting notes or making suggestions for your purchase, a minimum of 15% on the purchase price of a growler or your overall purchase is a good idea. The staff welcomes your generosity, but they do not expect a tip.

If you are tasting testers, your bartender or server puts their knowledge at your disposal. Consider tossing a dollar or two in the tip jar. Tip as you would at a bar if you are drinking a beer. And, consider tipping more when you are asking for suggestions and get the help you expected.


Don’t be that annoying customer who tips poorly. You may not have known your tipping habits are slightly out of date, but now you do.

When you go out for the night, factor tipping into your budget to make sure you leave a decent tip. The bartenders and servers deserve fair compensation for their efforts.

While a dollar or two is sufficient for a beer or poured drink, consider the amount of work that goes into mixing a balanced cocktail. Tipping at least 20% on the total bill or per cocktail is considered fair.

Throw in a couple of extra bucks to show your appreciation when your server and bartender exceeded your expectations.