If you’ve ever had a truly fantastic local bartender, the kind that turned a bar you liked into a bar you loved, then you know how important great service can be. But showing appreciation for that great bartender can be tricky because, unlike at restaurants where tipping and behavior guidelines are pretty standard, best practices for bars can vary based on location.
For instance, should you tip a dollar per drink or twenty percent at the end of the night? According to The Itty Bitty Guide to Tipping, both are acceptable, but many opt to tip big on the first round to make sure the bartender stays attentive to refills. However, the dollar a drink rule can come off as pretty cheap when drinking top shelf cocktails that require a lot of effort to make, such as sazeracs or dirty martinis. It those cases, twenty percent is best, but bear in mind that bartenders always appreciate cash.
One way to stay in your bartender’s good graces is to be prepared when he our she comes to take your order, according to Matt Holland, a Lake Charles bartender with more than 10 years of experience. "Our least favorite drink to make is ‘Ummmm,’” says Holland. "If we approach and you are not ready to order, let us know so we can take other guest.”
Guests should also order all their drinks at the same time. "Nothing will infuriate a bartender more than a patron who orders two jack and cokes and two beers, the bartender delivering them, and upon delivery being greeted with ‘Oh, and two lemon drop martinis,’” says Holland.
Common courtesy is very important in bars, where alcohol can sometimes make patrons forget their manners. Even if you’re dying of thirst, snapping at the bartender or yelling is never acceptable. "Try to respect the bartenders as people,” says Holland. "You might not know our names but we aren't named "Hey!" and we don't always respond well to knocking a spoon on a glass or snapping fingers to get our attention. A simple raise of the hand or a nod with eye contact is enough to get a bartender’s attention.”
But the best way to win over your bartender is to treat him or her with the same respect you’d treat your boss or a friend. "Sometimes a simple "Please” or "Thank you” and a smile can make the bar experience much better,” says Holland. "If a bartender sees that a customer appreciates the service, he or she will have no problem going that extra mile to make sure the customer enjoys his experience.”