The Tipping Etiquette Rule For 2-For-1 Drink Specials

The questions of who to tip and when to tip them can get a bit convoluted. While most people in the U.S. realize it is standard procedure to tip waiters and cab or rideshare drivers who take you to a bar, it can be unclear how tipping should work once you're inside a bar drinking.

Proper etiquette dictates you should tip bartenders since the U.S. Department of Labor allows them — like waiters at table service restaurants — to be paid less than minimum wage as it is assumed they will earn tips. This unique and controversial system varies from state to state based on the minimum wage and local policy which further adds to the common misunderstandings about how and when to tip for drinks. Restaurant Business notes that even restaurant owners struggle when trying to determine what percentage of customers' tips should go to the bar staff causing industry-wide confusion and inconsistency.

Rules for bar tipping

Even though the system of tipping is incredibly exploitative, you can't really opt out, notes Eater. So how much should you be tipping your bartender? Various experts have differing opinions, as illustrated by Thrillist, but the general consensus is that you need to tip at least $1 per drink or, if you are running a tab, 18% to 20% of the total bill at the end of the night, as you would at a sit down restaurant.

If you are paying per drink or per round of drinks, then there is also some wiggle room on what is considered appropriate. As Food & Wine explains, $1 per drink is an acceptable tip unless you are ordering complicated cocktails that require more than a simple pour. In this situation, the rate goes up to $2 per drink. Food & Wine also notes that drink specials are not exempt from the tip rule. If a bar is offering a "2 for 1" promotion and you use it to get matching drinks for you and your friend, you should still tip double since the bartender still did the work of pouring two drinks. Yes, it will increase the percentage of the bill you paid in a tip, but you will still have saved the total cost of the second drink.