Bars

The Barfly’s Dos and Don’ts

A quick-and-dirty etiquette guide.


The days of tipping $1 per drink are long gone. So what’s the best way to figure out how to tip now?

Twenty percent is a good baseline—and a little more on top for a fancy concoction is always appreciated, of course. “Our drinks are very complicated and some of them have 7 to 11 steps,” says Jarek Mountain of Lion’s Tail. “It’s always nice when a guest recognizes the effort and precision that go into a cocktail and throws us an extra dollar.” Of course, if the person behind the bar is a jerk, feel free to tip less.

It’s Saturday night and my local watering hole is packed. What’s a polite way to get the bartender’s attention without seeming pushy?

Be ready, says Jenn Harvey of Temple Bar. She’s got an eye on your body language even if you don’t see it. “If you are turned away or have your head in your phone or the menu, most bartenders will assume you haven’t decided yet,” she says.

Drinking has gotten complicated! These days, a bar might have 100 beers to choose from, or a cocktail list with mysterious ingredients you need a glossary to understand. Is it okay to ask a lot of questions?

Going in knowing your sours from your stouts might make your experience more enjoyable, but a patron should never be afraid to ask for help navigating it all. It’s okay to be upfront about what you don’t know, even if it’s packed, says Jairo Dominguez of Publico Street Bistro & Garden: “You should ask questions regardless of how busy a bar is, just like you would if you were ordering a meal.”