Should You Tip At An Open Bar?

You should always tip your bartender—with one notable exception.

Should You Tip At An Open Bar?

If there’s a tip jar on the bar, fill it! Just because you bought a ticket to an open-bar event doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to showing gratitude for the time and energy of the servers. Treat the bartenders at the open bar like you would the waitstaff at a normal bar. Wait your turn, be polite, and tip generously.

There is one notable exception to this: One place you shouldn’t anticipate tipping is at a wedding reception. The bartenders and servers should absolutely be given a gratuity—but by the hosts, not the guests. A good host never requires their guests to foot any part of the bill, even tips. It’s fair to assume that your hosts are compensating the bartenders as part of a catering or bartending package; they’ll either pay an included gratuity for the servers or they’ll have the opportunity to add a tip themselves at the end of the night. 

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How Much Should You Tip At An Open Bar?

It’s standard practice to tip at least $1 per drink, but keep in mind the complexity of your order. While a $1 tip is perfectly acceptable for something that’s a light lift for the bartender, like a beer, it’s best to tip at least $2 for a more involved cocktail, even if it is just a rum and Coke. 

Alternately, you can drop in your entire night’s tip at once, rather than tipping throughout the event; just make sure you tip around 15 to 20 percent of what your bill at a cash bar would have been.

Open Bar Etiquette

Beyond tipping, there are other rules to keep in mind when enjoying an open bar. Here are just a few of them they would recommend following.

No whining.

Bourbon may be your cocktail of choice, but If the open bar offerings include only wine and beer, happily sip on those for the evening. To complain about the options is to insult your generous hosts. 

Keep your order simple.

If they’re offered, signature cocktails are of course acceptable to request. Otherwise, stick to beer, wine, or straightforward highballs like a gin and tonic or Jack and Coke. 

Don’t treat this like a Piggly Wiggly BOGO sale.

In other words, don't double fist. The beverages may be free, but that doesn't mean you should behave like you’ve been in the desert for 40 days without a drop to drink. The only time you should have a drink in each hand is when you’re bringing one of them to someone else.

Take it slow.

Just because you can have unlimited drinks doesn’t mean you should. There’s no need to speed through your drinks or to indulge in more of them than you typically would. That’s a fast track to embarrassing yourself—and disrespecting your hosts.

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