The Polite Way To Tip On Discounted Drinks

Who doesn't love a free drink? Whether you're taking advantage of a buy-one-get-one happy hour special, enjoying a last-call buyback after several pints, or visiting a bartender friend at work to get a cocktail comped, scoring a free or discounted drink is always a win.

However, as the saying goes, there's no such thing as a free lunch — or drink. Whether you pay for that espresso martini or not, someone is on the clock to shake it up for you, another person will have to clean up later, and the bar has certainly paid for all the ingredients that go into it. Therefore, it's crucial to tip responsibly. Just because you're drinking for free doesn't mean your bartender is working for free.

Luckily, there's a simple, must-know etiquette for tipping. If you're getting two drinks for the price of one, tip for both. That's right — double the tip amount for the drink you paid for.

How to tip on happy hour drinks

Now, even though tipping on a two-for-one drink special is pretty straightforward, it becomes slightly more complex with a standard discounted drink. Let's say you order a specialty cocktail from the happy hour menu that normally costs $15 but is currently reduced to $10. What would be an appropriate tip in this scenario?

Most people know that the etiquette for tipping on cocktails versus wine or beer varies, and that complex cocktails often deserve a higher tip. So, you might be tempted to tip based on the discounted amount, but we urge you to go the extra mile, here. After all, should your bartender earn less for doing the same job? We think not.

One solution is to tip based on the non-discounted price. However, if you're unfamiliar with the bar or restaurant and don't know the original cost, tipping 25% on the listed price should cover you (after tax, of course).

How to tip on a free drink

Okay, so you understand how to tip at happy hour. But what if your drink isn't just discounted, but entirely free? Many bars offer a "buyback" to loyal customers, where your fourth or fifth drink of the night is comped as an incentive to keep you around. If you're lucky enough to receive this, be sure to thank your bartender with a generous tip. Tip as you would for any other drink, and perhaps add a little extra.

If you're visiting a friend who works at a bar and they comp you a drink or two, tipping well shouldn't require a pep talk — they're your friend, after all! In such cases, you should aim to tip at least half the cost of the drink, or even the full cost. For example, if you receive a $16 cocktail on the house, your tip should range from $8 to $16.