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Entertaining & Etiquette

Tipping a bartender on an absolute, bare minimum, to the drop pour.


Entertaining & Etiquette 115

Tipping a bartender on an absolute, bare minimum, to the drop pour.

Particular | Sep 19, 2012 08:13 PM

The other night at a restaurant on the upper west side of Manhattan I sat at the bar while waiting for a friend to join me. I asked the bartender (a young blond actress type wishing she was clearly someplace else) about the 3 Rosés they had and if I could have a taste of two of them to choose. No problem. One was decent; typically in restaurants, Rosés are lifeless and plain but this was pleasant enough. It was $9 a glass. I watched her eyeball the pour to maybe, maybe 4 and a half oz. While pouring she had the concentration of a neurosurgeon removing a tumor to pouring the absolute minimum. Not one drop extra would be in the glass. In fact, she left about 1 oz in the bottle, corked it and put it back in the ice bin. (Later I watched her pour the remnants of that bottle into another customer's glass, open another bottle and top off the glass to her minimum standard again.)

Okay, I see where we are. It's my choice how we go forward as the lesson is mine. Fool me once... Maybe the owners watch her like a hawk, but that didn't make sense as she was allowed to free pour the cocktails and not measure as I would expect with a hawkish owner. Those pours were also scant at best. Nope, I think she's doing what she thinks is best, but it's definitely not in her best interest to make money.

Then, despite all the evidence I had, I ordered another one. I really didn't expect anything different and she performed exactly as predicted. It was a roll of the dice.

So, now I'm stuck. I know she's making a living off of tips and I feel like a schmuck. Problem is: she's a terrible, terrible bartender. I feel incredibly guilty not tipping her. But I also feel slighted, taken advantage of, a John Doe, captive to protocol, and in a hole of expectations. I look like the jerk if I don't tip. Here's the thing: I have the money, you have the booze. This is a symbiotic relationship. It's quid pro quo. You take care of me and I take care of you. The owner gets the $9 for the glass and your fate is by the pour. The bartender has given me even less then the bare minimum and I'm supposed to give the full price plus a tip? I was really torn. What do you all think? What do you do?

(Yes, I tipped. I gave a buck a drink but loathed it.)

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