Why Would a Bartender Give You a Free Drink?

Last Updated on June 25, 2023 by Lauren Beck

Imagine sitting at the bar, enjoying your evening, when the bartender surprises you with a free drink. It’s a gesture that raises eyebrows and sparks curiosity. 

As someone who has spent time behind the bar, I’ll share the secrets behind why bartenders occasionally offer complimentary drinks. 

Let’s unravel the intriguing reasons that make bartenders sprinkle extra magic into your night!

Why Would a Bartender Give You a Free Drink?

Bartenders may give you a free drink for various reasons, including building customer relationships, celebrating special occasions, showing appreciation for regulars, or as a goodwill gesture. 

However, it’s important to remember that free drinks are at the bartender’s discretion and not guaranteed.

When does a Bartender decide to Offer You a Free Shot?

  • Good Customer Relationship: If you’re a regular customer who has built a positive rapport with the bartender, they may occasionally reward you with a free shot as a token of appreciation.
  • Celebrations and Special Occasions: Bartenders often offer free shots to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, or other significant milestones. It’s their way of making the occasion even more memorable.

Is It Common for Bartenders to Give Free Drinks to Their Friends?

  • Bar Policy: Some establishments have strict policies against giving free drinks to friends, as it can be seen as favoritism and compromise the integrity of the service.
  • Professionalism and Ethics: Bartenders are expected to maintain a level of professionalism and adhere to ethical standards. They must prioritize customer service and treat everyone fairly, including friends.

Reasons You Won’t Get a Free Drink

Bartender Making Cocktail Drink
  • Busy Shifts: During peak hours or when the bar is crowded, bartenders may not have the time or resources to offer free drinks.
  • Limited Inventory: If certain ingredients or alcohol stocks are running low, bartenders may prioritize serving to pay customers rather than giving out free drinks.

How to Get Free Drinks in a Bar?

  • Engage in Conversation: Strike up a friendly conversation with the bartender, showing genuine interest in their craft and the establishment. Building a connection can increase your chances of receiving a complimentary drink.
  • Tip Generously: Tipping well and consistently demonstrates your appreciation for the service. While it doesn’t guarantee a free drink, it may influence the bartender’s decision in your favor.

What Does the Term “50 Rule” Mean in the World of Bartending?

The 50 Rule is a common practice in bartending where the bartender offers a free drink to a customer after they have purchased a certain number of drinks. 

For example, the sixth one may be complimentary after buying five drinks. This rule is not universally followed, but some bartenders use it to reward and retain customers.

How Much Do You Tip a Bartender per Drink?

The standard tipping etiquette for bartenders is to tip $1 to $2 per drink [1] or 15% to 20% of the total bill if you’re running a tab. 

However, if you receive exceptional service or a free drink, it’s considerate to tip more as a gesture of gratitude.


As we conclude our exploration of why bartenders might bestow a free drink upon you, it becomes clear that their generosity stems from building relationships, celebrating special moments, and demonstrating appreciation. 

While receiving a complimentary drink is a pleasant surprise, it’s important to remember that it’s not a guaranteed entitlement. Bartenders have their own criteria and circumstances that influence their decisions. 

So, enjoy the occasional unexpected treat, engage in genuine conversation, and embrace the art of tipping to foster a positive connection with bartenders. Here’s to the magic and camaraderie that unfolds at the bar, one sip at a time. Cheers!


Lauren Beck
Latest posts by Lauren Beck (see all)

Leave a Comment