December 25, 2008


   Home Page

 News & Features


 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note





 Pop Culture



   Video Games
   CD Reviews







   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts





 Find A Hippo




   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad




 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover

Hey, big spender
How to tip on booze
By Tim Protzman

This is the time when you give or receive a holiday/end-of-the-year tip. And even in a tough economy, you’ll get a little something and hopefully you’ll give a little something.

The word “tip” has erroneously been described as an acronym for the words “to insure promptness,” but E. B. White’s little Elements of Style handbook would differ. It suggests the use of “ensure,” so it wouldn’t be a “tip” but a “tep.” Anyway, tip means gratuity or an extra amount or commission added to the bill to pay the person, not establishment, for service provided.

Now tipping is as American as apple pie, as long as it’s a reward and not a surcharge. I’ve eaten meals where the tax and tip were included and most of the time the waitstaff was excellent. Then there’s the “I’m guaranteed a tip on this already so you really don’t need your water glasses filled or a second basket of bread” attitude. This borders on socialism and is un-American. Also, I usually don’t respond to a jar next to the cash register labeled “tips.” In my opinion this is begging, but when I receive exemplary service — a great smile, a friendly touch, a speedy order — I drop something in. Because for the most part, waiters, waitresses, servers, counter help and anyone who provides me with food does a great job and deserves at least 15 percent of the bill as a gratuity. And I always tip on the pre-tax amount, never the tax full amount.

What I want to explain in this column is how to tip on those odd items. Like an expensive bottle of wine. A couple of mixed drinks. A fancy cocktail. And things like haircuts. Each has its own tip system, which the holidays make even more complicated.

Barbers and hairdressers, taxi drivers, coffee shop counter help and carwash attendants typically all get 10 percent. From Dec. 15 through Jan. 1,  bump it up to 15 to 20 percent.

UPS, FedEx, the van driver at the retirement home, your garbagemen, the mail woman and the paperboy only get tipped during the holidays. It should be $15 to $20 depending on the frequency of their visits. If you see Evan from UPS every day and he lugs a 35-pound box of Omaha Steaks up to your third-floor apartment once a month then, he should get $50 to $60. Same with your hairdresser. Do you see her once a week or every other month? The more contact (which equals more work performed) the more gratuity. The rule of thumb is if you’re on a first-name basis with any of these service workers then add a little more. You do not have to tip the cab driver who took you to the airport to go visit grandma over Christmas more than 10 percent, unless you regularly ride with him.

Tipping on alcohol
I generally tip better when I’m on alcohol. But how do I know how much to tip? It depends.

A $110 snifter of Martell XO doesn’t take any more extra work to pour than a Jagermeister, so I’d go with $8 to $10 or 7 to 9 percent. Something that takes work, like a Pink Squirrel, a frozen Grasshopper, a Sazerac or anything from a blender should get about 15 percent. This also includes drinks made from coffee that the barkeep brews up just for you. Layered Pousse Cafes or rainbow drinks, anything with fresh squeezed fruit, coconut milk or juiced vegetables should get an automatic 20 percent tip, as does anything that’s set on fire.

Remember this the next time you ask your local barista at the coffee shop. Froth, flavors or elegantly crafted whipped cream means an extra tip.

How to tip
You’re at a ski lodge listening to music. You order two rum and cokes. It comes to $9.50 and you leave a ten spot. Hey big spender! Stop. Turn around. Reach for your wallet and pull out another dollar. Any drink order over $7 gets a full dollar. A $20 order gets at least a $2 tip. And these are just the drinks you order over the bar. A tab or a printed bill will cost you 15%, unless the service or drinks were abysmal.

The secret to tipping on drinks ordered over the bar, without a waitstaff go-between, is simple.

Tip big on the first round, less on the middle rounds and moderately on the last round. You walk into a bar and order three Bud Lights. It comes to $12. You leave a $4 tip. The next three rounds you leave $1, the last round you leave $2. It adds up to $9; that’s exactly 15 percent of the total $60 tab. The difference is you got their attention upfront. She knows you’re not cheap, and hopefully she’ll move quicker, notice you quicker and get your drinks quicker. Be careful, because if you’re drinking a mixed drink, a well-tipped barkeep will pour on the heavy side, out of gratitude, and you could be over the limit to drive without planning to be.

Wine ordered by the glass and served by your regular waitress is added into the bill and gets at least 15 percent. If the service is really good, go to 18 or 20 percent. If the food was awful but the service sharp, 15 percent is fine, and I’d clue the waitperson in on why they’re not getting the 20 percent they deserve. If the food was good and the service not up to snuff, 7 to 10 percent is fine. If things start out bad and get worse, leave. Pay and tip 15 percent on anything you’ve eaten and explain why you’re leaving. Don’t argue, just leave with dignity. This happened to me and I left $35 to cover the bread, water and salad. The server said, “But you ordered a whole meal!” When I suggested he eat it he looked scared.

Tip 15 percent on any bottle of wine up to $60, after that 12 percent is fine. For any wine over $125, 10 to 12 percent is fine. Add 3 percent if a wine steward comes over and decants or helps you choose a wine. Most wine lists are reasonable and fair, but the wine costs as much as two or three entrees, and it’s easier to present. Most anyone can pull the cork. The more involved the sommelier, wine steward or server is in your wine selection, the higher the percentage. Presenting food quickly, correctly, with good cheer is an art. Treat the server as such when they hit the mark. But just because they wrote the name and bin number down of a wine you chose from their wine list, pulled the cork and poured a glass doesn’t merit an automatic 15-percent gratuity.

These little rules will leave you feeling generous but not gouged and will encourage the server to try even harder the next time.

12/18/2008 White, the budget wine gift

12/11/2008 Taste Burgundy, drink Pommard12/4/2008 The Riesling holidays
11/27/2008 Recession, anti-recession11/20/2008 Gastronomic recovery plan11/13/2008 A vote for...
11/6/2008 Spooky wine
10/30/2008 Critical darling
10/23/2008 An epitaph of good wine10/16/2008 A wine crime
10/9/2008 All my personalities love wine
10/2/2008 Harvest magic

9/25/2008 Where fantasy meets reality9/18/2008 The mojito cure
9/11/2008 Spend Fall in Spain
9/04/2008 Making a break for it
8/28/2008 Achieving the impossible
8/21/2008 AVA in search of a movie
8/14/2008 Return to seller?
8/7/2008 Wine at the game
7/24/2008 Reviving a star
7/17/2008 Champagne staycation
7/10/2008 Pair vintage with vintage
6/26/2008 Leftover wine
6/19/2008 Fortune favors Opus One
6/12/2008 In the year 2048
6/5/2008 Tea, the original infusion
5/29/2008 Hello old friends
5/22/2008 Ancient in the new world
5/15/2008 You are the expert
5/8/2008 The must-drink list
5/1/2008 Gaming wine futures
4/24/2008 Chronos and me
4/17/2008 Getting lucky
4/3/2008 The daquiri's of spring
3/27/2008 Germans play well with others
3/13/2008 Complain yourself happy
3/6/2008 Operatic wine tasting
2/28/2008 Everything must go!
2/21/2008 His & hers bottles
2/7/2008 Friends in spam
1/31/2008 Warm up the wine
1/24/2008 A drink to them
1/17/2008 Stalking the barking dingo
1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions
1/3/2008 Bit of bubbly
12/27/2007 Drinking blind
12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
12/13/2007 The liquor store suite
11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
11/22/2007 Thanks for the Napa cabs
11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali
11/8/2007 Candy Corn hangover
11/1/2007 Drinks with History Channel
10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
10/18/2007 Spooky wines
10/11/2007 Location, location, location
10/04/2007 Shiraz history
9/27/2007 Ingenious appellation
9/20/2007 Small world of wines
9/13/2007 How not to get screwed
9/6/2007 Wine lover's shopping trip
8/30/2007 Bottle surfing
8/23/2007 Lobster goes red
8/16/2007 Emotional tasting notes
8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
8/2/2007 Be your own sommelier
7/26/2007 You do know your wine
7/19/2007 Booze free association
7/12/2007 Raiders of the sidewalk
7/5/2007 A sustainable buzz
6/28/2007 We are the merlot
6/21/2007 Forgot Dad? Bring booze.
6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
6/7/2007 Our lady of the Rioja
5/24/2007 Breaking the fast
5/17/2007 What the best bears drink
5/10/2007It's OK to be pink
5/3/2007 In praise of tastings
4/26/2007 Invention-tini
4/19/2007 More 'Mas'
4/12/2007 Futures in a bottle
3/29/2007 Uneasy glass of spring
3/22/2007 Chateau de blech
3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
3/1/2007 Infatuation or addiction
2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
10/12/2006 Making new friends
10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesn’t sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce