But please don’t say it’s your birthday.

Jillian Kramer
April 17, 2018

Maybe you’ve never gotten a free drink at a bar—from a bartender, that is. Or perhaps you have, but you have no clue what you did to earn a beverage on the house. Either way, if you are looking for tips on how to score free drinks on your next night out, you’ve come to the right place. Three bartenders are here to dish on how you can snag a drink for exactly $0 (plus a generous tip, of course.)

Be generous—with others, as well as with your tip.

Ricky Powell, bartender at BAR in Philadelphia, says that the easiest way to get a bartender to offer you a free drink is to show that you are generous—to either your friends, or to the bartender. “If you bought a round for a group of friends and were generous with a tip, you might earn yourself a drink on the next round,” Powell says. Just be humble about it, please.

Refer the bar to a friend—or ten. 

“The best way to earn a free thank-you drink is to share our bar with your friends,” advises Jeremy Allen, general manager and head bartender of MiniBar Hollywood, who adds that, “it's awesome when someone leaves happy enough to tell a friend or two about us, and it's even more awesome if they comes back the next night with a friend or a group of friends.”

Be loyal to a single bartender.

Being a repeat customer to a single bartender is an easy way to score a free drink, says Ben Spirk, head bartender at Manatawny Still Works Tasting Room in Philadelphia. “Becoming a loyal regular to a specific bartender will most likely end in a few comps if you’re there often and drink more than two rounds,” he says. But beware: don’t ignore other bartenders in an attempt to get a free drink from your new friend, Spirk says. Bartenders won’t like that.  

Announce you’re celebrating a big event.

If you’re in the bar celebrating a life-changing event—you’ve earned a raise, snagged a new job, closed on a house, or proposed to the love of your life—let the bartender know your good news, Powell says. He or she may be inclined to celebrate with you, via a free drink. Just don’t say it’s your birthday. “For us, proclaiming it’s your birthday is a sure-fire way to not get a free drink,” Powell warns. That particular celebration is too often abused.

Bring the office happy hour to your favorite bar.

The next time your boss suggests an office happy hour, ask him or her to host it at your favorite bar.” If your boss buys rounds for the office, I promise I’ll drop some drink tokens in your pocket for next time if you were the one who set it up,” Allen says. This is a move Allen promises “works every time. If you bring the party, then you get the free drinks.”

Show up when the bar is slow.

According to Spirk, “you are more likely to get a comped drink if you show up during a slow time when you can connect and have a conversation with the person behind the bar, rather than a busy Friday or Saturday night.” By coming in when the bar is slow and keeping the bartender company, you do double duty: the bartender gets to know you better, and you are making a slow night go more quickly. “Good service goes both ways,” Spirk explains.