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Nov 12, 2009 10:54 AM

Tipping Etiquette: What to do at a Classy Bar in Paris?

When in Paris next month, I plan to stop into the Bar Hemingway. When the bill comes, I want to neither offend the bartender nor part with many more euros than is necessary.

I am familiar with restaurant tipping etiquette, but what should I do when ordering a cocktail at a fancy bar in Paris? what about when ordering a glass of wine?

Thank you in advance for your advice.

(And I hope it's not too off-topic for me to ask a cocktail-related question on Chowhound - but many of you seem so knowledgeable about Paris, and sometimes a chowhound needs a drink!)

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  1. Leave the coins from your change - maximum is a few euros. Works in all bars and cafe's, as generally you pay at the end. If it is a single drink then the loose change up to a euro.

    1. The Hemingway bar is a special case. With drinks approaching and higher than 50€ each, leaving 10% can't be coins, and besides, you're unlikely to pay cash.

      The rule at the Hemingway is the same as everywhere in France: you can leave nothing, you can leave a lot, the question is how you live with it. In the case of the Hemingway, maybe tipping generously will give you even better treatment if you go again soon.

      10 Replies
      1. re: souphie

        Where does 10% come from? Do Parisians really tip anything like 10% in a bar and cafe? Definitely not in my experience; isn't that a US artefact? A glass of wine in the Hemingway is expensive but isn't anywhere near €50, you only pay that if you are having a cocktail.

        I also disagree with the logic of a generous tip in the Hemingway, after all isn't the raison d'être of The Ritz to offer superb service? Is it really necessary to offer a large tip to get an improvement on superb?

        PS: I actually think it is a very overrated bar, it is small and pokey tucked away at the back of the hotel.

        1. re: PhilD

          There is no such thing as an overrated bar.

          1. re: PhilD

            It is very overrated if you want a glass of wine. But the whole point of the place is the extraordinary cocktails.

            It's a place where tipping a few coins is ridiculous, just like any high end establishment. You don't need to tip, but if you do, it has to be notes, and 5 is small.

            1. re: souphie

              This last paragraph is comforting.
              I always wondered if our custom of leaving, say, 20EUR, sometimes more, at high end restaurants in Paris made us look like people who don't have a clue at all (which we are, in a way), or if it was something regular diners do too.

              1. re: olivierb

                "This last paragraph is comforting" Olivier, that made me laugh. My observation is that many people from the US are looking for confirmation that they can tip; tipping is in the DNA so it is very uncomfortable not to tip. Why go through all the stress of not tipping when it is simple to continue to do as you usually do (after all it is your money).

                Bar and restaurant staff love US visitors because of their generosity, luckily for people like me from non-tipping cultures they are also used to the local custom of not tipping (or tipping a token amount) as a result I still get treated well.

                You are on your holidays, to relax and enjoy Paris; you don't need to become French to do that, and if you are from the US staff expect a tip, after all, all your compatriots tip so you don't stand out. This is especially true in the Hemingway Bar which is a site of pilgrimage for many US visitors, but far less so for other nationalities.

                1. re: PhilD

                  But I'm French and live in Paris!

                  1. re: olivierb

                    My mistake, but it does make your comment puzzeling.

                    My comment wasn't specific to you more of a general comment on the seeming paranoia surrounding tipping in France. My sense is lots of people want to tip, and are seeking confirmation they can.

                    I think it is also wise to remember the majority of contributions are by people from the US or those with close associations to the US: obviously a group whose views are influenced by their personal experience and heritage.

              2. re: souphie

                Thanks, all, for your responses.

                The reason I asked about cocktails as compared to wine is that mixing cocktails is supposedly more of a craft than pouring wine, so I was wondering if perhaps it would be appropriate to tip. Now that I think of it, though, I suppose that tipping at bars (even overpriced ones) is governed by the same set of rules as tipping at restaurants.
                It's just that my American tipping habit is hard to break!

              3. re: PhilD

                I agree with your last comment.
                In fact the current Hemingway bar has nothing to do with the bar that Hemingway frequented at the Ritz. It is actually next door, closed and years ago was the main Ritz bar.

              4. re: souphie

                What the (insert not work safe word)... !!!

                I just looked at the drink prices at Hemmingway's! 30€ for 1 drink!!!! that's 47 canadian pesos!!! that's a lot of money!!! I can spend money on wine and food, but drinks!!!

                That's completly out of my league!!

              5. Re: Hemingway - I don't think that you will offend them if you don't leave a tip. What will offend is not taking an interest in their cocktails. I made that "mistake" on my first visit 5 years ago. Don't ask me why I thought I needed another 30euro drink but my second order was a pedestrian gin and tonic as opposed to my first where I asked him to make whatever he wanted. The disgust was noticble. Saw the same thing 3 weeks ago when a very noisy worman from the south ordered a Margarita. Also, don't expect a magical experience. It's a nice place to have drink if you are in the area - nothing more.

                1. In my experience it is not true that locals don't tip. I think locals tip a lesser amount, but it is rare that one leaves nothing.
                  Personally I tip not in order to be treated better next time, but more because I was treated well THIS time.

                  As for the Ritz Hemingway bar, the bartenders are wonderful. Not only are they cocktail wizards but they have the right dose of friendliness + wit + discretion, making one feel like a special regular - which must be the summit of bartendership. -- Well, of course the place is expensive. Not my daily hangout exactly, but always a very pleasant stop before dinner somewhere else. Last time I went there it was to "punish" a dinner companion who was going to be late. I told Mr Late that I would be waiting at the Ritz bar and ordering without him. You bet Mr Late made an effort to hurry. Actually we ended up having such a tood time we ordered drinks after drinks and nearly forgot dinner, which of course turned out to cost less than the bar bill.
                  And once something magic did happen there, at the door of the Ritz, not in the bar. I was on my way to the bar but asked the taxi to leave me at the front door and not on rue Cambon, because I always like the long walk down the spooky corridor. The carpet is so thick you think your heels are sinking into a mattress. -- But that's not the magic part...
                  It was raining. The hotel staff formed a cascade of umbrellas shielding me from the taxi across the wide sidewalk up the stairs to the front door, Not a drop! Not a drop of rain touched me as I sailed through a long line of smiling men holding out umbrellas. Cmon, which girl can resist that?
                  I therefore strongly recommend that one arrive in taxi in the rain, at the front door.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Parigi

                    I'm with Parigi -- the Hemingway place is a magical place. Bartenders and cocktails are wonderful -- actually, it's the only place where I would ever consider getting a cocktail. They make sense, here.

                    1. re: souphie

                      Well, I've never been to the Hemingway bar and it isn't likely that I'll be going there anytime soon (I'm off liquor and caffeine) but nevertheless, my take on tipping in Paris is that you do what you think is appropriate for the place and service you receive.

                      My companion is a part-time Parisian and when we go out, we are often with our friends and family who live there. From what I can remember, they all tip as in they round up the bill at cafes and at restaurants, leave more or less 5 % if the service was good. I think it'd take a lot to leave 10% unless our bill is less than 30 euros and we just feel like leaving a bit more.

                      Now, if we were to go to a place like the Hemingway bar and our bill came out to say 100 euros, I'd feel okay leaving a 5 euro note if everything was just so-so but if we had a pleasant evening, I'd be more inclined to leave a 10 euro note but again, I was raised by my grandmother who often left a very generous tip and sent drinks to the kitchen.

                  2. Time for all you you who are worried about tipping to take a vacation from fear. Go to Australia or New Zealand. Once there, do NOT tip. Period. Have fun. Relax.

                    Ok, so the food may not be as in Paris, but there are some very nice Ozzie wines and the lamb grown in both countries is wonderful.