Danielle Herrington of Thunder Canyon Brewery says she was shocked when she saw the huge tip on a relatively small bar tab. The anonymous group Tips for Jesus, which is roving the country, was behind the gift.

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

It was near closing time on Christmas Eve and all that stood between Thunder Canyon Brewery bartender Danielle Herrington and quitting time were two customers.

They ordered a round of drinks, then another when she made last call a short while later. She took their orders but said little else to them.

“I was practically ignoring them actually, letting them chill,” she recalled Tuesday. “It was totally a casual encounter.”

A few minutes later, she gave the couple their $21.75 tab, and they paid with a black American Express card. She knew that was a good sign; the AMEX Black is the world’s most exclusive credit card, and folks who have them are known to be generous tippers.

But Herrington never imagined just how generous until one of the two called her over. “About that tip,” he said, handing her the receipt.

The total billed to the credit card: $1,521.75 — a $1,500 tip.

“I saw the $1,500 on there, and my jaw dropped,” recalled Herrington, 25, who has worked at Thunder Canyon in the Foothills Mall for more than three years. “I stared in disbelief and said, ‘Are you sure about this?’ ”

Turns out Herrington was visited by the anonymous Tips for Jesus group, folks who have been going around the country since at least September dropping obscenely generous tips on bartenders and servers. Their stop in Tucson on Christmas Eve was followed by a swing through Scottsdale on Christmas Day.

After tipping Herrington, the pair stopped into the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain and tipped a bartender named April $2,000 on a $106.48 bill for cocktails, a hamburger and a side of chips and guacamole.

“I’ve done this a long time, and that’s the largest percentage I’ve ever seen,” said Grant Warren, a manager at Thunder Canyon Brewery.

The tippers behind Tips for Jesus — reportedly spearheaded by former PayPal Vice President Jack Selby — have documented the giving spree on an Instagram account (instagram.com/tipsforjesus), which describes their mission as “Doing the Lord’s work, one tip at a time.”

There are no strings attached to Tips for Jesus gifts. According to some media reports, all the group wants is for people to pay it forward, repay a kind deed with a kind deed.

Herrington, who graduated from the University of Arizona School of Journalism in December, said she gave 10 percent of the windfall to a bar staffer working with her on Christmas Eve. She also bought a round of holiday drinks for herself and a couple of Thunder Canyon regulars, and will use the rest of the money to pay the mortgage on the house she just bought with her boyfriend.

Before the pair left, they signed a dollar bill with “Tip for Jesus” and “God Bless” and took a photo of the bill after Herrington taped it to the ceiling alongside others.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@azstarnet.com or 573-4642.

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.