HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


What is an "overpriced" cocktail?

I frequently see people complain about the price of cocktails in Manhattan, not only on Chow but also on Opentable, Zagat, etc. But I find that just about anywhere (nice, not crazy expensive) you go not only in Manhattan, but also Westchester, NJ, Long Island, a cocktail is usually about $15. I guess my question is, to those who find $15 too much for a drink, where are you going to get cheaper drinks?? I'm at the point where if a cocktail is $12, I think it's pretty reasonable!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I honestly think more than $12 is overpriced. I say that because I am quite a fan of the cocktails at The Breslin and PDT (which are $12); thus, if they are completely satiating my desire and more, why would I pay more elsewhere?
    I use those as an example because they are better, in my opinion, than the cocktails I have tasted in other places in recent weeks.

    I believe if I am served something really excellent and it exceeds $12, its price will not diminish its appeal for me.

    The Breslin
    20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

    1 Reply
    1. re: jacquelines

      PDT cocktails were $14 each when I went two weeks ago.

      I expect restaurant cocktails to be $12 and cocktail bar/lounge prices to be $12-15. Pegu Club, PDT, Painkiller, Mayahuel, Death & Co are all in that range. I think that the Mayahuel and Death & Co folks have them as $13 (Death and Co's site is out of date but Mayahuel's lists prices) whereas Painkiller's can be anywhere from $12 to $15 dependent on boozyness. Milk and Honey's are $15, IIRC.

      I would expect hotel bars and rooftop lounges, etc. to gouge you with a price $15+ for a not-good drink: poorly mixed (if at all), dirty soda guns, thinking that "more booze is better," too sweet, off balance.

      Pegu Club
      77 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

      304 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003

    2. Drinks are overpriced when it takes two of them to get me buzzed :)

      1. Overpriced can't simply be narrowed down to pricing.

        A $10 margarita made with just tequila and margarita mix is overpriced, whereas a $10 margarita made with good (or at least average) tequila, fresh lime juice and cointreau would be considered appropriate, if not a good deal.

        10 Replies
        1. re: ESNY

          I agree and generally don't mind paying $15 for a specialty drink, but it would be too much for a tanq and tonic, for example. However, a lot of high end places will charge just that because they can. The other night I asked the sommelier for a white to match my entree (at Maze by Gordon Ramsey @ the London) and it was a perfectly nice glass of wine at a ridiculous $22. Guess I should have asked first!

          1. re: grouchomarx

            What bothers me is the exact same drink that is marked up just cause you are at an extensive place, like for example L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Can't remember what I was drinking but it was something as simple as a Oban neat and they had the gall to charge me $24 even though its a single liquor and I know how much it costs. Stuff like that pisses me off. At four star restaurants, I can understand expensive wines by the glass if they were from nice, more costly bottles. But the price of a glass of non-vintage Veuve shouldn't be that dramatically different across restaurants.

            L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
            57 E 57th St, New York, NY 10022

          2. re: ESNY

            Agreed-this is like asking what price makes a restaurant overpriced. Is Ko overpriced? Was Tavern on the Green overpriced? For some the answer is easy (the latter); for others, not so much. I would much rather pay $12-$15 for a well-thought out cocktail than $8-10 for a quickly splashed-out gin and tonic. In general, for me this translates to the prices being worth it at serious cocktail bars, but not at places that are expensive simply because they are a place to see and be seen.

            1. re: ESNY

              Completely agree with ESNY especially when it's not a specialty drink served at a cocktail and it still costs the same as handcrafted one.

              I'd also add that sometimes the specialty drinks are just too expensive for my wallet. I personally can't justify going out for a couple of drinks at $15-17/drink, even if I know that it's handcrafted with imported water for the ice that they were shaken with. Is the cost justified on the bar's end? Probably, but it's just not where I would want to spend my money. (But the old fashioned at Mayahuel is definitely one of my favorites.)

              304 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003

              1. re: funniduck

                The drinks at Mayahuel are $13-14, though.

                304 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: kathryn

                  Kathryn: That should have been in separate paragraphs.

                  Bookhound: I once went to a catered affair where the mixologist made his own (from imported water) ice, soda water, & infuses his own liquors. He thinks it makes a better drink. Could I tell that the ice was special? No. Were they great drinks? Yes. But personally, I don't know if it's really worth it.

                  1. re: funniduck

                    Ah, got it.

                    Most of the artisanal style cocktail lounges shake with Kold Draft machine ice. Plus, if it's a drink that goes on the rocks, they've either got a supplier of big ice (Natuzzi Brothers ice studio in Queens does this for at least two places I know of) or they make their own (often times big huge blocks of ice that get carved down into cubes or shards before service), so your old-fashioned gets served with one giant ice cube.

                    These bars are paying lots of attention to ice as an ingredient in both making the drink and serving the drink. And they're interested in improving the quality of the ice (never heard of importing water but some bars may be trying to make perfect ice using distilled water that's been boiled or otherwise trying to get the impurities out).


                2. re: funniduck

                  Do any of the high end cocktail bars in New York import water for their ice?

                  1. re: bookhound

                    Probably not in New York, since we have arguably the best and cleanest water in the country.

                3. re: ESNY

                  Right. It's one thing if it's a specialty bar and they're performing feats for you. But a simple, standard drink like a martini has gone from $6/8 to $10/15 in the last few years.

                4. When you compare the price points to a dessert menu, or even a full main course dish, I think it's safe to say anything over $13-14 is pushing it.

                  It's one thing if they're offering pricey spirits, or housemade bitters, or other reductions, but fresh squeezed juice and a common dive bar spirit that retails for $25-40, than $15 is inexcusable. Unless it's served in a punch bowl with flames and a pineapple wedge. No, but really, when you look at what they can do at PDT, D&C, Pegu, it's hard to justify it.

                  I can name a bunch of places I'll never try because drinks start at $18.

                  1. There is a lot of things that go into a cocktail that add and subtract from the price. First you should know what's the ingredients. Obviously the booze, is it a named spirit? High end, middle end low end? Or is it something that they're so ashamed of that they're pulling it from the well, (let us never mention it again)? What kind of spirits are they putting in your drink? Some spirits inherently cost more to make than others. Scotch is expensive because of the cost to store and age it. Vodka, being unaged is cheap to produce (sorry Grey Goose fans, much of what you're paying for their marketing budget).

                    How many different spirits are they using? Places like PDT and Death and Company may use five or more spirits in a single cocktail. Is the drink a highball (A single spirit and something non-alcoholic)? These should never cost that much. If someone is charging $15 for a gin and tonic, I don't care how expensive or organic the gin is or how awesome the tonic is, I'm not ordering it. I could make it at home for 1/15 the cost.

                    Juices: is it fresh squeezed lemons or limes on the spot to order (look for a large bowl of fruit and a industrial squeezer)? Is all squeezed that day into bottles for service? Or do they use Rose's Lime juice? Citrus oxidizes quickly, if you can find a place that squeezes on the spot, you have found yourself a treasure. I haven't seen anywhere in NYC that does this, but I know Hungry Cat in LA and some of the Trader Vic's do.

                    Bartender skills: Fortunately, NYC has made great strides here, and are grooming a lot of good bartenders. That will add to the cost, but if you can find a skillful barman, you will have a friend for life. Do they measure with a jigger? Or do they free pour? Do they give your drinks a good hard shake (10 seconds or more)? Or do they willy-nilly it for a couple of seconds? Do they know when they're supposed to shake and when they're supposed to stir? Hint: all-booze drinks like the Martini, Manhattan and Negroni should be stirred, despite what 007 says. Is the bartender knowledgeable? If they can quote people like Dale Degroff, Jerry Thomas, David Wondrich, Jeff Beachbum Berry, and Don the Beachcomber, then you have yourself a learned scholar.

                    Finally, what I believe is the most important driving reason for prices and an unfortunate thing in the New York cocktail experience: the pedigree of the bar. People who open new cocktail bars tell you whom they used to work for, and they establish this link that goes back to usually two names: Audrey Saunders (who founded Pegu Club) or Sasha Petraske (who founded Milk and Honey). If a new bar is going to open and the owner can say that he used to work for a place, that was opened by a person who worked for a place, and so on... all the way to Milk and Honey... well you can bet your ass the drinks will cost at least $14. And this tidbit will be on all the newsletters and blogs months before the bar's soft opening.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: panoz

                      > I haven't seen anywhere in NYC that does this, but I know Hungry Cat in LA and some of the Trader Vic's do.

                      Milk and Honey will on occasion.

                      > Audrey Saunders (who founded Pegu Club) or Sasha Petraske (who founded Milk and Honey)

                      Well technically the chain now might go Dale DeGroff -> Audrey Saunders -> Jim Meehan -> someone new. And Audrey is partners with Julie Reiner who also has Clover Club & Flatiron Lounge. But yes, it's important to note the links in the cocktail family tree, but I don't think it's THE driving reason that cocktails are $14.

                      Death & Co cocktails are $13 (and their staff right now is from all over), but Painkiller offers some $12 cocktails (and those guys are from Dutch Kills) and Yerba Buena's are $12 (Artemio is ex-Pegu).

                      If you want a cheaper artisanal cocktail, go to Brooklyn.

                      Flatiron Lounge
                      37 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011

                      Pegu Club
                      77 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

                      Milk and Honey
                      134 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

                      1. re: kathryn

                        The best value/price cocktails are in Brooklyn. Dram (not to be confused with Dram shop), Huckleberry Bar, Clover Club, The Richardson, James and tons more all have equally good if not better drinks than their Manhattan counterparts much closer to the $9 or $10 range than the $15 range.