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Jan 11, 2011 11:49 AM

Just for fun - most overpriced drinks in Boston?

Met my SO at Beehive for a beer on Sunday - $8.25 for a draft Harpoon IPA?? Got me thinking about other places that are shameless in their bar markups. What do you think?

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  1. wine is the biggest problem. i remember having an unpleasant shock at Radius though not the details. They can triple the price of wine.

    14 Replies
    1. re: cambridgedoctpr

      Wine is definitely a tricky issue. I don't mind paying $10 - 12 for something perfect with my course if companions are eating / drinking something else, (that's how I usually do wine by the glass) but....

      I like big pours and I cannot lie.

      Pours the other night at Scampo were just about right. I've felt swindled at some other places around town. Robbed I tell ya.

      215 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114

      1. re: yumyum

        lol...if you also said you like your Cabs big and round, I might have nosed my coffee this morning.

        1. re: yumyum

          ...with a glass in hand with an itty bitty stem
          and a round bowl in your face...

          1. re: Niblet

            You win! You are the winner of the intarwebs! All hail the Nibs.

            1. re: Niblet

              Oh my god, thank you for that!!! Excellent! I bow in your presence....

          2. re: cambridgedoctpr

            my last meal at radius, several years back, the cheapest red on the list was $85. it was a bottle i knew wholesaled for under $15. egregious. one of the many reasons i never went back.

            1. re: cambridgedoctpr

              I thought tripling the price of the wine was the industry standard.

              1. re: tatamagouche

                Do you mean in Boston or in the restaurant business in general.? I spend a little time in Portland, Maine and their restaurants have wine at far more reasonable markups than in Boston. So I amnow being more discerning in ordering wine in Boston despite the fact that I love having a little extravagance when I go out to dine. It has becaome a real annoyance to not be able to find a decent bottle under $60.00 at even intemedciate Boston restaurants

                1. re: Northender

                  I guess I assumed Boston was commensurate with the industry in general in the US—here in Denver, the food costs are lower, which makes wine prices seem all the more egregious. Maybe hotoynoodle can speak to this?

                  1. re: tatamagouche

                    i'm not sure what the distribution system is in colorado, but we have a 3-tier system as well as pretty high taxes on all alcohol. it gets passed along and along and eventually the consumer bears the brunt.

                    some places, like steakhouses, have onerous mark-ups. certain owners choose a different business model. since i know the wholesale cost of nearly everything, often times i'll have a martini instead, lol. there are some places i simply refuse to go because the mark-ups are so ridiculous as to be nearly criminal.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Agree. Unfortunately, the martini alternative strategy starts out as a great idea and then devolves into a more unfortunate denouement

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        MA alcohol taxes aren't really that high. The state gets $0.11 per gallon of beer and $0.55 per gallon of wine. For comparison, CO is $0.08 per gallon of beer and $0.32 per gallon of wine. A sizable difference on a percentage basis, but on an absolute basis, it's no more than a nickel per bottle of wine difference.

                        1. re: emannths

                          I know that it is a little unfair to compare Boston restaurant wine prices with Portland Maine because i am sure that rental costs are higher in Boston than in Portland. But the difference in mark up is still astounding and the lack of lower priced selections is just plain bad hospitality. Even if markups are going to be 300%, there are still selections that can be had for under the $50- 60$ starting points many Boston restaurants are offering. And i believe Maine may have higher liquor taxes than Massachusetts. rant over now, thanks

                2. re: cambridgedoctpr

                  Mid-range places usually mark up 250%.

                  High-end places operate on a lower margin with a bigger per so 300% is the rule of thumb.

                  Mid-range places comp 5%.

                  High-end places comp 10%

                  See the posting on NOT ABOUT FOOD re:"buybacks' for the details effect pricing.

                3. Hmmmm, good question. Is it still $10 for a glass of cask ale at Stoddard's?

                  1. Well you have to put Fenway Park on the list for the outrageously priced swill they call draft beer. What are they now about $8?

                    Fenway Park
                    82 Lansdowne Street, Boston, MA 02215

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pemma

                      Indeed. And TD Garden, too. Light beer in a plastic cup for around $7? Insane.....

                    2. Most overpriced drinks? Whiskey Park: expensive, warm, utterly ineptly put together. But the whole place, everything about it, is a con, so no one should ever be surprised by this.

                      There are many, many places in town serving $12-14 cocktails that are completely indifferently made. Elaborate specialty cocktail list, a mile and a half of flavored vodkas, and zero technical proficiency or passion. Probably 1 in 3 fine dining restaurants with an average entree price over $18 and a full liquor license in Greater Boston is like this.

                      The programs that offend me the most are the ones aping the trappings of the serious craft cocktail bars: they feature pre-Prohibition classics, display lots of bitters, and so on, but they're complete poseurs. Their commitment to craft ended when they paid the consultant who slapped an Aviation on their cocktail list. Post 390 comes to mind on this score: they once served me a Sazerac in a big snifter over a fistful of ice cubes. There are many things wrong with that, but not giving a damn while pretending to is the biggest sin, in my book.

                      I need to do another pricing analysis on wines by-the-glass: I suspect The Butcher Shop has a lot more company these days in the shameless gouging department.


                      Whiskey Park
                      64 Arlington St, Boston, MA 02116

                      Post 390
                      406 Stuart Street, Boston, MA 02116

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        i had a $15 aviation at sel de la terre that was like a glass of liquid sweet tart. disgusting. the guy that made it makes me wince every time he waits on me with his attempts to up-sell and general obsequiousness.

                        i am a fan of certain hotel bars, like the ritz and the boston harbor. the atmosphere is luxe and as such the prices are on the high side of average, but glassware is excellent, service is attentive without snobbery or attitude and pours are always on the generous side. i am not a fruity-tootie cocktail gal, and my manhattan drinking freind is well-served in these spots too.

                        sel de la terre
                        boston, MA, boston, MA

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Agree on many hotel bars, like the Rowes Wharf Bar, Bar at The Taj, Brasserie Jo.


                          Brasserie Jo
                          120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            It's always worth it to have a drink at the Taj by the window overlooking Arlington St.. Prices are high, but at least you get nuts!

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              Speaking of hotel bars, I was at the Oak Room recently. I noticed they were infusing gin with cucumber. I asked for that with bitters, vermouth and lemon. It was a pretty good drink and worth the $12 I expected to pay. When I got my tab I noticed it was $20.

                              Charging twenty dollars for a cocktail I could easily make at home for about $4 worth of ingredients is shameful. Also, their beer selection is a joke. Have they updated it since 1989?

                              Oak Room
                              138 St. James Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                              1. re: Kinopio

                                Unless you got a small glass somehow, I disagree that $20 is too much at the Oak Room. They are VERY large drinks, really two. And, instead of having half a cold drink and half a warm drink, they "split" the drink, pouring some into your glass and keeping some chilled in a iced carafe. Did you not receive your drink this way?

                                1. re: Alcachofa

                                  I wouldn't call what I received two drinks worth. Maybe 1 and then a couple extra sips.

                                  Either way I felt ripped off since I can get a superior cocktail at (admittedly less fancy) Eastern Standard for half the price. The Oak Bar is very nice but certainly not so nice that it should be charging double the price.

                                  Eastern Standard
                                  528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                                  1. re: Kinopio

                                    Again, for the drinks I've had there, they weren't double the price, since they were double the size of ES's drinks, so really the same price on a per ounce basis. I usually just order a basic Sidecar or Martini.

                                2. re: Kinopio

                                  I doubt if it was infused gin. It probably was Hendricks Gin, which I believe is cucumber based, and premium priced. Still, $20.00 is extremely high for a "martoonie". They are good though!

                                  1. re: CocoDan

                                    It was definitely infused gin. They had a large jar with cucumber slices and gin in it.

                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                I had a sazerac at Mortons Seaport that was literally Campari on the rocks;When I mentioned to the bartender that I didn't order a Campari, she told me that was how they made Sazerac's there.She then proceeded to ask me how I'd make one. I told her I would start with omitting Campari, rinsing a glass with Herbsaint and grabbing the one bottle of rye whiskey thay had on the shelf.....

                                1. re: phatchris

                                  Heh. Her response?

                                  There's lots I miss about Boston, all the time, but the lack of happy hour isn't one of them. Denver's all about the HH.

                                  1. re: tatamagouche

                                    She shook her head and I ended up giving in and having a Rye on the rocks with a dash of peychauds...close enough :) I'm not asssuming she thought Campari was a Sazerac, she clearly gave me someone elses order.It was her snooty response of "thats how we make Sazeracs here!How would you do it better! That pissed me off a bit.

                                2. re: MC Slim JB

                                  We've moved a digression about bar "buy backs" to the Not About Food board, at .

                                3. The Capital Grille on Newbury has a special place in this pantheon for me. The charge $10++ for a drink and regularly serve it in a scalding hot glass.

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: Gabatta

                                    I would return that immediately and I almost never send food/drinks back. A hot cocktail glass at a restaurant of the purported caliber of Capital Grille is completely unacceptable. If everyone sent them back, the bartenders likely wouldn't do it anymore.

                                    1. re: Gordough

                                      i have sent back more than one hot glass in my day. also quite a few that reeked of dishwasher solution. and with lipstick (not mine, lol) on it.

                                      1. re: Gordough

                                        Oh trust me I did regularly.

                                        The reason they had a chance to screw me so many times was because I used to live on Comm Ave right around the corner. We would eat at the bar on occasion (really like the food) and the hot glasses got to be a running joke. Only the bar tender who was the distributor of hot glasses would get irritated, he was a real jerk and still works there.

                                        Russell House has also been an offender of this same issue lately (hot glass). Their drinks are not grossly overpriced, but the bar tender is woefully subpar there.

                                        1. re: Gabatta

                                          Capital Grill used to have a "secret" system. This goes back a few years ..10 +when I spent more time in bars so the prices may be off but this was the scam..if you asked for a glass of red, you paid $10. If you asked for the house red, you were charged $7. I don't know if the wine was any different but using the word "house" identified you as a regular or at least someone who "knew" the game.

                                          1. re: 9lives

                                            my experience has been that most guests asking for house wine don't realize you may offer 10 different reds by the glass. it's not a secret system, but woe be the server who gets sticker shock from a guest when the check is delivered.

                                            capital grille has wine for $7 a glass?

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              Like I said, I haven't been to the bar at CG for over 10 years and used the $10 vs 7 for illustration purposes. I'm sure prices are higher today due to inflation.

                                              I'm sure that now most of us ask for a list of wines by the glass, but not very long ago, there were people that asked for a Scotch on the rocks or a glass of red...without specifying a brand. Plenty of people still do.

                                              Not anyone here, of course..:)

                                              eta..A woman who asked for a glass of Chardonnay (not unusual) would pay $10,,glass of house white..$7

                                              Guy asking for a glass of Cabernet..$ red..$7

                                              2 or 3 deep at the bar; no one asked for a wine list with prices on it or discuss vintages...lucky to get the bartender's attention...order or next customer

                                              Please don't hold me to exact #s but that was the idea.

                                              1. re: 9lives

                                                lol, when biba broke the $10 ceiling on a glass of chardonnay (back in the day) the office girls in anne taylor suits and reeboks went berserk!

                                            2. re: 9lives

                                              Bingo! This drives down pouring costs thus enabling more unauthorized "buy backs".