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martini gouging

trav Jul 30, 2012 06:54 AM

As a way of controlling our restaurant dinner costs, my husband and I often order martinis with the house gin. We inquire what that gin is and most times it is Beefeater or similar. When the bill comes, a more expensive gin has been substituted and the price is higher than we anticipated.
Here are my questions--
Is it gauche to ask how much a martini is before ordering? Most menus don't include this information.
How does one handle the situation when the more expensive gin is used especially when dining with others? Thanks for your advice.

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  1. w
    wyogal RE: trav Jul 30, 2012 07:21 AM

    The restaurant WANTS you to think it's gauche to ask, that's why they don't put the prices there. They are more expensive than you would think. Go ahead and ask.
    Ask them to make the drink you want with the type of booze you want. Because it's your favorite. If the bill comes and it 2 bucks higher, no problem, but if it's $20 higher than expected, I would probably ask about it. Maybe not in front of everyone at the table, but maybe off to the side.

    5 Replies
    1. re: wyogal
      muscles_marinara RE: wyogal Aug 2, 2012 07:38 AM

      Oh, come on. :-) They don't put the prices on the menu because statistically, people feel better about spending money on something when the price tag isn't staring them in the face... it's one of the first things you learn about menu design in restaurant management school, but the restaurant manager isn't sitting in back, twisting his moustache, conspiring ways to emotionally manipulate you into not asking how much things cost.

      1. re: muscles_marinara
        julesrules RE: muscles_marinara Aug 2, 2012 07:47 AM

        You pretty much confirmed her point, which is that it's a manipulative marketing technique. She didn't say anything about mustache twirling.
        Personally, if I were trying to control costs, I would not be ordering martinis in restaurants which don't list their price.

        1. re: muscles_marinara
          wyogal RE: muscles_marinara Aug 2, 2012 08:08 AM

          and what I learned in the class (yes, cooking school/hospitality management), is that customers will spend more if there are no prices. It has nothing to do with customer comfort, it has everything to do with the bottom line: profit.
          And yes, the manager may not have a moustache, but he/she is definitely conspiring on how to best get the most $$ he/she can out of the customer.

          1. re: muscles_marinara
            zin1953 RE: muscles_marinara Aug 3, 2012 07:14 AM

            Don't know where you drink your cocktails, but I can't think of any bar/restaurant that DOESN'T put prices on their cocktail menu . . .

            Granted, if one just walks in the front door, saddles up to the bar, and orders a drink, then he/she will have no idea what it costs, but if one is looking at their cocktail menu . . . . they ALWAYS have prices on them -- at least in my own humble experience.

            1. re: zin1953
              redfish62 RE: zin1953 Aug 8, 2012 08:53 AM

              Yeah but they never have a regular martini on the cocktail menu, it's always some kind of tarted-up cocktini

        2. n
          nickls RE: trav Jul 30, 2012 08:27 AM

          Asking how much a drink costs is only a problem if you feel it might make you look cheap in front of dining companions. The restaurant should be happy to tell you if you ask.

          If the restaurant has overcharged you or delivered something you didn't ask for, then I would ask your server to refund the difference. Life's too short to go to clip joints, so if they don't happily give me a refund plus an apology then I will not be going back to that restaurant.

          1. m
            monopod RE: trav Jul 30, 2012 09:01 AM

            Wait, you ASK them to use house gin, they substitute a more expensive gin (without telling you) and then charge you for it? That's pure fraud. No way do you pay for it, and if it happens more than once I'd probably quietly ask to see the manager and tell him that his staff is deliberately defrauding customers. There's no excuse for that whatsoever. If no result, I'd probably report to the better business bureau and also drop an email to a local newspaper that reports on the food scene.

            3 Replies
            1. re: monopod
              BiscuitBoy RE: monopod Aug 2, 2012 09:29 AM

              couldn't agree more...the no price thing may be a sales tactic, but I would never buy anything without knowing how much first

              1. re: BiscuitBoy
                Veggo RE: BiscuitBoy Aug 2, 2012 09:35 AM

                I realized I was out of my league at the Four Seasons bar in Manhattan, in 1998, when I bought 3 martinis for my 2 guests and me, handed the barkeep a fifty, and he deadpanned back to me : "that's not enough".

                1. re: Veggo
                  BiscuitBoy RE: Veggo Aug 2, 2012 12:07 PM

                  whew, do you get the whole jar of olives for a > $16 drink?!

            2. JK Grence the Cosmic Jester RE: trav Jul 30, 2012 10:33 PM

              Please, ask the price. We're happy to let you know. If a waiter scoffs at you for asking the price (or worse, scoffs at your selection), then ask the maƮtre d' if it would be possible to have a different waiter, that the one you were given doesn't seem very interested in serving you.

              You handle the switch job exactly the same whether you are with others or not. Ask for the manager and let him know that you were charged for something that you didn't order. It's just the same as if you had ordered a small steak, and they brought you a large one and charged you for it.

              1. yarm RE: trav Jul 31, 2012 10:39 AM

                I make it a rule not to order any drink without a price. If they pull that, I stick with water.


                1. muscles_marinara RE: trav Aug 2, 2012 07:48 AM

                  No, in any worthwhile place, it's not gauche to ask how much something costs. The only places where it would be considered gauche are expensive places where people go, not for the quality of the food or drink, but to appear rich. Brand new Manhattan pan-asian fusion place with mediocre reviews and a 4 million dollar dining room? Probably gauche. Pretty much any place not like that? Probably not.

                  It's also not gauche to tell your server that they messed up the order, and they should realize that their doing so shouldn't cost you money. If they, somehow, don't realize that, a quick conversation with a manager should smooth things out. If not, asking for the owner's contact info isn't out of the question.

                  1. t
                    The Big Crunch RE: trav Aug 3, 2012 07:05 AM

                    I juts don't trust most places to make me a cocktail, especially a martini. Odds are the vermouth is stored on the shelf, and has been there for a while. Not that it matters because the bartender will likely conform to modern styles and put just a dribble of vermouth into my chilled gin and then drop a toothpick loaded with olives into the thing. I know, lots of people must like this drink, but I never enjoyed a martini until I started making it the classic way, with way more fresh vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, and a lemon twist. The idea of olives and gin together literally makes my stomach turn.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: The Big Crunch
                      FrankJBN RE: The Big Crunch Aug 3, 2012 07:12 AM

                      "the classic way, with way more fresh vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, and a lemon twist."

                      Where is this identified as the "classic" martini?

                      1. re: FrankJBN
                        ncyankee101 RE: FrankJBN Aug 3, 2012 10:21 AM


                        Here and many other places.

                        1. re: FrankJBN
                          zin1953 RE: FrankJBN Aug 3, 2012 11:31 AM

                          Also see:




                          As far as I know, the bitters was the first ingredient to disappear. Gin and vermouth were roughly in equal parts. Then, more gin-to-vermouth, than still more gin-to-vermouth, then merely letting the Martini glass *see* the bottle of vermouth . . . . .

                          1. re: zin1953
                            ncyankee101 RE: zin1953 Aug 3, 2012 11:36 AM

                            I rarely see people mention martinis with sweet vermouth, but in the one article you linked, Robert Hess says that was the original intent.

                            I have made several "sweet" martinis and I quite like them, but I find equal parts dry vermouth with gin to be not as appealing. I have heard blanc vermouth works well, have you tried that? Some Dolin blanc is on my list to get.

                            1. re: ncyankee101
                              zin1953 RE: ncyankee101 Aug 3, 2012 11:44 AM

                              At home, I use Caprano Antica Formula vermouth, which is definitely white but on the sweeter side -- and only use dry vermouth if friends insist. ;^) That said, I haven't tried the orange bitters, so I can see I have some mixology on tap for the weekend.

                              1. re: zin1953
                                JMF RE: zin1953 Aug 8, 2012 06:28 AM

                                Zin- Try the new Angostura Orange bitters. I think they are the most complex of the orange bitters. Second choice Regan's and Fee''s, but they don't have as much orange to them.

                                1. re: JMF
                                  zin1953 RE: JMF Aug 8, 2012 07:53 AM

                                  Thanks for the rec -- I'll look for it.

                                  1. re: zin1953
                                    JMF RE: zin1953 Aug 8, 2012 08:10 AM

                                    If your grocery store sells regular Angostura they should have the orange

                                    1. re: JMF
                                      The Big Crunch RE: JMF Aug 8, 2012 08:41 AM

                                      Interesting thing about the Angostura... Both "Bitters: A Spirited history" and "The PDT Cocktail Book" suggest combining equal parts Regan's and Fee Brothers for a superior orange bitters. I did that a while back and have used it as my go-to orange bitters for a while. However, out of curiosity, I picked up a bottle of Angostura orange a month or two back and was surprised to find that it closely resembled my Regan-Fee Frankenbitter combo. In the future, I'll likely just buy the Angostura.

                              2. re: ncyankee101
                                The Big Crunch RE: ncyankee101 Aug 8, 2012 08:45 AM

                                Tried sweet and didn't care for it. Same with perfect. There's something about the combo of gin and sweet vermouth that doesn't sit well with my palate. I've tried a few other old school cocktails that were variants of the gin/sweet vermouth pairing (with the Martinez being the most obvious) and none of them left me very pleased.

                                On a complete side track, I made a Delmonico last night which prominently features brandy, gin, and both sweet and dry vermouth. Somehow that managed to go over like gangbusters with me! I never thought about the combo of brandy (Landy VS) and Gin (Plymouth), but they really seem to work well together.

                            2. re: FrankJBN
                              The Big Crunch RE: FrankJBN Aug 3, 2012 11:54 AM

                              Check out any decent cocktail history book. Dale DeGroff or Robert Hess both give good overviews on the martini in its earlier form in their excellent books. Most cocktails historians/buffs/geeks believe the Martini originated from the Martinez, and thus originally used sweet vermouth which was more commonly found behind pre-Prohibition bars than French Vermouth. The original meaning of a "dry martini" was not a martini virtually devoid of any vermouth, but a martini that used dry vermouth. Older recipes often went as much as 2:1 gin to vermouth. My magic number is 2.5:.75. The lemon is obvious because it's a better natural match to gin, and is also the most common fruit juice used in cocktails. Orange bitters were used quite a lot in classic cocktails but became harder to find after prohibition, which is one of the most likely reasons they fell out of favor in martinis.

                              By all means, make any drink you enjoy, after all, that is the point of making a drink. But to me, the modern conception of a martini is so different from the classic versions as to be an entirely different drink altogether.

                          2. f
                            FrankJBN RE: trav Aug 3, 2012 07:17 AM

                            If a restaurant or bar cannot serve you what you specifically ordered, they have a duty to so advise you and not just choose to substitute at their whim, especially if their whim tis o serve something more expensive.

                            You order a glass of house wine at $5, they serve a glass of Paulliac at $30 without saying. You're going to accept this?

                            Conversely, a customer does not have a duty to pay a higher price than that charged for what they ordered if they have not been advised of the change.

                            In front of friends? If I didn't complain in front of my friends in this situation, they'd be asking why I let myself get ripped off.

                            1. j
                              JeremyEG RE: trav Aug 3, 2012 11:37 AM

                              I've been to some places that do not list martini prices but do list the price for a shot of different liquors. I know some restaurant bars that will list a martini as say 'Tanqueray shot x 2 = $14.' Still isn't the same as listing the exact price of a martini but I've noticed places doing this. The changing of the gin from house to something more expensive is completely unacceptable. I would probably say to the waiter "Remember, we ordered the house gin.' If he/she won't adjust the bill, I wouldn't go back.

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