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Nov 24, 2012 05:54 AM

Is it getting out of control ??

regariding the onset of numerous "new" mixed drinks in bars and restaurants ?.....their charging 9-10-11-12 dollars and more for what amounts to 2-3 ounces of alcohol.....these drinks have ingredients of all kinds, similar to pizza pies with all kinds of junk on it......and you can hardly taste the alcohol.....I had an experience where I ordered a mixed fruit drink, and had to ask the bartender for more liquor, because I wasn't paying $10.00 for a fruit drink !!.......he complied but said he was told to measure the drinks carefully.......well if the owner is watching his profits, and he am I watching my profit......and my profit is satisfaction and value !!

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  1. The simple solution is to evaluate the ability of the bar to make a cocktail to your liking and order accordingly. If I spy lots of fruity drinks and a long line-up of flavored vodkas on the back bar, then I go for something simple and hard to mess up, or a beer. If I see Fernet Branca, Cynar, good rye, and the like, then I look at the recipes on the menu, imagine them in my head, and either pick one or ask for a classic that I like and know they can make.

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    1. Many people do not like the taste of alcohol, that is why they disguise it in "fruity" drinks. No matter the menu, you are always going to get the most alcohol ordering a straight up martini or spirits on the rocks. A rocks pour is 2 ounces, some martini's can be up to 2-2.5 ounces of straight liquor but it depends on the bar. You should NOT expect more liquor than this no matter the price, it is almost a bar standard (Save for some beach bars with a crazy special going) No matter the bar, no matter the menu, you can always order a classic cocktail. I bartended for years and the surest way to guarentee you get "short poured" is to complain about the amount of alcohol in your drink. At the end of the day, you don't order a fruity drink to "taste" alcohol. Event the smallest amount of cranberry juice in a glass of vodka almost eliminates the flavor of the vodka and is not necessarily an accurate representation of how much alcohol is in a drink. I'm not trying to be rude, but people very rarely ask for more alcohol in their drinks and when they do they come off as cheap. The bartender will assume you will take your frustration out on his tip. The best action is not to order another drink and go home and make one stronger.

      1. I appreciate both posts.....Bamagirl 30....Yes, some people don't like the tinge of alcohol, ...I do,
        makes me feel like Im getting my $$ worth, instead of just a "fruit" drink ....I am aware the bartender is under restrictions, and tip 20-25% anyway, more if they pour a few drops extra
        ...EvergreenDan......Yes, the right way to go, but I still like the "tinge" of alcohol taste.....just me I guess !!

        1. My issue here is what constitutes a "fruit" drink. What does that even mean? As bamagirl30 pointed out, the whole point of most truly fruity drinks (frozen margaritas and daiquiris for example) is to present alcohol in a package where you don't taste it. If you want a drink that tastes strongly of alcohol, why did you decide to order a fruity cocktail?

          It's also worth noting that when you order a specialty cocktail at a bar with a good craft cocktail program, in theory you're ordering a drink that someone came up with that is supposed to taste a certain way. Adding an extra shot of booze in there cause you feel gipped sort've destroys the intended flavor of the drink and quite frankly, just looks crass and cheap. The cost to you is not supposed to be about getting what you think your money's worth is in booze, but instead is supposed to be about you getting an interesting drink that will (hopefully) present you with a new and pleasurable drinking experience. If you just want to get boozy off of some stuff that tastes like booze, then order a couple of shots.

          Now, to slightly agree with you... I too find the prices of cocktails to be getting a bit ridiculous. When I go to a bar or restaurant that obviously has a very well-stocked bar and good staff, and then see a classic martini for $12, I have to work hard to conceal my rage. For the price of two martinis and tip at many places, I can buy a bottle of Plymouth, a small bottle of Dolin dry, and a lemon (for twists) and make a dozen or so martinis that will be just as good or better than what I will receive at the bar or restaurant. After spending the last year or so really immersing myself in classic cocktails and newer classics that I make at home, I've come to the point where I will only order something at a bar that sounds truly original and hard to duplicate. So, let's say you have a drink with sage infused rye, honey and pomegranate tincture, and a dash of housemade pecan bitters topped off with champagne. That might be the kind of thing I would drop $12 on because it is not something I am NOT going to be making at home. But when I see some place charge $12 for something as simple as a French 75 variation that deviates from the original by maybe adding a dash of St. Germaine and including a garnish of mint, I'm decidedly irked head that it's priced so high. Of course even that has a bit of thought behind it; often I'll see a "classic" Manhattan for $12 and just shake my head.

          Seems to me that most classic cocktails should be about $8, maximum, unless you're doing something wild like using Whistlepig or MIchetsr in your Manhattan. Given the generally ease of preparation, limited amount of ingredients, and tendency for those ingredients to be widely available I really do think the price curve over the last few years on classic cocktails has been ridiculous.

          4 Replies
          1. re: The Big Crunch

            When you consider cocktail prices, consider that the bar and restaurant is paying for:

            • The basic ingredients in the drink. And the ingredients that they prepare for each day of service (like juices) that go bad and need to be thrown away at the end of every shift.
            • Wages. Not just the bartender, but the bar backs, bar managers, dish washer, kitchen staff (especially if they're involved in making syrups and other ingredients). Not just when the bar is open but for the hours of preparation before hand and the hours of cleanup after the guests have left.
            • Rent
            • Training
            • Liquor license costs. Here in Boston, a liquor license can run $350,000. Throw in restaurant/bar build out and paying back investors. Unless you're talking about a place that is over 5 years old, they're probably still in debt to someone.
            • For every busy Friday and Saturday that the place is open, they need to pay to keep the doors open on the slower Sunday through Thursday days.

            Of course you should be making drinks at home for a variety of reasons including price, intimacy, safety, control of music. You might as well since you're already paying rent/mortgage, insurance, gas, electricity, water, sewage, taxes, and the like on the property besides dropping coin on furniture, glassware, books, booze bottles, etc. which probably should be factored into the cost of each drink you make at home over your lifetime or your time in that house or apartment.

            1. re: yarm

              Good points, and I'm far more willing to consider the validity of a $12-$14 drink in terms of bars. In DC, a place like The Gibson makes their money from booze, so I see no reason why they shouldn't charge those kinds of prices. But I do get tired of seeing thriving restaurants charge nearly the same amount for a cocktail as they would for one of the cheaper entrees on the menu. I was at large local chain of somewhat higher-end restaurants in the DC area about two weeks ago and they charged my GF $10 for a Dark and Stormy. I understand all that is behind that, including the fact that they can simply charge that much because the whole restaurant is somewhat based around the idea of higher prices equating to the appearance of the place being a higher-end dining establishment, but really, $10 for a Dark and Stormy? The classic Manhattan was $12 and the vermouth was proudly sitting (unrefrigerated) along the back bar, and the $12 mojito was made with bacardi (proudly stated on the menu). That's the kind of thing that annoys me. $12 for either of those drinks still strikes me as a rip-off, especially when the burger at the place was $14.

              If you're only product is cocktails, then I am more sympathetic to big prices for drinks, but if your primary product is food, how about coming down a bit on the price for drinks?

              1. re: The Big Crunch

                One thing that sets drink prices is area expectations for what a cocktail can cost. New places look around to see what others are charging, regardless of whether their program warrants it or not. It annoys me when places are trying to charge what a craft cocktail place charges when their staff has no clue how to make good drinks (the Sazerac served on ice in a snifter glass here in Boston was an often repeated example for a while). I can understand why they charged for it sometimes, but I feel really ripped off when the price doesn't meet my expectation of quality and service. And I feel annoyed that I didn't just get a beer.

                Also factored in is the hotness-factor of the place and they're looking to cash in during their brief moment.

                But it's not just the mixed drinks. I have seen beers in bottles or on tap range almost 2 fold. Is a $5 pour at one place the same as an $8 one at another. Is a $2.50 Miller High Life here any different than the $5 one there? At least with tap, you could hope that their tap lines are cleaned with every keg change but I only know one place in town that does that. And you could also hope that the staff knows about the beer they're serving, but often times they don't. Especially at many of the places serving over 50 beers (and touting how great of a beer bar they are).

                1. re: yarm

                  Agreed on all counts.

                  Also, just to clarify, I really don't judge the drink so much by how much booze I'm getting as much as I do by the effort, skill, and originality that go into the drink. Just as an example, a couple of years back one of my favorite cocktail places in the DC region used to have a Ramos Gin Fizz on the menu. It's a pain in the ass to make one of these suckers; among other things, the bartender cracked the eggs (organic BTW) fresh for each drink! It only had 2 oz. of booze in it and cost $12. Judging by how you define a shot (either 1 or 1.5 oz.) that's a lot for less than two shots of gin. But the point isn't that I just want alcohol; the point is, I want a drink that seems to me, however arbitrarily, to deserve a big price tag. If you see the effort that goes into one of those things, you'd know you're paying for a bit of work.

          2. Even before the new wave of "designer cocktails" I've always felt ripped off by mixed drinks at bars. That's why I go with shots, or beer, or a martini.