View Full Version : The price of a drink...

06-12-2006, 08:18
I spent last week in downtown Indianapolis and, on several evenings, went in search of nearby establishments with decent bourbon selections. Pickings were slim at most places; just the ubiquitous Beam White (sometimes with the "small batch" quad) and the occasional Maker's Mark.

At my hotel concierge's suggestion, I visited Oceanaire, an excellent seafood restaurant. The pickings were slim with the exception of a lone bottle of PVW 23. I'm glad I asked the price before ordering one ---- $90 for a (measured) 2 oz. pour! Needless to say, I declined. Since the bottle was about half gone, I asked the bartender who buys at those prices. He frowned and said that it is typically someone with too much money (and often already half in the bag) trying to make an impression by ordering the most expensive drink available. Often the drink is spilled or left half-finished.

Another night I visited Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. They had a very good selection, including all the BT Antiques. They also had PVW 23 ---- at a more reasonable $30. Since this was still beyond what I could slip onto my expense account, I went with the 2002 Stagg (at $18 for a very generous pour). Delightful!

06-12-2006, 08:20
Did you have to ask to figure out it was 2002 or did they know? That might be the one release of a bottle that I'd pay $18 to try.

06-12-2006, 08:22
I asked to see it and checked the label.

06-12-2006, 08:37
Hey John B, did you check out any liquor stores while in Indy? There is a place almost in the center of Indy called John's liquor. I have never been there but have heard that it has a real nice selection!


06-12-2006, 12:17
Hey John B, did you check out any liquor stores while in Indy? There is a place almost in the center of Indy called John's liquor. I have never been there but have heard that it has a real nice selection!


No. Since I live in Kentucky I didn't expect that they would have anything I couldn't get at home.

06-12-2006, 12:30
Did you have to ask to figure out it was 2002 or did they know? That might be the one release of a bottle that I'd pay $18 to try.

Yeah I'd pay that too, for that matter I may have even paid the $30 for the Pappy 23, but definitely 18 for GTS 2k2.

I never fail to be amazed by these bars that have older bottles still sitting around. Like this one with the 2002 GTS and the Bellagio bars in Vegas that have blue wax Hirsch. Crazy!

06-12-2006, 13:26

John's liquor store in the heart of downtown Indianapolis is now a Payless liquors, even though the sign still says John's liquors. It has an OK selection, but not as good as the newer Payless liquor stores around the outskirts of Indy. The downtown store serves mostly the city drunks.....I thought their selection compared to the other stores was pretty pitiful. The exception to this is that they have an incredible collection of decanters all around the top shelves of the store. The store in Greenwood has the decanter collection too. They're all for sale. I know there's no SW ones there.


06-12-2006, 15:12
Hotels and bar prices make me laugh!

I remember seeing an article a couple of years back about a bar in London that served EW 23YO for a huge amount for a pour or 750 GB pounds for the bottle... that is simply hilarious when you could buy EW 23YO for about 80 GB pounds at the time!

I agree with the bartender that $90 pours are reserved for people who are out to impress or who don't know the value of money!

06-17-2006, 20:29
Hotels and bar prices make me laugh!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMEN! A couple of months ago, I was at a little gathering of folks from another forum, in a bar in St. Charles, Illinois. Two Maker's Mark Manhattans: $15 - and they seemed to lack the necessary bitters.

$15 will buy a bottle of Rittenhouse BIB, and I'll still have some change left. Toss in a few dollars more for some vermouth and bitters, and I can make a bunch of far better Manhattans. Even a small bottle of bitters will last a LONG time.

06-18-2006, 05:34
One of my projects right now is putting together the makings of a small bar area in connection with a restaurant, figuring out what to carry, costs, profit line, etc. Wines are a little more tricky because of not keeping as long, choices, etc. Bourbon and whiskeys have been of course really fun to consider, because they keep well, I can sample and I just plain like bourbon.

The most astonishing thing to me is checking on the internet for menu prices and checking locally to get a feel for what different types of establishments are charging. As all of you have been saying, the prices on pours that are mid to upper shelf are unbelievable. I'm figuring it's a combination of the owner thinking, a. I have something not readily available at other establishments it's worth more, b. It's not going to turn as quickly I need higher return, c. In the case of some selections, this is the premier of the product line, we need to price it that way, to emphasize that, d. limited supply availabilty.
I'm not saying I agreed with all that. For one if you make something a recognizably good value to the customer you're probably going to turn more of it. Your example of Pappy 23:

My cost $8.33 per pour.
Menu price $20 per pour (my operating costs would dictate that I charge at least $25

But if I can off set this in other areas, with other products it becomes an astonishing value to those that know it (there lies the rub, those that know it).

06-18-2006, 08:02
My worst experience (to date) was in a hotel bar. They had absolutely no acceptable bourbon choice, so I settled on a Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks. It was a measured pour of, I am guessing, 1.25 oz.

The tab? $10. And then I had to tip him.

Also, this was about 4-5 years ago, so who knows what inflation has done since then?


06-18-2006, 10:05
Let's say there are 15 drinks (1.5oz) in a bottle and the bottle cost $30. You have inventory cost, labor, rent, etc at a restaurant/bar. I have found typically cost in this scenario to be $8 a pour or a 400% markup. Even if they pour a generous drink at 2 oz, it is 320% markup.

This is why I drink good bourbon at home!

06-18-2006, 21:55
Oh Boy! A chance to use that Hotel Restaurant Degree I earned 16 years ago! Oops, CRS syndrome has set in. So I'll not try to do any math that might be wrong. But remember that drinks in a restaurant bar are usually ordered for one of three reasons: to prepare you for the meal, to drink with the meal and to enjoy after a meal. For the most part, food is a relatively low markup item when you figure that the bulk of your operating costs are coming from it because it requires more manpower hours to prep, cook and serve. Drinks and desserts are where you make your money and are pretty much the gravy of your income. They are luxury items and the price markups are enormous. They have to be to keep the food prices down.

An example of this is a local establishment in Alton Illinois called Fast Eddie's Bon-Air. Limited but good tasting menu but you have to buy drinks before you can eat. The place is almost always packed. Prices of food? Try a half pound burger for 99 cents. Jumbo shrimp for 29 cents each. Beef tenderloin kabobs (Big Elwood on a Stick) for a buck 99. Homemade Bratwurst for 99 cents. Cajun style chicken kabobs (Hot Chick on a Stick) tops it off at 2.99 each. A big basket of fries is 99 cents. The prices haven't changed since they were introduced 19 years ago. But then two draft beers (1 Killian's Red, 1 Blue Moon) and a rum and coke for my party of three thursday? About 10 bucks. That's where they make their money. I'd dare say they may even lose money on the food. And the Bon Air has been in business since 1921.

One other thing as well, you have to look at your target market. Hotel bars are expensive because most travelers are business travelers during the week with expense accounts that allow for the prices. Tourists normally dominate on weekends and what is two days of slow sales at high prices compared to five days of booming sales? You have to discount the room prices for tourists to get them to stay and keep your occupancy level at an acceptable rate so you're barely breaking even after paying front desk/housekeeping/maintenance staffs. So the prices on your big money makers has to remain high to make up a little even with the lowered volume.

06-26-2006, 15:45
There are deals out there if you know your spirits and prices. A year ago when I was drinking out more often, I would often pay $9.75/pour for Macallan 18 at a local bar/lounge, and this place was no dive either. Even after I began seeing prices for this bottle creep up 120...130...140, the price stayed at $9.75. I need to go back and see if the price is still good :)

I tried Van Winkle 15 there for $6.75 and the 20 for $9.75. I thought that was pretty reasonable considering their overhead.

Sometimes I'll see places pouring Laphroaig CS in place of the regular 10-year, and charging only $7 or $8 for a pour. Not bad.

However, there are MANY more examples of exorbitant pricing.

06-26-2006, 22:52
Last summer, when I was an overpaid summer associate, I paid $15 for a drink of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve at the bar at The Palm in DC. I hadn't tasted any 1792 yet, and also didn't realize the price would be that high. Received terrible service, and really disliked the bourbon. My companion ordered a regular Wild Turkey (I think it was $8) and we both agreed she had the better bourbon by a longshot. The going price for 1792 in DC then was about $30/bottle, and I would've picked one up if I hadn't so strongly disliked my taste at The Palm. So I'm still trying to figure out if I wasted $15 or saved $15. If I'd paid $30, at least I would have had that nice bottle...

06-26-2006, 22:58
Also, if you want to see some high prices, check out the bar 'Bourbon' in DC.

Here's a link to their drink menu: http://www.bourbondc.com/bourbon-drinks.pdf. I think it's a bit out-of-date, and there are clearly some errors on the menu, but still...

They are also wildly out of synch with what you would think. $75 for a drink of ER17 seems a bit much, no? But at this same bar, ORVW15/107 is only $9???

06-27-2006, 08:26
Also, if you want to see some high prices, check out the bar 'Bourbon' in DC.

And for the other end of the spectrum, try the "Gun Club" in Beloit, Wisconsin, where a four finger pour (yes, four fingers) of WT 101 will set you back . . . ready? . . . $4 bucks.

06-27-2006, 09:59
I rarely order the "premium" bourbons from a bar/restaurant. I'll stick with Makers or Wild Turkey.

First of all, they never know how to pour them. I don't know how many times I've ordered a bourbon and it's come in a shot glass! I get weird looks when I ask for it in a tumbler.

Then, even if I know the restaurant has a decent bourbon that is within dollar range, I know I will spend 5 minutes explaining to the waiter(tress) what bourbon (Pappy what? what is that??) I want and how I want it poured. Then I will sit there questioning if they actually took the time to explain to the bartender what I wanted, or they just told him "bourbon" and I end up with Beam Black or something.

It really takes some of the excitement out of it, because it's generally such a chore to order.

Rarely I have been to a restaurant where the staff actually knows what the hell the bourbon is and how to present it. It's a lost art, I suppose.

Or it could be that bourbon is not that big out here in CA. They are much more interested in Wine or expensive champagne than some bourbon.

Sitting at a good bar is a lot easier, b/c if the barkeep doesn't know what I'm talking about I can simply point and say "That one with the guy smoking a cigar on the label!" Then he will tell me how no one ever orders that.:smiley_acbt:


06-27-2006, 17:24
And for the other end of the spectrum, try the "Gun Club" in Beloit, Wisconsin, where a four finger pour (yes, four fingers) of WT 101 will set you back . . . ready? . . . $4 bucks.
*makes note for future Wisconsin trip* :slappin:

That really puts those overpriced, underperforming Maker's Mark Manhattans I had this spring into perspective, though. If I ever bother ordering a Manhattan at a bar again, I'm going to have to be quite specific about how I want it done - and it's going to involve WT 101.

06-28-2006, 17:02
Worst I have ever paid... $10 for Maker's Mark. They charged extra for not putting ice in the glass, but I did get a strong pour. (Incidentaly trhe best I ever paid was also for MM, $1.50 for a double... god bless senior bar night:grin: )

Worst I have ever seen was in Kentucky, Someone else picked up the tab for the Saz 18 I had (~$10/full glass), while some people I was with paid $60 for Herradura Selecion Suprema.

06-28-2006, 20:44
And for the other end of the spectrum, try the "Gun Club" in Beloit, Wisconsin, where a four finger pour (yes, four fingers) of WT 101 will set you back . . . ready? . . . $4 bucks.

I love drinking in Wisconsin, I went to school in Madison for 6 years and visited the Oshkosh and Lacrosse area and the pricess cannot be beat. I often felt I could get myself and about 4 friends feeling quite good for ~$50. Since moving to the Chicago area, its quite easy to spend $100 for just yourself on a night out!!