The Cocktail Threshold: How Much is Too Much to Pay for a Drink?

The Cocktail Threshold: How Much is Too Much to Pay for a Drink?

Megan Gordon
Apr 19, 2013

Cocktails can be expensive. This isn't news to any of us. For some of us, meeting for a drink is a way we socialize and see friends. For others, it's how we close a business deal or explore a new city while traveling. And while different bars and restaurants in various geographic locations around the country vary greatly in terms of price, all of us have our mental set-point of what we're willing to spend and what we're not. So how much is too much to spend on just one cocktail? 

The reason I ask? Last week I read a piece in The Washington Post about a bar in Washington, D.C. that was serving a $22 Manhattan. That's right: $22!  Now I should say that this isn't your average cocktail: it's made with a small-batch rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and Byrrh quinquina, a sweet French aperitif. Once mixed up, it's then aged for six weeks in an empty whiskey barrel. Writer Fritz Hahn describes it as "sublime" with "a lingering, oaky finish."

It got me thinking about my own cocktail threshold which is right around $10. Now this could be a function of the fact that I live in Seattle and not Manhattan. It could also be that, thanks to our well-stocked home bar and number of friends who own restaurants, we're not often paying full price for cocktails. So maybe we're spoiled. But even when we go out to a really nice restaurant, I feel like $12 is a pricey, special-treat cocktail. 

So my gut reaction when I read about this $22 Manhattan was that clearly no one was buying them. Well, think again. Apparently they sold out of the 15-barrel container in 5 days. That's a lot of $22 Manhattans. Where do you stand? I'd be curious to know what your cocktail threshold is. 

Read More: The $22 Manhattan at Georgetown's Capella Hotel by Fritz Hahn for The Washington Post

Related: 5 Party Appetizers That Won't Break the Bank

(Image: Megan Gordon)

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