Why That $25 Hotel Bar Cocktail Is Totally Worth It

(Image credit: Courtesy of Duke’s London)

The most expensive cocktail I’ve ever had was at Duke’s Hotel in London. If I’m recalling correctly, it cost me £17. Now, a $17 cocktail is one thing — expensive, yes, but not unheard of, at least in New York — but a £17 cocktail is something else altogether. That single cocktail, a very stiff, very dry martini, set me back $27. And it was totally worth it.

Let’s take a look at the math. (Don’t worry it’s not complicated.)

The Dollars and Sense of a Fancy Hotel Cocktail

I would argue that the price of a fancy hotel cocktail does not simply encompass the sum of the cocktail’s parts — although the quality of the spirits and whether or not your tipple employs specialty bitters or syrups or fresh-squeezed juices will certainly factor in. (Add at least a dollar for each ingredient that uses the descriptor “house-made.”)

No, if it is a very good bar, the cocktail will almost (almost!) be irrelevant because there’s so much extracurricular (extra-cocktailular?) value.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Duke’s London)

For the cost of a single cocktail, you are stepping into a world with white-jacketed waiters who don’t judge you if you nurse that drink for an hour with no intention of a second round. At least they won’t appear to judge you. Who can say what is really going on behind that starchy veneer?

For the cost of a single cocktail, you are sinking into a plush chair, so comfortable you might forget to check your smartphone (yes!). This chair is also so perfectly positioned that you’d have to sit very, very still to really ascertain the details of your neighbor’s conversation, but yet, you are surrounded at all times by a pleasant din.

For the cost of just one drink, it is also worth pointing out, you are getting very good bar snacks. No peanuts here: mixed nuts with cashews, almonds, and pistachios; a bowl of plump olives; and potato chips, with ridges or without, that are never stale. Perhaps, if you are lucky, there will be some twisted cheese sticks.


So for £17, or whatever the cost may be, you are gaining a memory — one that you can pull out and remember again and again.

I remember that very stiff, very dry martini not because the price was astronomical (although, you can certainly believe that I am not normally in the habit of spending $27 on a drink, or even half that) — I remember it because it was an experience.

It is definitely the thing I remember most about the hotel, a sort of stodgy, but exceedingly charming spot in Mayfair. (Also, the water pressure. Taking a shower was like standing under a very hot fire hose, and I mean that in the best way possible.) And it is also, quite possibly, the thing I remember most about my entire trip to London.

What do you think? How much is too much to pay for a cocktail?