Alcohol Is Expensive: How Much Is Your Cocktail Marked Up?

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I used to write various travel and recreation-related columns. One column that I was particularly proud of was called, “The Occasional Cocktail.” In this column, I would write about and review lesser known cocktails, mixed drinks, and all things related to mixology. I would experiment with new cocktails and share the experience. Moreover, I like introducing readers to drinks they may not know about.

Especially if you are prone to ordering a Sex on the Beach or Irish Coffee every time you belly up to the bar. I enjoy looking up unappreciated, forgotten and lesser-known cocktails like the Negroni, Burnt Fuselage, Fish House Punch, and Moscow Mule. Ordering the same watered-down drinks at the local bar gets boring fast. Also, expensive. Understand, I am not trying to put the local bar out of business.

There are just too many college kids with fake IDs and adults who need to get away from it all for that to occur. I was young once and haunted a few bars myself. The point is that I wish I knew then what I know now. It’s a lot of wasted money on ingredients you can make at home. You may like the atmosphere, ambiance, and patrons of your local bar. I personally began to dislike expecting the unexpected and drinking in public with complete strangers.

Moreover, the experience was hitting my wallet hard. If you imbibe three $10 drinks at your local bar for five days a week, you’ll spend almost $8,000 in a year! Americans spent over $54 billion on bars and restaurant between 2015 and 2016 — about $2 billion more than they spent on groceries.

Should you quit drinking? That’s between you and your therapist. You should definitely stop overspending for bar drinks, however. The system is rigged against you.

Bars have to make their supplies last as long as possible to maximize profits. We all suspect they water down drinks. But there is more to the issue. Bars markup the actual value of your drink, or the, “pour cost,” by tens, hundreds, or thousands of percent. How many times have you ordered a Bourbon and Ginger? A Bourbon and Ginger consists of one ounce of bourbon, three ounces of ginger ale, and one lemon wedge.

These ingredients cost the bar $0.98 to make this. If they charge you $12, then that’s a markup of 1,124%! A Vodka and Soda consists of an ounce and a half of vodka, four ounces of club soda, and a lime twist. It’ll cost the bar $2 to make. If you pay $12 for it, that’s a markup of almost 500%. The ingredients in a Mojito cost a bar about $1.93. If you pay $12 for one, then you are paying for a markup of about 522%.

Now, every drink markup is not so severe. Still, why pay 50% or 500% more for a drink you can make easily and cheaply at home. There are numerous mixology and cocktail recipe books and articles you can find online for free.

What can you do with an extra $8,000, or more? That is up to you. Bar life and socializing can be an inextricable part of one’s identity. If you have no plans to give up the bar life, you can use this pour cost calculator of popular drinks to compare the bar’s pour cost to your cost.

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