Case Study: What not to do with your drink list

Last night, I wrote up the reasons why I’m writing Cocktail Democracy, one of which was to share the ability to sniff out a menu that is simply not worth it. And today, as luck would have it, a real life example has come my way: Cash Bar.

You can read the details at Gothamist and admittedly I haven’t been there, but here’s an image of their cocktail list:

Let’s use this as a case study for why you might not want to go to Cash Bar expecting great drinks at a great value:

  1. No prices — The food prices are clearly marked but the cocktail prices are conspicuously absent. Does this mean they’re free by chance? A good will gesture by the same people who opened a money-themed bar? In these cases, more likely than not the drinks have a “sticker shock”-inducing price, like the $50 punch bowls at Gallow Green. Beware.
  2. Indistinguishable Offerings — When I look through this list, nothing jumps out at me. The drinks look created by some random drinkolator that’s just throwing together ingredients: Gin, Lime, Cucumber, Ginger Ale; Port, Dry Vermouth, Lemon Juice; Rum, Lime, Sugar. Don’t get me wrong, a well-made drink is more than the sum of its parts but whoever wrote this menu took no time to convince us why that’s the case with Cash Bar.
  3. Selective Brands — Okay so we’ve got some Bacardi here. And Appleton. Oh and then a nameless Cognac. Some Crown Royal. Nameless Champagne. Nameless Bourbon. While listing every single bottling can be overwhelming and/or pretentious, having just a few choice, well-known brands alongside brands you choose not to name sends a message about what kinds of knowledge and preferences your desired clientele should have. The bar’s focus might be on pushing those brands rather than making excellent cocktails.
  4. You could make it at home, easily — This one will depend on your skill level but odds are that even with a beginner’s level grasp of cocktail making, you could make a fair number of these at home. And that means you have to really like the bar and what you’re paying to be there to feel the drinks are worth it. From all the media buzz about Cash Bar so far, it seems unlikely to be the case.

I admit, I’ve been somewhat unfair to Cash Bar because, like I said, I haven’t been there. But in fairness to me — a customer with limited funds — you can’t go everywhere and you need a system for determining if a place is worth it.

This is my system (or part of it, anyway). Use it wisely.

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One thought on “Case Study: What not to do with your drink list

  1. […] Last week, I derided Cash Bar for having an ambiguous menu that didn’t appear to offer much value. This week, I’d like to do the reverse: showcase a successful-looking menu for a place I’ve yet to go to, Prime Meats in Brooklyn. […]

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