Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Pints a Pound the World 'Round

... Actually a pint's more like about £2 in the UK (a reader writes it's more like £2.70 where he is)

Would that it were only so here in the U.S.

A friend of mine from the UK, currently living in rural Spain, was wondering how much we paid for drink here.

A sad story really.

In general, we pay MUCH more for drink than you do in Europe and the U.K.

When I lived in Ireland, a pint of Guinness was cheaper than a pint of coke in most bars (and of course no free refills). Here the reverse is very definitely true.

For a British pint (570ml), of a half decent beer, we'll pay somewhere from $5 to $8 in most bars or restaurants. Prices vary widely, and a true imperial pint is rare.

We get 16oz pints in the U.S. which are 100ml (3-1/4 oz) less than imperial; and are typically $4.50 to $6.50. A lot of places will serve a 20oz or 22oz mugs for $1 or $2 more than their 16oz price.

However, we usually don't even get pints. Generally, beer is served by the glass (350ml) here, and in most places a domestic glass is $3.50 to $5.50, and an import or microbrew will be $1 more; though cheaper bars may serve as low as $2.50 for domestics. Often the cheapest beer in the bar will be sold at $1 a glass specials on certain days and certain hours etc...

Wine is generally sold by the 750ml bottle here, or by the 175ml glass (and often you won't even get that much. Many bars try to pour their wine to get six glasses per bottle, at 125ml per glass) and the cheapest acceptable (seriously I really mean the cheapest that are at all drinkable) wines will typically run around $15 per bottle, or $4 per glass in a bar... and that's an $8 bottle in the shop.

Wines that would sell for $15 in the shop would typically be sold for between $20 and $25 in the bar or restaurant; and at $6 a glass; and the prices only get worse from there.

Hard liquor is the worst here though. First, although the world standard shot is 35ml (1.25oz), legally a shot is defined as 29.72ml (1oz)... though at least most bars serve the 1.25oz version when you are ordering a neat shot, they may not when you order a mixed drink.

You'll find that most mixed drinks only get a pony (1oz) in a restaurant; especially in restaurants that have those auto drink mixing systems (so the bartenders can't steal).

Also, in many places when you ask for a double (what should be 2oz if using the legal measure, or 2.5 oz for full measure) you'll get a jigger (1.5oz) or a double pony (2oz); though at least they'll generally only charge you for the jigger or double pony, not twice price of a full shot.

You'll find the same practice in almost ALL mixed drinks in restaurants, and unfortunately in many bars. Ask for a double, or if the recipe calls for a double, and you'll get a jigger.

A 750ml bottle of hard liquor that costs $25 in the store, will be sold for $45-55 in the bar or restaurant; or as $4 to $6 dollar shots. Counting wastage, a bar SHOULD only count on being able to get 18 shots from a bottle, or at the very most 20; but many bars and restaurants (again, especially restaurants) have a policy mandating 22 shots (which is actually less than 35ml). I've even heard of places that mandate 24 shots.

Yes, $4 to $6 for a 35ml OR LESS shot, from a 750ml bottle that costs $25 at retail. 22 shots at $6 a shot... $132 from a $25 bottle..... it's nearly criminal.

This is why they say restaurants live and die by their bar by the way. Food keeps the lights on and the bar pays the salaries.

What's sad though is that even at those markups, most bars and restaurants can't make any damn money; even if they're full all the time. 80% of all restaurants close within 2 years of opening.