The setting, which includes a posh lounge and an outdoor patio with pretty views of the C&O Canal, is definitely a factor in the cost of drinks at Rye Bar, as is the fact that the cheapest accommodations upstairs have an "average daily rate" of $595. It's just hard not to think about how much you're spending.
Sticker shock is nothing new in Washington – heard about the beer prices at the ballpark this season? – but coming on the heels of Barmini, which opened in February with drinks that "range from $14 to $20," it seems like we're entering a new level of uber-expensive cocktails.
Previously, the most expensive cocktails I remember seeing on a bar menu were on the jokey Uber Ultimate Pretentious Cocky Classic Cocktail Menu at Jackie's Sidebar, where you could order a $27 Old Fashioned made with 20-year-old Ragnaud-Sabourin cognac. (I'm sure you could also similarly escalate the cost of a Manhattan at Jack Rose if you started calling for rare Willett bourbons to be used instead of the house ingredients.) Champagne cocktails are regularly more expensive than non-sparkling drinks; at Bourbon Steak, a Seelbach, which combines Buffalo Trace with Louis Roederer Brut, is $24, while the Roederer-meets-absinthe Death in the Afternoon, costs $18.
And no, the gimmicky Vegas-style $1500 cocktail at Heist, which included a diamond as well as Ace of Spades champagne, doesn't count.
For comparison's sake, I rounded up the cocktail menus from a selection of the Washington area's better cocktail bars. Here's a sampling of their price ranges.
The Columbia Room: A la carte cocktails are $17, which includes tax and tip – the only place on this list that includes these charges in its prices.
Fiola: Most cocktails on the list are $14. "Jeff's Choices," a page of six cocktails created by bartender Jeff Faile, are $16.
The Source: All cocktails range from $14 to $16.
Bourbon Steak: All cocktails range from $14 to $16, except for the sparkling cocktails, which range from $18 to $24. (See above for more info on them.)
Bar TNT: Most cocktails $11-$13. The Adatto, a version of the whiskey-and-amaro cocktail made at New York's PDT Bar, is $16.
Proof: Most cocktails $14. The $15 Airmail is made with Thibaut-Janisson sparkling wine.
Hank's on the Hill: Most cocktails $11-$12.