Move over, Barmini: There's a new Most Expensive Non-Champagne Cocktail in D.C. The Rye Bar at Georgetown's Capella Hotel, which soft-opened over the weekend, offers a $22 Manhattan.
Now, this isn't any ordinary Manhattan: It's made with Dad's Hat, a new small-batch rye whiskey from Pennsylvania, Dolin sweet vermouth and the sweet French aperitif Byrrh Quinquina, and then aged for six weeks in an empty Dad's Hat bourbon barrel. The aging makes it noticeably smoother, rounding any edges in the spirits, and provides a lingering oaky finish. It's sublime. But it's a $22 cocktail. (And, for what it's worth, I thought the Old Fashioned, which includes sherry, was a more satisfying drink. That one will set you back only $18.)
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.
Hogo: Most cocktails $9-$11.
Singapore Sling $12. (The Singapore Sling was recently removed from the menu.)