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Hakkasan's Armando Conway Explains Cost of Cocktails

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Photo: Le Panda
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

The price of cocktails seems to constantly rise. A few years ago, a craft cocktail would hover a little over $10, maybe $11. And now, $12 is the going rate for a drink, whether it's good or not. The problem with this rise is that sometimes the taste and quality doesn't add up to that price. And drinks are starting to edge closer to $15, or even $17, making the price of one visit to a bar upwards of $50 a person after a few rounds. When is it worth paying $12-15, and when it is not? Hakkasan's Bar Manager Armando Conway breaks down the cost of drinks and why they end up costing what they do.

What's the average cost per cocktail at a good bar or lounge? We're looking to get 15-20% cost on a drink, which is typical.

And what about labor? That might add another 2% to the cost. So the total cost on the bar side for a $17 drink might be $3.

Why do certain drinks cost more than others? It's mostly about location. Other places use ingredients that aren't as good. Our wells at Hakkasan are some of the best. Our well vodka is Belvedere, well Scotch is Johnnie Walker Black Label. We make all the juices in house and source top quality produce. At La Descarga, the mojito was $14 and that was just Barcardi rum, lime, and sugar. You can't charge those prices at a dive bar, but when you're coming to a place like Hakkasan you're paying a little more because you might be sitting next to Paris Hilton or Jessica Biel.

Why do some cocktails in other cities cost only $8-9, like in Chicago or San Francisco? Well, their rent might be much lower. The rent for Hakkasan is many, many times what they might be paying because we're in Beverly Hills. Alcohol sales is what makes or breaks a place like Hakkasan.

How busy is Hakkasan on an average week? We'll do upwards 1,300 covers a week. On Saturdays, we'll make 1,300 drinks from 6 to 11 p.m., which is a lot.

What's your favorite drink to make on the menu right now and why does it cost what it does? The smoky Negroni. We use barrel-aged gin, Campari, and vermouth, but what really makes it great is the presentation. It's not your typical shaken drink, it takes more technique. We serve it in a crystal glass. We take a copper brand of the Hakkasan logo and imprint it onto an ice sphere. It's then served tableside where smoke is added. It's a beautiful presentation, and the drink is made with 3 ounces of booze.

If someone complains about the price of a cocktail, what's your typical response? The reality is that most people aren't complaining about the price in Beverly Hills. People expect to come out and spend money. Also, our pours are pretty heavy here as most of the pours are 2 ounces versus 1.5, which is typical at other bars. Plus, our "well" is brands like Belvedere. I would say that for this part of town, the quality you're getting is around the same level as Ten Pound, which is significantly more expensive. Even Mastro's has drinks that top $27, so I think we're pretty good about it.
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233 N Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 310-888-8661


233 N Beverly Dr Beverly Hills, CA 90210