‘On the rocks’ can have secret costs

The Whiskey Priest is among the Boston establishments that charge for ice in drinks.

Krista Watson once tended bar for a unnamed Boston establishment that had a 50 cent surcharge for ordering straight whiskey on the rocks.   

“I hated it, because they were getting the same amount of liquor but it wasn’t something I would tell them beforehand,” Watson, now the lead instructor at DrinkMaster Bartending School in Downtown Crossing, said. “How am I supposed to bring that up in conversation?

“After a week I was like, ‘Screw this, I’m just charging the lower price because it’s unfair to customers.’”

The 50 cent ice surcharge isn’t unusual in Boston because bars say they pour more liquor to cover the cubes and account for the booze diluted by melting ice. But at least one local gin mill — The Whiskey Priest on the South Boston waterfront — charges $1.50 for rocks.

“It’s an extra half-ounce [of liquor],” manager Gabe Butcher said of a drink on the rocks. “I’d be going out of business. It’s a 25 percent cost to me.”

But the surcharge isn’t listed on The Whiskey Priest’s menu, and staff don’t always acknowledge the surcharge up front like they’re supposed to.

“Our bartenders must have fuzzy brains,” Butcher said. “I’ll have to remind them. The waitress is supposed to tell you. I can’t be at every table.”

A recent customer had the $1.50 charge removed after complaining about it being added to a $10 glass of scotch.

“That sort of inconsistency is not good for building a regular customer base,” Watson said. “Ice machines are expensive. … But it’s the cost of doing business.”


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