🍸Drink (financially) responsibly: Inside Austin’s $20 cocktail
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
- 6 min read

🍸Drink (financially) responsibly: Inside Austin’s $20 cocktail

Plus: Blues on the Green is NOT dead. So who saved it?


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☀️ Good morning, Austin, and welcome to the first send of Austin Daily.

You know what the best thing about a long weekend is? The work week starts on a Tuesday, which means you're already that much closer to Thursday happy hour. Which used to be … happier.

Below, we’ll break down what's behind the high prices in Austin's cocktail scene. Then, details about the resurrection of Blues on the Green, plus peep where Austin's newest celeb power couple lives.

It's not just you. Cocktails in Austin are more expensive than they used to be.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

If we had a dollar for every time our cocktails cost twice as much as our dinner in Austin, we … could afford more cocktails.

Sadly, the $20 beverage has become a big-city reality. And, like it or not, Austin is all grown up.

But before you blame bar owners, let’s dig in.

We chatted with Kelsey Erickson Streufert, chief public affairs officer of the Texas Restaurant Association. She says there are a handful of factors contributing to the price tag on your Mezcal Old Fashioned.

  1. Inflation. The cost of food and alcohol is UP. That means menu prices are, too — they’ve increased 5.1% since this time last year, per the National Restaurant Association.
  2. Commercial rent and utility costs. Influx of people = high demand for commercial property = higher rent for bar and restaurant owners.
  3. The bureaucracy of booze. A bottle of tequila has to go through the manufacturer and then a distributor, before a bar owner buys it. And then the bar owner needs to make a profit.

“The challenge for restaurants is really pricing items on their menu to reflect the true cost of their service without alienating consumers,” Erickson Streufert said.

Plus, you’re paying for the ~vibes~.

“It’s the experience that you’re going for, and that does come with a cost,” she said.

And for what it’s worth, we’re paying more at liquor stores, too. The consumer price index for “alcohol at home” is up 10% from 2019 to 2023, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor data.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis/U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

So the million-dollar question: Which Austin bars’ cocktails are worth the price?

It’s all about trial and error, Anthony Jones (@theatxdrinker) told us. And his pro tip for weeding out any meh menu items: Talk to the bartenders. 

“They’ll tell you about the reason they made the cocktail menu, the effort that went into it,” Jones said. “If you hear that they just started as a bartender or that — ‘I don’t know we just decided to put a daiquiri on there’ — then you’ll realize there’s no reason it should be $18.”

Would you pay $20 for a cocktail? If so, where? Reply to this email with your thoughts and recs.

— Katie Canales, Editor

Temp: 78 degrees   Sunshine: Slay All Day  What to Expect: Good Moods

The sun is shining and we’re soaking in the Vitamin D. This weather always puts this city in a good mood. It's what locals call a “Fool’s spring” — the time of year when it seems winter is behind us, but technically we're still in the middle of it. Spring doesn’t officially arrive until next month, and the Climate Prediction Center is hinting at cooler and wetter weather for that first week of March.

Mary’s Tip: Enjoy the sunshine and warmth by taking a stroll around Lady Bird Lake and then hitting up The Picnic Food Trailer Park for a quick bite.

Our beloved Blues is back from the Austin Graveyard.

Blues on the Green isn't dead! We’re less than two months into the year, and the summer festival has already given us emotional whiplash. After announcing in January that its 2024 season was canceled — it's back on. Let's break it down.

  1. Who’s to thank for bringing it back? On Friday, Austin City Limits Radio announced the free music festival would in fact return this year, crediting a City Council resolution and increased financial support from H-E-B. (Once again, the Texas grocer steps up in an emergency). 
  2. Bigger than Blues on the Green. The resolution also calls for the city to support other community events. A number of residents urged leaders to back events hosted by the Mexican American Cultural Center, Red River Cultural District and the Dorris Miller Auditorium, among others. Councilman Zohaib Qadri said he's actively working on Red River.
  3. Beer on the Green? The city also plans to explore “permitting the sale of alcoholic beverages for such events where appropriate.” Some council members raised safety concerns, but Councilman José Vela said he introduced the amendment in hopes of helping events like this stay financially viable. (Note: Blues on the Green has allowed the sale of alcohol in a limited bar area for the past two years.)

Welcome home, Bill and Giuliana. The Rancics have bought a $4 million Austin-area abode.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Two of the Austin area's newest residents are “Apprentice” reality TV star and restaurateur Bill Rancic and his wife, E! News host and fashion designer Giuliana Rancic. The couple purchased a mansion in July near Bee Cave, west of the city. The area consistently ranks among the most expensive suburbs.

The couple purchased in the ritzy Spanish Oaks gated community, which is where Bee Cave’s most expensive active listing is located: a five-bedroom, seven-bath abode for $7.75 million. And that’s just what’s listed publicly on the market. The Rancics bought their Spanish Oaks home off-market, so we don’t know exactly how much they paid. But property records show the home was last valued by Travis County at $4.2 million.

With their new home located in the Hill Country, we hope the Rancics are stocked up on Claritin. #notanad

— Bob Goldsborough, Contributing Reporter

Ask for hot takes, and you shall receive.

When y'all signed up to receive this newsletter, we asked for your hot takes about all things Austin. Boy did you deliver. Here are a couple standouts from our inbox. Want to weigh in on these or other topics? Reply to this email.

"My hot take is that the thrifting scene in Austin is TRASH!!! This city’s second-hand stores have the middest picks ever, for twice the price you would find in cities like San Antonio or Houston. The market here is so saturated with scalpers that it makes a once fun hobby a dread. Why does a pair of off-brand JNCO jeans cost the same as two months rent????" — Kira Schwarz
"My hottest take on Austin is anyone wearing a cowboy hat or boots has been in town approximately one month." — Wendi Aarons

We're so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind today's send: Katie Canales, Cat DeLaura, Mary Wasson and Bob Goldsborough.