The Corkage fee: Two Sides of the Cork
The corkage fee is a an ongoing battle between patrons and the restaurateur. Like everything in life there are two sides to every discussion. While working in the restaurant business I have learned to live in the grey areas. Although black and white is so much easier to live by, life just doesn’t allow for that. The corkage fee discussion is one that I would like to jump into and give my “grey” point of view and hopefully give a compromise between the patron and the restaurateur.
Why does the patron bring his own wine into the restaurant?
- He wants to save money and not pay the mark up restaurants charge on the wine list. It is difficult to walk into a restaurant and see the same wine that offered at your local wine shop for two to three times more. Why not bring in your own wine, pay the $20 corkage and still save $10-$20? I guess that only makes sense.
- The restaurant’s wine list is pathetic and doesn’t offer wines that are suitable to drink. The most unfortunate part of this is that it is so true. I enjoy wine and I enjoy eating out. But if a restaurant only has a Central Coast Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir from California and their eclectic wine section reads: as Zinfandel and Bordeaux Superior, I need to bring my wine. One cannot blame the patron, the restaurant is not doing their job, and should put more focus on their list if they want guests to buy wine from them.
- The patron has a very special wine they have saved since their birth year. They have chosen this restaurant to open and celebrate their 25th anniversary. As a restaurateur I should feel honored that they have chosen this restaurant to open such a special bottle. All said and done, enjoy that special bottle, have a great meal but pay the corkage fee.
Why does the restaurateur oppose to guests bringing in their own wine?
- The restaurateur can read a cheap skate from far away. It is infuriating for any true professional to see someone come into their line of business and take advantage of their hard work only to save a buck. I’d hate to work at the Nordstrom’s shoe department seeing all these shoes being returned because the patron decided to wear them out for one night to dine at a restaurant where they brought their own wine from Vons. Too bad Von’s doesn’t take back empty bottles of wine just because the sticker price is still on the bottle. What I am getting at is that in some restaurants the wine list took a long time to create. It was specially designed to go with chef’s cuisine, the restaurant’s concept and they spent hours training the staff. Then we see a bottle of Turning Leaf on a table. It is a slap in the face of those that work so hard in creating a successful list.
- Professional restaurants put lists together so that they have something for everybody. It is upsetting to see a guest walk in with several bottles of wine and half of them are on the list. Obviously the guest did not do his homework and check the wine list.
- Sometimes guests bring in wines purchased from the winery, and they do not realize that after the corkage fee they are probably paying more. The guest buys the wine at the winery for $20, the restaurant buys it for $12 and charges $36. When the guest pays the $20 corkage fee, they are paying $40. What many people don’t realize is that going to the winery does not mean they are getting the wines at wholesale. In fact, they are paying sometime 10-15% above retail. If you are going to bring your own wine, see if the restaurant carries it first.
The corkage dilemma.
Some guests are reluctant to pay the corkage fee…well shame on you! That’s like telling the hotel you want a discount on the room rate because you brought your own towels. The hotel still has to offer towels to other guests and your room rate is based on what it takes for the hotel to run. Whether you use your own towels or not, the rates pay for everyone’s towels. In the restaurant, the owners still need to pay employees to wash your glasses and serve you. Whether you are drinking your own wine or not, you pay so that the restaurant can stay in business and give service to everyone. If the restaurant kept a BYOW policy without corkage and everyone brought their own wine, that restaurant would lose a huge chunk of profit. A functioning restaurant is normally at a 10% profit. Some of the more well run establishments are reaching 15-20% profits. A lose in wine revenue would ultimately result in the closing of the restaurant, increase in food prices or a decrease in labor which in turn affects service. The corkage fee is not in place so that the restaurant can gauge the guest, it is a way to make up for lost sales. Like in any business, sales is what keeps them afloat. Loose those sales and there is no business. If you are bringing your own wine to the restaurant, pay the fee! It is the right the right thing to do.
Some people believe that if you taste the server on your wine they should waive the fee. That is just ridiculous! Servers are busy, they have more than your table to tend to. Imagine if you were another table that wants to put an order in and you’re in somewhat of a hurry. You look over at your server who is at another table tasting wine. Obviously there is pressure on the server to engage the table on what an amazing wine they have. He has to shower them with adjectives so that they feel as though the bottle is super special. All the time you are turning red because you cannot get the server’s attention. Sorry, but half the time the server doesn’t want to taste the wine that you picked up at the winery and paid almost restaurant price. He has to work and tend to many guests. The little taste of your wine still does not pay for the busboy that clears your table nor the dishwashers that wash your glasses nor the breakage that will ultimately occur at some point when your glass is put into a drying rack. Again, pay the fee! Feel free to share your wine, but don’t be discouraged if the sever declines the taste, he might be in recovery.
So when should the corkage fee be waived? If I go to a restaurant and I am gong to bring my wine, I always start with a glass of something. I might even order a bottle of white or Champagne to start. I don’t expect my corkage fee waived, but it sure would be a nice gesture. If the patron is supporting the restaurant and supports the wine program, waive the fee.
So what is the corkage fee compromise?
- Restaurateurs, improve your wine program. Provide a wine list that is exciting and intriguing. Be fair with your mark ups.
- Patrons, pay the corkage fee. You do not bring your own meat to the restaurant, so if you are bringing your own wine, pay the fee…it is a business not a public park for you to have a picnic.
- Restaurateurs, be honored when guests brings in a special bottle, remember they could have gone anywhere, and they chose you. That means a lot.
- Patrons, think about what you are bringing in. I don’t now how many times servers and sommeliers have rolled their eyes when they see guests bring in a bottle of Justin Isosceles. It really is not that rare, they make 30,000 cases! If you are going to bring in a wine, make it cool!
- Restauranteurs, be generous. If the guest is supporting your program and buying a bottle or some champagne for the table. If they are celebrating a very special evening, waive the fee…make new friends.
I use to live in San Francisco and I totally understand and agree with the corkage fee. I would check with the restaurant before hand to find out their policy on bringing my own wine. If they carried the wine I was planning to bring, I would either bring a different one they did not carry and pay the corkage fee, or simply purchase theirs.
However, on a VERY special occasion, several friends (8) went to a top restaurant in Napa and called ahead to get info on wine & corkage policy ($35 per bottle). We each bought a very special bottle (none on their menu) to go with our 5 course meal. When we arrived, we had to “check in” our wines before being seated at our table. Our server came to confirm we were doing the 5 course meal and gave us a wine menu. After stating we brought our own but would also be purchasing a few of their bottles, everything went pair shaped. We were told we can only uncork 2 bottles! We explained we had previously confirmed about bringing our own and that no one mentioned a 2 bottle max. Needless to say, we were all pissed, reluctantly stayed for the dinner and it costs us an additional $600 in wine expenses. We complained to the Manager, wrote the owner a letter and have boycotted that establishment ever since. We also told all our friends about our experience and told them to spread our experience with others.
So, I have experienced positive and negatives with corkage policies.
Shame on that restaurant! It’s all too often that owners, managers and servers forget that they work in the hospitality industry.
Most corkage policies include a limit. 1 750 bttl per 4 dinners. Tell me you never saw this before, in a major food city SF? Come on. Eight people, 8 bottles??? Why not pe-arrange your wines with the chef and somm, let them organize a menu and charge appropriately? You have to remember, they are in biz to earn a profit, not to a public service.
@Don Rutkoff – Yes, after living there for 11 years, I do know most policies and variations for corkage. Therefore, we made a point to make sure everything was sorted PRIOR to our arrival as we were celebrating a friend’s 25th wedding anniversary. We called and spoke to a Manager PRIOR to our reservation about bringing in the wines, provided a list of the wines to make sure they weren’t on their menu and so the Somm could select the best bottle to be paired with EACH course. We were not expecting to uncork all 8 bottles, but 5 of the 8. We were also buying enough wine for each course as well – at least 3 more bottles per course = 15 bottles from the establishment. Their cheapest bottles of wine retailed at $100 = $1500 min but we all expected on spending more per bottle to compliment the rare vintages we had each brought. Let me clarify…we EACH had to pay an additional $600 (wines only) after being told they could only cork 2 bottles. Most would think/assume if you are spending over $5,000 for a freaking dinner, you could expect more from the management and staff.
My initial point was we went through so much effort and detail making our reservation and double checking prior to our arrival to make sure everything was sorted. They are a World renowned top 5 star establishment – they failed tell us they had a 2 bottle min. and we spoke to the Management at least 3 or 4 prior to our arrival to discuss other specifics, including the RARE vintages we wanted to pair. We all came to the same conclusion end…they did not want to lose our reservation, knowing how much money we would be spending, so they simply did not tell us about the 2 bottle min, and lead us to believe everything was okay. The Manager knew if we would have been told about the 2 bottle min, we would have went somewhere else. They were just being unethical and greedy.
Question, did you simply ask about the policy, or did you say, we are bring in 8 (or however many bottles) bottles of wine. It is one thing to follow the rules, it is another to just check what the policy is and then load up with a ton of bottles. Seems excessive. Remember, corkage is not a right.
I have already answered this question in my previously reply…yes, we did ask about their policy prior to arriving. We were going to enjoy a 5 course meal but since there were 8 of us, we each brought one of our best bottles to be paired with each course. We did not plan to uncork all 8 but just one for each course and NONE of our bottles were on the menu. We called and spoke to Somm on one of our previous calls. We brought extra so the Somm would have a better selection to pair with. We planned on purchasing an additional 3 bottles per course. We were NEVER told about the 2 bottle min and we spoke to the Management on 3 separate occasions prior to our arrival. If we would have been informed, we would have simply discussed options with management or switched venues.
this was a great one, Maurice – thoughtful and well done – thank you! one thing I would add, for the patrons… when you do bring your own wine, and it’s something funky, always offer the somm a taste! from my experience, it definitely helps smooth over any awkwardness. 🙂
Want to hear something funny? The day that I posted this I had two different Southern reps call to ask if I wanted to taste the latest vintage of Justin Isosceles. At first I thought it was a joke, and were responding to the post. But that would have been giving them too much credit. They were really excited and serious about me tasting the new vintage. I politely declined.
Good to see this discussion. I have had many experiences with “Screwage”, some positive, but most negative. I often bring a special bottle to dinner, as i have an extended collection, and have some pressure to reduce that collection on the home front. Typically, we will order a bottle of white or bubbly to start an evening, and ask the somm/waitperson to cork our bottle. Often, the screwage fee is waived if we buy the first bottle, but we are also often asked to pay screwage on our “imported” bottle. I am fine paying a reasonable fee for the service, if the service merits it. However, I believe excessive screwage charges are considered by most consumers as simple piracy, and they respond appropriately, as Antoinette did, by complaining directly to the staff/management, and spreading a warning to all their friends. AND, never returning to the establishment. We recently had an experience similar to Antoinette’s, at a restaurant we enjoyed for great food and ambiance, although the sommelier was an arrogant egotist, which is also common. We are in a position where many folks ask us for recommendations, and we had referred many people to that establishment. Since our negative experience at the hands of the arrogant somm, we have since pointed folks AWAY from that place, and will never return. Now, is that good business? Remember the first premise of retail?
The customer is always right.
Screwage is a simple fact of life, and reasonable fees for proper service are certainly acceptable, but excessive screwage fees doled out by arrogant staff can only lead to a negative reaction from consumers. and consumers tend to broadcast their negative experiences to one and all.
In response to Tony C, Antoinette and Don R, restaurants need to make a living. The restaurant business is a difficult one, profits are low and the stress is high. Some feel above their patrons, but once the press turns on them and the next big thing opens next door, they will need to re-address their policies.
A restaurant is in it for the profit. But a profit means returning guests. No one is too great to be better than their guests. If a restaurant is fair with markups, has a clear corkage or screwage (I assume you mean stelvin enclosures) policy in place, respect it. The restaurant should then respect the patron’s needs. Restaurants or somms who have lost sight of what the HOSPITALITY business is all about do not deserve your patronage…their are many other restaurants serving delicious food with extensive & reasonable wine lists that would embrace your visit with or without wine.
Good article. The only controversy I’ve encountered with corkage fees is outdated state and local. laws that prevent restaurants from offering corkage. And of course, if the wine is on their list you shouldn’t bring it in.
One promising thing I’ve seen in the metro Wash DC area are restaurants attached to wine stores. That’s great solution for diners — huge selection and (usually) just a small bump up from retail costs. In a sense that is corkage fee, but not described as such.
To expand upon reason #1, let’s not forget the unreasonable markup that some restaurants charge on their wine list – sometimes 3 to 4 times wholesale and that’s on a totally uninspired list. On top of that how many times have you seen wine by the glass where the first glass is sold for more than the wholesale price of the bottle.
I’ve have noticed a number of restaurants that offer a 1 for 1 waiver on corkage, buy a bottle, corkage for one bottle is waived which seems like a reasonable approach to me. Regarding the post about the previously unmentioned two bottle limit, the restaurant is question (It’s not hard to guess which one if you live in the SF Bay Area) has an absurd markup on their wine offerings and a real attitude problem due to the undeserved absolute worship bestowed upon them by the foodie press. It’s not surprising that they would object to what they feel would be someone cutting into their profits.
“It is difficult to walk into a restaurant and see the same wine that offered at your local wine shop for two to three times more. Why not bring in your own wine, pay the $20 corkage and still save $10-$20?”
The math troubles me. Saving $10-$20 makes the patron sound cheap. Say it is a $75 bottle. 2-3X more is $150 to $225. If I pay $75+$20 corkage that’s $95. So I’m saving $55-$130. That’s some real money. Even at a $50 bottle they are saving $30-$80.
Having said that I NEVER bring a wine that is on their list. It isn’t a cost saving venture for me, it is to pair a wine I have, that the restaurant does not, for a nice meal out. And I’ll pay the corkage.
But for those who are budget conscious, to make my “grey area argument”, my example above shows me they saved maybe enough to cover a GOOD PORTION of their meal cost. Otherwise, maybe they could not eat out at all and the restaurant would get zero of their money.
“That’s like telling the hotel you want a discount on the room rate because you brought your own towels”
Noooooooooo, its like bringing your own wine to a restaurant that doesnt have to open a fresh bottle of wine for you, doesnt have to store the wine, doesnt have to buy the wine in the first place, and doesnt have to throw it out, but still wants to charge you, for buying, opening, storing, and throwing out the empty bottle.
You yuppie poncey restaurant owners seriously need to pull your heads in. Serving up crap food on in tiny portions on huge plates doesnt make you Gabriel Gate.
You must have had a pretty bad experience, you have a lot of hostility. It sounds like you shouldn’t go out to eat.
Arent i lucky that where im from, if a restaurant attempts to charge me for a service they havent provided (like charging corkage) i can tell them to get stuffed and leave.
We had a corkage doozy at my restaurant recently. Now as a preface we’re definitely not Per Se, but have a small old world driven wine list stored at 58deg, use Riedel crystal stemware/decanters and have above average wine service. I know these issues always make their way into corkage conversations so…
Last Saturday night a party of six arrived for a reservation at 8pm. Two of the couples in the party we’re carrying wine totes. As soon as the server approached the table the guest told her that they would be opening 8 bottles of wine. The server proceeded to inform them of our policy: 2 750ml at $25/ea or one magnum max at $35 with a “one for one”. Buy one of our bottles and the corkage fee is waived. Without getting too heated, the guest told the server that if they we’re not allowed to open “all” of their wine, they would be leaving. The server told the table that she would need to speak with the owner and asked if they wanted to order any beverages to get started. They flatly told her that they wouldn’t be ordering any drinks because they had brought wine with them.
I was quickly told what was happening as well as the fact that the same server had “just” told an adjacent table whom had also brought a lot of wine in, that they wouldn’t be able to open everything. They we’re fine with this and actually took advantage of the one for one. Unfortunately this cemented the policy a bit deeper since everyone on the patio was in close proximity.
I approached the table and met with a group of very polite, mild mannered folks that we’re dead set on opening every bottle of wine. I explained our policy again(which is printed on the menu and our website). They said that they had never heard of a restaurant limiting the amount of bottles. They had also not heard of the one for one policy. I explained that on occasion we make exceptions, but that this usually requires an advance conversation and some sort of compromise like ordering a few bottles or adjusting corkage a bit higher. The guest I was dealing with primarily stood up, shook my hand and said” I understand where you are coming from. We are going to leave.” I replied “Ok” and that was it. After about 5 minutes they got up and left. No fireworks just an empty 6 top and that bad feeling in the gut when we just can’t work it out.
Yes the restaurant industry is about “hospitality”, but unfortunately situations arise when a guest pushes the “customer is always right” axiom to an extreme and we have to make a decision. Perhaps because of the severity of the last recession, there has developed an attitude among certain diners that restaurants should be happy for every guest that walks through the door. This might sound crazy but I don’t want every guest.
I’ve gone over a few different scenarios of how I could have dealt with this better, but a decision was made that I stand by. As for the corkage issue, there are many dos and dont’s for waiving corkage. The first “do” is be cool. The first “don’t” is to make demands and ultimatums. You are a guest, but it’s our house.
I’m curious what your blog readers think of this situation.
Did they not want to pay corkage for the bottles? Or was it that you did not want them to drink all 8 bottles without purchasing wine from the list?
I know what you mean when you say you felt that “bad feeling in your gut”, I know it all too well. When I look back at the situations that might have led to me feeling this, I realize that it was my conscience. Yes, we have rules and we can justify them when we need to. However, we can also bend them. Just as when that guest comes in that is super cool and we waive corkage. If you think about it, what did standing by the rules accomplish? From your description the guest was well mannered and didn’t raise a stink. He wanted his way. Maybe he only had enough money to pay for dinner and not wine. Maybe he was trying to impress some guests that would eventually return. That sinking feeling was your conscience because you know down deep inside, allowing them to open 8 bottles would not have hurt the restaurant, merely your rule.
I wrote this post because I think it is important that guests understand the restaurant point of view. But restaurants have also got to be flexible. If we were to choose our guests we would go out of business. We stay in business by dealing with them all. That is what makes our industry so diverse and difficult. I completely understand how you felt and why you made your decision. It is one that I have made in the past and tried to justify. But the truth is, allowing them to stay might have worked out better. They would have spent money, thanked you for your generosity and maybe made a guest for life. Now you have lost the guest, and who knows how many more if he decides to bad mouth you. In the world of Yelp, the power has shifted from the maitre’d to the guest.
By the way, I love your restaurant. It is one of my favorites!
“Did they not want to pay corkage for the bottles? Or was it that you did not want them to drink all 8 bottles without purchasing wine from the list?”
They were fine with corkage, but made it clear right away to the server and later myself that they had to be able to open all 8 bottles or they would leave. It was a clear ultimatum and it looked like they came in with their gun cocked. Recall that the same server had just told a neighboring table of the same policy so we felt our hands were a bit tied. This was also explained to the table. Did their making it clear that they weren’t going to drink anything besides what they brought earn them points? Probably not, but it wasn’t the only factor.
“I know what you mean when you say you felt that “bad feeling in your gut”, I know it all too well. When I look back at the situations that might have led to me feeling this, I realize that it was my conscience. Yes, we have rules and we can justify them when we need to. However, we can also bend them.”
In hindsight I think I would have first addressed the table that had graciously accepted our policy and told them that we could allow their extra bottles so that I could deal with the 8 bottle situation without that added pressure. It still could have ended up pear shaped given their demands but odds would have improved.
“If we were to choose our guests we would go out of business. We stay in business by dealing with them all.”
I feel that we have in our own way chosen our guests (or perhaps trained our guests in certain cases?) with certain actions we take. EG No TVs or minimizing juicy, modern wines to guide drinkers towards wines we feel are more interesting. In some respects this has defined who we are positively and in certain cases I’ve found this to be in error and we’ve made big changes. EG. Refusing to use Open Table or participate in Restaurant week, which are now both welcome partners and have introduced us to many great guests.
You mentioned that he might have only had money for dinner. I don’t want to judge a book by its’ cover, but I did see 2 bottles of Rochioli Pinot. ; )
“But the truth is, allowing them to stay might have worked out better. They would have spent money, thanked you for your generosity and maybe made a guest for life. ”
Absolutely. The next time this happens, there will be a much different outcome. From our parting interaction I actually think that the guests left feeling a little uneasy too. I actually think they might come in again. I hope. Fortunately, this was above the Yelp level. This was some good old fashioned face to face, which in the Yelp age, is to be respected.
“In the world of Yelp, the power has shifted from the maitre’d to the guest.”
My first thought is “lord help us”! But more seriously, this shift is at the core of the discussion. I think the power needs to be shared.
“By the way, I love your restaurant. It is one of my favorites!”
I see why corkage fees exist. I can understand the restaurant. But…I want to enjoy the wine I want to and if I save money while enjoying a great meal then that’s a win for me 🙂
Here’s a mobile app that lets you find what fees local restaurants are charging: http://www.corkagefee.com.
Very cool. It’s crowdsourced so people can add and verify fees.
Great post Maurice. Always a touchy subject. Interesting that the dining public doesn’t become so heated over liquor markups. Or soda fountain drinks at a fast food restaurant. While it certainly seems to me that a wise restauranteur will reognize that every guest’s motivation to bring in a bottle is unique and an opportunity to make a friend, the customer has to respect that the establishment MUST be profitable.
I would disagree about the Justin. Everything about it is wonderful save the flavor and nose. And the mouthfeel. ; )
A reasonable corkage fee should be available for people who want a great meal but actually have to pay for dinner with their own hard-earned money. For people on their company’s plastic, please buy the wine that the restaurant sells at their 4-8x markup. Impress your client with the fact that you spent $800 on them for a bottle of 1992 (off year) Bordeaux from the wine list. Go seal that deal! For us, we’ll bring our own excellent 2001 Bordeaux that we purchased En Primeur for $100, pay the $50 corkage fee, and enjoy the heck out of the evening.
Absolutely, the corkage fee should be available. But, even $50 is pretty high for a corkage fee. 4-8 x is a bit exaggerated mark up, but I get what you are saying.
As a restaurant owner, I think I would have probably followed our policy. At most I would have allowed an extra bottle to be opened in good faith towards the customers unless they were regularly established customers then maybe allowed 4. Think about it –8 bottles of wine 6 people- who is driving? unless you are at a resort where people walk. What about the restaurants liability to providing that service? I think the owner did the right thing. Other customers don’t appreciate you changing a policy they just agreed to for other customers- so someone else would have been ticked off in response. Customers like that don’t really care about the food just getting their way.
Two points of advice for the article’s author:
1- Remove the exclamation points so it doesn’t appear that you are shouting. You are the owner so you want to remain professional at all times. Keep it cool and educate rather than lecture.
2- Correct the spelling errors. You don’t want your clientele cringing. Good luck.
Another reason a patron brings their own wine is because the restaurant is not licenced for alcohol. Bit rude then to charge corkage because the restaurant want to save on stoking alcohol methinks
If a restaurant does not have a permit to sell, then they should not charge corkage…absolutely right.
so the story stated that most establishments have a profit up to 20%. If the restaurant purchases the wine for $12 a bottle and sells it for $36 how do you get only a 20% profit?
A restaurant that does well, might be lucky if they obtain a 20% profit. We are not talking about profit on wine, but on all expenses. At the end of the day that 2.5-3 times mark up only lends 10-20% profit after rent, utilities, labor, smallwares etc… are all paid for.
The Corkage Conundrum: How to Bring Wine to a Restaurant Without Being Rude - Vinfolio Blog
[…] high corkage fees, think about it from the restaurant’s perspective. Not only are restaurants losing a huge chunk of profit whenever a guest brings his own bottle of wine, the guest is also avoiding one of the standard […]
This is a very good article with valuable information. The author of this article could have used spell check for the numerous misspelled words.I’m not sure what a person would use to correct the wrong choice of words as done in this article…there is always proofreading.
Sorry – I disagree completely with the reasoning given for charging corkage.
– Wine glasses are usually on the table when diners arrive – no extra staff work involved.
– No wine waiter involved – so no extra work involved
– The table has to be cleared of water glasses. plates, cutlery etc – no extra work involved to remove one more glass
– All crockery, cutlery, glassware is washed in dishwasher – no extra work involved
So If I am paying a healthy amount for hotel accommodation and for a meal and the establishment is making a profit on that, why should I be charged a corkage amount of 3 times the cost of a reasonable quality wine from a wine merchant – the answer – I am being ripped off for profit and there is no justifiable reason for this apart from greed.
Whatever happened to customer care???
Totally agree. How much should I paid for a bottle of wisky. My favorite restaurant doesn’t have , only beer and wine, but my husband wants wisky.
Most restaurants in California cannot sell whiskey by the bottle. The only time you can buy by the bottle is in clubs or in 21 and over establishments. Due to liquor serving laws, guests cannot bring hard alcohol into a restaurant. If someone becomes over intoxicated and let’s say, gets into an accident the restaurant could be liable. For this reason, liquor can only be sold and not brought in.
If you are asking about retail, you can get a decent bottle of whiskey any where from $15-$20 for a 4 year bourbon, okay quality to $30 -50 for a longer aged whiskey. Depending on his tastes would determine style of whiskey. I prefer a nice American style Rye whiskey with a spicy flavor and not too much of the charred American oak used in Bourbons.