We’ve all been there. You sit down in a dimly-lit cocktail bar primed to spend more than you can afford on a few drinks, only to find there’s no menu on your table.

You finally get one, but then what’s the group to do? Squeeze round each other to get a glimpse, tilt your head at an awkward angle and read upside down?

And once you’ve placed your order, the menu is often whisked away, stopping you deciding on your next bankruptcy-inducing beverage.

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But why?

It turns out there are two main reasons why cocktail bars are so stingy with their menus.

Firstly, with the trend for ever more elaborate cocktail menus, they’re expensive to make. Laced, leather-bound books, pop-up menus and graphic novels aren’t unusual anymore, but a lot more time, effort and money is needed to produce them.

“Owners of bars and bar managers have way better things to do with their time than spending it printing, cutting, and stuffing menus,” bar owner Ryan Fitzgerald told Esquire.

And with the rise of fancy menus comes the rise in people stealing them to take home as mementos, especially if the bar in question is particularly prestigious.

According to Rob Pate, the owner of Austin cocktail bar Péché, alcohol makes people stop suppressing their kleptomania tendencies. 

“The reason why most bars don’t give out a lot of menus is because most menus have been stolen,” he says. “You can chain the menu to the tables, but you lose a lot of the feel your interior designer was going after.”

What’s more, a lot of people don’t look after the menus, using them as coasters and leaving stains.

The second reason many bars insist on having few menus is because they actually want to encourage socialising.

Say you’re on a date - if there’s only one menu, you have to lean in closely to each other to peruse and discuss.

And similarly, many bars insist on removing the menu after you’ve ordered to ensure you actually look at whoever you’re with and talk about something other than the drinks. 

Although many would argue that having a talking point for when conversation dries up can be a nice safety net.

We’ve all been there.

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