Why are only alcoholic drinks so expensive?

Why are there no high end sodas or apple juices that go for thousands of dollars?

Because it can be mass produced in seconds. Aging does nothing except ruin sodas and juices. Whiskeys and fine wine are aged for years. These are examples of the metaphor, time is money. I recently spent quite a bit for a bottle of 19 year old bourbon. Now my problem. I can drink and likely enjoy it very much. Or I can wait a few years when the small supply of this bourbon is no longer available and double my money.

There are no sodas or fruit juices that require massive amounts of fermentation, distilling and years of aging, all of which will drive the prices up. Sodas are just a bunch of sugar, some flavoring and carbon dioxide. Fruit juices are made by pressing out fresh fruit. By comparison, an apple brandy would require massive amounts of fresh juice to be fermented, then that fermented juice to be distilled into a tiny fraction of the original mass of the fruit then aged so it doesn’t strip paint and acquires some mellow flavor. That’s a big commitment of resources and time.

The cost of inputs are part of the reason, but focusing on that is at least partially confusing cause with effect. The primary reason is conspicuous consumption.

Consuming top shelf (or rare vintage) alchol is a mark of wealth and sophistication. Consuming juice and soda are not, so there’s no market in making very expensive juices or sodas. If there were, someone would figure out how to make a $1000 glass of apple juice, I assure you.

A good example of evidence that this is primarily cultural and doesn’t have anything to do with the specific difficulties of making expensive alcohols is the Japanese market in expensive melons and other fruits. In Japan, fancy fruits occupy a luxury space in the market for consumption and gifts that’s very similar to what top shelf or vintage alcohol occupies in other places, with prices to match.

If you want to spend $10,000 on a consumable to show how rich you are, a market will arise to make a sufficiently rare and difficult to create consumable. Fermentation not required.

I suppose excise taxes are a part of it. In the US, it’s $13.50 per proof-gallon, so that’s about $2.16 on a fifth of whiskey, which is about 15%.

@Danger_Man, there are many expensive flavors of tea. I believe there is one particular type of oolong that costs upwards of $1,000 per gram of leaves. I think it’s because there are only a five or six of the specific tea trees left in the world, hundreds of years old and fiercely protected by the Chinese government.


There are also some pretty expensive coffees. Some go to the length of getting animals to eat the coffee, then sorting the beans out from the “leavings” of the animal.

Personally, I would generally find something that has passed through the digestive tract of another mammal to have decreased in value, but then, I’m not nearly enough of a coffee snob, I guess. This stuff sells for hundreds of dollars a pound.

When I worked in a high end restaurant, we did get coffee in that was around $35 a pound, though we used it more for crusting fillets than for brewing drinks.

Generally, although worm fertilizer/castings is another exception.


Kopi luwak is a variety of coffee that can get pretty pricey.

Because they don’t deliver a hit of a drug.

I found a can of crystal Pepsi from 1991 in the basement that I’ll sell you for $10,000

Elephant coffee is even more expensive.

I’m trying to remember a TV episode I watched recently where someone had some coffee beans that had passed through an elephant and then a large cat (jaguar? leopard?) and they found out that the animals were sewn together, Human Centipede style, and were in a moral quandry about drinking it, until they did. Latest season of Big Mouth, maybe?

Coincidentally, I just bought some Calvados. Right next to it on the shelf was the exact same thing, except V.S.O.P., and right next to that X.O. The older bottles cost over twice as much.

Of course, it is what the market will bear. A whiskey aged 25 years in a fancy bottle appeals to sone people. People were outraged when companies started charging four bucks for a cup of coffee but were presumably willing to do it for the (at the time) prestige and atmosphere.

Good coffee can be pricy. But the rare teas purchased for fancy Asian weddings go fior breathtaking prices and so the original assumptions are wrong.

I’ve been to the Jack Daniel’s distillery and the sheer magnitude of square footage it takes to house all those barrels for natural aging is daunting. There just aren’t any shortcuts or ways to hurry the process and that’s where the money factors in. Completely at a tangent, can you imagine what a forest fire would do if it hit that valley? Dang.

You realize, of course, that time in bottle means nothing. Better to have phrased it “25 year old whiskey in a fancy bottle.”

And I’d like to “thank” the OP for raising the idea. Within a year I predict some fancy LA/Vegas clubs will be offering “elite juices from rare curated plants pressed between the thighs of…” you get the picture.

There are discos that charge fifteen bucks for a soda because people will pay. Silicon Valley types perhaps paid for an expensive juicer reportedly less efficient than using ones hands. The rumours about female tennis stars crushing melons with their thighs are false.

Also there is the angel’s share: What is the Angels' share? | Whiskipedia

About 2% of barrel aged spirits evaporate per year in Scotland. That’s with a 250 liter cask (~80 gallons) in the mild Scottish climate. Smaller barrels have higher surface to liquid ratios and evaporate faster. Ditto in a hotter climate. While a 10 year old cask may have lost only 18-20% of its original volume, in contrast a 25 year old cask typically loses around 40%. Plus need to factor in the barrel cost, management and of course the time value of money.

Juices and soft drinks don’t age in such a fashion, and don’t have the associated costs.

Out of curiosity, why? I would imagine (but could be totally wrong) that if you’re crusting a filet with coffee grounds, your average steak-eater couldn’t tell the difference between $35/lb and Folgers, once it’s seasoned and cooked. But a coffee drinker in the know could definitely tell the difference.

It was “Tacoma FD”, the pickleball contest episode.