My Manhattan, ”The Black Market,” started off at $14. When I went to re-order it an hour later, the drink was $19. Inflation? In a sense, but the fluctuating prices at CKTL & CO are entirely intentional — the stock market-themed Toronto space sells drinks that fluctuate in price based on demand.
If everyone is ordering Espresso Martinis (classic!), prices will rise. And if we’re ignoring Manhattans or Martinis for caffeine-spiked espresso drinks, the price of those menu drinks will drop. Likewise for wine and beer — your local pint will dip as drinkers switch to stronger things, and wine prices will rise if a bachelorette cycles in.
“We opened in the Financial District, Toronto’s financial hub and home of the city’s own stock exchange,” says CKTL & CO’s director of business development Kushal Shah. “Toronto’s restaurant scene is back in full swing, and employees in the offices around the restaurant have started to return to work in-person.”
Customers can slide up to the bar and see what’s “in the red” or “in the green.” It may dictate your next drink order, and live ticker boards throughout the space update every half hour with the new prices of cocktails, wines and beers. (Or, real barflies can download the bar’s app and keep apprised of the market — ahem, the drink menu — on their phone.) Drinks bear names like Insider Trade (a tequila and mezcal mix shaken with Averna and orgeat), Market Collapse (a tropical vodka drink) and High Yield Old Fashioned (spirit forward and stirred with a Canadian whisky base).
While this entire concept may sound like a finance bro’s fever dream, Shah finds that most customers aren’t into stocks, bonds and financial brouhaha at all. “We’ve had plenty of guests visit us for the first time, curious about how the stock exchange works at our restaurant,” he says. “They’re delighted to buy into the market — try out our cocktail, craft beer and wine offerings.”
This isn’t the first time investment-themed bars have entered the market. In the late ‘90s, the student bar at Ripon, England was filled with co-eds roaring over rising and falling prices of cheap beer. “Every so often, they’d sound a horn and the monitors would flash ‘CRASH’,” says one former student on Reddit. “A pint of lager dropped to 10 pence.”
Around the 2010s, a company called The Drink Exchange was founded in Charleston by Cole Patterson and Todd Schram. They introduced a system that sets businesses up with technology that turns their bar into a trading floor. They offer software “for weekly events or as a happy hour tool” that will increase sales by 40% on average, according to the website.
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Interestingly enough, their heyday was in the early aughts in the midst of the last major recession. In 2015, The Blind Burro used The Drink Exchange to track tequila prices on TV screens through the bar. At a similar time, Austin’s Brew Exchange rang the opening bell at the start of service and asked customers to order based on surging craft brew trends. A near-decade later, markets are dropping again and these bars are back. The Dow Jones in Barcelona offers a similar concept — customers come in and drink prices dance around their orders.
It’s an interesting time for CKTL & CO to open. Canada is in a state of financial crisis — interest rates are through the roof, grocery prices are soaring and the economy is sagging. Are drinkers interested in bringing investing into their happy hour? In the age of drastic inflation, is investing in $20 cocktails all some of us can stomach?
Alternatively, maybe the stock market-themed bar trend isn’t for out-of-work traders looking for more optimistic outcomes; it’s simply fodder for the Instagram crowd, offering the same intrigue as a drink covered in dry ice or a sort of speakeasy. “It’s the coolest concept I’ve ever heard of in my life,” says TikToker LouLouExplores about The Dow Jones (the bar). “If not a lot of people are buying, like, a Sex on the Beach, the prices go down!!”
Maybe stock market-themed bars serve as an easy entry point to the confusing world of investing, offering insight into investment through a lens many understand. “We actually had a group of guests order the same beer as a group throughout their time dining with us to see how they could make the market fluctuate,” Shah says. “Our goal is to appeal to the diverse population of Toronto, whether that be a stock broker working next door or the casual diner looking to try out a new experience.”
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