There’s nothing more sobering than learning the martinis you’ve been guzzling cost $15 a pop. These local quaffs deliver plenty of bang for not a lot of buck.
Old-fashioned cocktails like the sazerac — a blend of rye whiskey, bitters, and Pernod — are back in vogue, but usually cost a thoroughly modern $10 or $12. Grendel’s comes at the throwback price of $5.75, meaning you can throw back more than one without going broke. 89 Winthrop St., Cambridge, 617-491-1160, grendelsden.com.
For the quality, Highland’s carefully made cocktails are some of the best deals in town. We like the Mark N Stormy, made with Maker’s Mark and homemade chili-infused ginger beer ($8). It packs a punch, but the gingery, spicy finish makes it a drink to sip, not swill. Be sure to check the giant chalkboard on the restaurant’s back wall for nightly drink specials. 150 Highland Ave., Somerville, (617)-625-1131, highlandkitchen.com.
When you order a vodka or classic gin martini at this South End hole-in-the-wall, it helps to know the drill: After the bartender or waiter fills your chilled glass to the brim, he will stand back, shaker in hand, and wait expectantly. Carefully slide the almost-overflowing drink toward you and, without lifting the glass, lean down and take a good, long slurp. Now there’s room for more martini, and your good man will wordlessly empty the rest of the shaker into your glass. Did we mention that it’s just $7? 433 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-266-5088.
The Savant Project
If you’ve never used beer as a mixer, The Savant Project is a good place to try it out. (Trust us: It’s better than it sounds.) If it’s nice out, grab a seat on the fenced-in patio, and take your pick of the Blonde (Blonde Lillet and Blue Moon), the Brunette (Ruby Port and Nut Brown) or the Redhead (Framboise and Pilsner Urquell.) At just $6 to $7 a pop, you might just love them all. 1625 Tremont St., Boston, (617)-566-5958, thesavantproject.com.
The Franklin Café
The Franklin was one of the first area bars to take classic cocktails seriously, and it still makes some of the best. You can’t get any more old-school than the Pegu Club, made with Beefeater gin, orange Curaçao, fresh lime, and bitters. The $9 price tag doesn’t hurt, either. 278 Shawmut Ave., Boston, (617)-350-0010, franklincafe.com.
Deep Ellum’s cocktail list boasts an extensive array of libations, including ten variations on the Manhattan. The Contraband — a blend of gin, the Indonesian liquor Batavia-arack, Swedish punsch, Agwa coca leaf liqueur, and absinthe — contains an impressive number of esoteric and intoxicating vices for a $10 drink. 477 Cambridge St., Allston, (617)-787-2337, deepellum-boston.com.
Swanky Dorchester hot-spot DBar features a long list of well-priced cocktails. The Huckleberry Rhubarb Martini, with homemade rhubarb puree, rum, and huckleberries is $9, and that’s the most you’ll shell out for any of the bar’s sweet sips. 1236 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, (617)-265-4490, dbarboston.com.
Legal Sea Foods
On Legal’s new outdoor terrace in Charles Square, all the house “coolers” are served in 16-ounce glasses over ice, and cost less than $10. In keeping with the summery theme, we’re partial to the Berry Smash ($7.95), made with blueberry juice, the Cucumber Cooler ($8.95), with muddled cucumber, lime, and grapefruit bitters, and the Legal Sangria ($9.95). 20 University Rd., Cambridge, 617-491-9400, legalseafoods.com.
Hipsters, hippies, and yuppies come together in this casual Jamaica Plain bar and bistro. But don’t leave it to the locals: The drink list, which changes seasonally, is worth a pilgrimage. The current menu’s Vanilla Old Fashioned ($10) contains house-infused vanilla and brown sugar bourbon. Even if you don’t think you like whiskey, it’s hard not to love this. 435 South Huntington Ave., Jamaica Plain, 617-477-5741, alchemistlounge.com.
We love drink menus like this: Everything is $8! Most every cocktail is superb, but we adore the Mela Verde, made with eau de pomme, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, chartreuse, and lime. It’s springy and bright — and won’t cost you a lot of green. 253 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboston.com.