Think that $20 cocktail you're sipping is pricey? Bars and restaurants around the world have upped the ante, offering ridiculous cocktails made with rare, high-end spirits. Consider these your once-in-a-lifetime libations.
Aficionados rarely use top-shelf booze on mixed drinks. If you were lucky enough to score a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 12 Year, chances are you dropped several thousand bucks on the opportunity to sip it neat—maybe with an ice cube or two. But bartenders and beverage directors at upscale restaurants and bars around the world are finding ways to incorporate rare, expensive bottles of whiskey, cognac, rum, and other spirits into astronomically priced cocktails. It's a thrilling indulgence—if you can stomach the pricetag. Starting at about $50 and ranging into the thousands, here are some of the most over-the-top cocktails that (a lot of) money can buy:
Bourgeois Pig at The Rickey ($50)
The Rickey, a new bar on the ground floor of the Dream Midtown hotel in New York City, has a cocktail menu curated by mixologist Johnny Swet. A favorite is the Bourgeois Pig, a $50 truffle martini with vodka, dry vermouth, bacon elixir, rosemary bitters, and the ingredient that sends it over the top: a piece of shaved black truffle. Swet uses the French Perigord truffle, specifically, which he considers the finest.
Balmoral at Beautique ($80)
Celebrity playpen restaurant Beautique, located across from NYC's Plaza Hotel, is often visited by actors, musicians, and models who come for the food and stay for an after-dinner visit to the nightclub tucked in the back. Here they find the Balmoral, an $80 cocktail created by wine director Brett Mendl. This drink is similar to a Manhattan, but it's made with The Macallan Rare Cask, stirred with just a touch of dry and sweet vermouth. "Using a high-end whiskey in a cocktail will always create a smoother drink with less alcohol burn and generally less of a hangover," Mendl says. It will also jack up the price, but the results are pretty impressive—this is a cocktail where you can taste what the quality spirit adds to it.
Jet Set Manhattan at Tavern on 51 ($100)
Tavern on 51 is one of several ritzy drinking establishments in the Lotte New York Palace hotel. (Another? Rarities, where one can order a dram of whiskey for a few thousand dollars.) At Tavern on 51, the Jet Set Manhattan, made with Michter's 20 Year Single Barrel Bourbon and vintage Taylor Fladgate 1985 Port, will only set you back $100. Justin Lorenz, director of wine and beverage for Rarities, sums up the one-percenter appeal nicely: "For someone who has it all, the subtle nuances experienced from the use of these rare [spirits] simply have no substitute."
Paradis + Perdition at Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room ($185)
The Rainbow Room is an iconic New York restaurant, located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and its Bar SixtyFive features a $185 cocktail called Paradis + Perdition (pictured), made with Hennessy Paradis, champagne, flamed absinthe, and cinnamon. What better way to enjoy the view from the Top of the Rock than by drinking a cocktail that costs as much as your monthly cell phone bill?
La-Freak Illuminati at Gem ($365)
The rivalry between Boston and New York isn't limited to chowder and baseball anymore. Beantown is making an attempt to edge out the Big Apple in the pricey cocktail game with the unfortunately named La-Freak Illuminati, a drink that can be found at Gem, a nightclub/Italian kitchen/lounge in the downtown area. This $365 beverage is made with Pavan (a French liqueur), Lejay Cassis, sparkling water, Dom Perignon Luminous, and a healthy serving of dry ice (probably best not to drink that). Plus, the Dom Perignon Luminous label glows in the dark, making it that much easier to find in the club.
Billionaires Row Cocktail at the TY Bar ($1,210)
If you're staying in a swanky hotel like the Four Seasons in New York, you're probably already dropping some cash, so why not pony up a little more for a Billionaires Row Cocktail at the TY Bar, made with the coveted The Macallan M scotch (priced around $4,000 a bottle). This drink, according to food and beverage manager Keisha Beckford, costs $1,210 and is a twist on an Old Fashioned, mixing luxury scotch with Colorado clover honey and orange bitters.
Billionaire's Margarita at The London Bar ($1,200)
If tequila's your thing, try the $1,200 Billionaire's Margarita at The London Bar at The London NYC. Why is it so expensive? It features super-luxe spirits like the limited edition Patrón en Lalique Serie 1 and the very old Rémy Martin Louis XIII, along with lime and Meyer lemon juice, and a dash of Cara Cara bitters. This is definitely a sipper, not a shooter.
The Birth of an Icon at Skyview Bar ($4,000)
Dubai, the most expensive city in the Middle East, is the perfect place to find luxury cocktails. The Burj Al Arab hotel, a sail-shaped building located on an artificial island, offers some strikingly costly beverages at its Skyview Bar. At the top of the list is The Birth of an Icon, priced at 15,000 AED, or a little over $4,000. According to the menu, this drink is "majestically assembled into an iconic cocktail, using the building blocks of The Daiquiri." Those building blocks include St. Lucia Distillers Nine Cask Founders Rum, fresh lime juice, and "signature gold dust made of dehydrated Cointreau."
Martini on the Rock at The Blue Bar ($10,000)
The Blue Bar opened at New York's Algonquin Hotel in 1933, and has been a haunt for actors, writers, and artists (and cats) ever since. If you are flush with cash and thinking of popping the question to your significant other, a flashy way to go about this would be to order the Martini on the Rock (72 hours advance notice required). Starting at $10,000, you get probably the only martini in the world that requires a consultation with a jeweler, who drops a diamond in the drink to surprise your beloved. The Blue Bar will cater to your needs if you order this by playing your favorite song or setting up an undercover photographer—whatever you need to make this experience worth the price tag.
The Ono at XS Nightclub ($10,000)
If you're in Vegas with your crew and feel like you haven't lost quite enough cash at the roulette tables, head on over to XS Nightclub at the Wynn and order yourself a $10,000 cocktail called The Ono, made with Rémy Martin Louis XVIII Black Pearl and Charles Heidsieck Champagne. This is another bejeweled cocktail; it comes with a set of cuff links and a gold, diamond, and pearl necklace. It also arrives at your table with great fanfare, requiring 20 servers and copious use of sparklers.
"The World's Most Expensive Cocktail" at Gigi's ($10,006)
You have to travel to London to find what is now being billed as "the world's most expensive cocktail." At 8,888 euros, or just a little over ten grand at today's exchange rate, that may not be exactly true, but close enough. Gigi's, a restaurant in the Mayfair neighborhood, created the drink for Grace Jones, combining 1990 vintage Cristal and 1888 Samalens Vieille Relique Vintage Bas Armagnac, topped off with bits of gold leaf.
The Lobby Lounge & Bar ($16,000)
You can find what may actually be the world's most expensive cocktail at The Lobby Lounge & Bar on the 45th floor of the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo. It's made with chilled Grey Goose vodka and a lime twist... oh, yeah, and comes with a one-carat diamond "garnish," as Marriott PR refers to it. This drink will cost you 1,800,000 yen, which is roughly $16,000, but it's served as a live rendition of "Diamonds are Forever" plays, so there's that.