Boston Bartender Curtis McMillan wants you to know that his “Black Card” $100 cocktail is not a gimmick. You won’t find it served in a sterling silver cup, and you won’t choke on an expensive gemstone in the bottom of the glass.
“You’re not just paying for the product,” says McMillan, who works as the general manager at speakeasy-style bar Wink & Nod. “You’re getting conversation, history, experience, and all that happens table side.”
He puts an emphasis on the history: McMillan has a weakness for bottles with a few years under their belts. The way he sees it, buying a 30-year-old bottle of booze is like stepping into a time portal. “I was two years old when that product was laid out and put in a barrel,” he says. “It’s interesting to think about the fact that this product is as old as I am, so that gives it a definite premium quality.”
So what’s a $100 cocktail taste like? Wink & Nod’s offerings change seasonally, and the summertime sip is an upscale take on the classic Sazerac called the Lulu White. “We wanted to showcase a product that was so laborious, so painfully small in distribution that that’s what gave it its marketability in its premium category,” he says. He did a blind tasting to find the very best cognac and settled on the super-rare Martell Grand Creation. He also uses the original Peychaud’s bitters, house-made Meyer lemon sugar cubes, and finishes it off with a rolled rinse of Butterfly Absinthe, a pre-Prohibition brew with Boston roots.
So far, the $100 cocktails have been a hit. Spring’s Billionaire’s Bijou attracted customers ranging from serious cocktail snobs to celebratory couples to a group of friends who each pitched in $25. One guy liked it so much he bought nine more for his buddies.
“Every single person who bought it said it was the best cocktail they’d ever had,” McMillan says. “I want to make sure that when a person buys this cocktail, they don’t feel like they got gypped. I want them to feel like there’s a reason that they paid $100 for it.”
Feeling flush? Here are four more fancy cocktails you should try:
The World Cocktail
The World Bar, New York City
Who would have thought that the most affordable cocktail on this list would come from a bar in the Trump Tower? This drink features Remy XO (aged at least 21 years), Pineau des Charentes, freshly press grape and lemon juices, and bitters. It’s topped with Veuve Clicquot and, oh yeah, 23-carat liquid gold. Edible, of course. The World Bar has sold nearly a thousand of the cocktails since introducing them in 2002.
Sixty-Third Street Martini
Club Macanudo, New York City
This opulent sipper blends Chateau Fontpinot, a rare aged cognac made from Champagne grapes; Belle de Brille, a pear-flavored Cognac liqueur; 20-year-old Real Campanhia port; and pear nectar.
The Benjamin Margarita
The Red O, Los Angeles
This Rick Bayless Mexican restaurant makes its fanciest marg with a potent blend of El Tesoro Paradiso, Partida Elegante, Gran Patron Burdeos, and Grand Marnier Cent Cinquentenaire and finishes it off with a float of Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac. They sell a handful of Benjamins to Hollywood high-rollers (including several regulars) every single week.
The Daiquiri 1981
The Breadfruit, Phoenix
Available only on National Daiquiri Day (July 14), this costly concoction is made with English Harbor 1981 25-Year Rum, “rested” lime juice, and demerara syrup, and served up in a martini glass. What sets this daiquiri apart is the well-balanced, decadent rum, produced in Antigua using a French-designed Savalle still in 1981. Only 600 bottles a year are released—and once it’s gone, it’s gone.