How much is too much to spend on a cocktail? These days many New Yorkers think nothing of spending upwards of $15 on a drink (an average cost), but that price is slowly creeping up and it seems like the days of $20 cocktails aren’t that far off. A number of places have already crossed that threshold – and then some. But are more expensive drinks worth the dough?
Elite Margarita at Empellon Taqueria, $29
The Drink: The house margarita is given the royal treatment with El Tesoro Paradiso tequila (you can also choose Patron Platinum or Casa Noble Extra Añejo) and for an extra dollar Serrano tincture is added to the rim. The upscale tequila gives the drink a smoky flavor and the Serrano tincture gives it a spicy, lip-burning kick.
Why the Price? As most of the other margaritas were in the normal price range, the elite tequila is 100% responsible for the elite cost.
Is It Worth It? Not a chance. Yes, our margarita was smoother and more intensely flavored than our poor friend’s pedestrian house marg, but for $29 we wanted this to be the best margarita of our life and it just wasn’t (we honestly didn’t even finish it). The Serrano tincture, on the other hand, was way worth the dollar price tag; we wish all margaritas came with that option. We will go back for the tacos, however.
World Cocktail at World Bar, $50
The Drink: Once the most expensive cocktail in the world, this appropriately gold-hued drink is made with a laundry list of luxe ingredients: Remy XO (cognac), Pineau des Charentes (French aperitif), freshly squeezed grape and lemon juice, dash of bitters and topped with Veuve Clicquot (champagne) and – the piece de resistance – 23-carat edible liquid gold (crazytown). The individual ingredients are poured into glasses behind the bar and then all brought out on a silver platter so the bartender can craft it right before your very eyes. We were prepared to hate it, but it pains us to say its light, fruity flavors created a party, no, a symphony in our mouth. It didn’t hurt that Kenneth McClure, originator of the drink (and GM at Hospitality Holdings which owns the bar), happened to be there and it was he who made our drink.
Why the Price? To all of the above, add in that the bar is located in Trump World Tower.
Is It Worth It? If you are Donald Trump or Derek Jeter, yes. Being neither, we found ourselves conflicted. On one hand fifty dollars for a cocktail is sheer insanity, like thousand dollar handbags, $450 tasting menus and Angelina Jolie’s right leg.
Bloody Mary at King Cole Bar, $20
The Drink: According to King Cole Bar lore, in 1934 a bartender literally spiced up a vodka and tomato-based cocktail and thus the Bloody Mary (renamed the Red Snapper to better befit its elegant setting) was born. It remains the bar’s signature drink today. And while it isn’t the bar’s most expensive cocktail, given its basic ingredients, it merited inclusion on the list.
Why the Price? The history? The fancy schmancy setting? The old-school bartenders? It has to be one (or all) of those two things because nothing in the drink – Belvedere vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper Worcestershire sauce – costs that much. That said, the trio of bar snacks were stellar and the posh place did feel steeped in history.
Is It Worth It? If you’re positively obsessed with Bloody Marys and think your life won’t be complete without trying the famed drink at its possible birthplace (and you like feeling classy), then we suppose so. If we’re going purely on taste, then no; it didn’t have the depth of flavor, kick and gritty texture (from ingredients like fresh horseradish) we like in our Bloody Marys.
63rd Street Martini at Club Macanudo, $63 (yes, you read that correctly)
The Drink: Found at an Upper East Side cigar bar, this cocktail, the most expensive one on our list, is made with Chateau Fontpinot (a rare aged Cognac made from Champagne grapes), Belle de Brille (pear-flavored Cognac liqueur), Real Campanhia (aged port) and pear nectar, and inexplicably garnished with a maraschino cherry. You could definitely taste the pear and overall it was surprisingly sweet with a complex finish.
Why the Price? OK, yes, the ingredients are expensive, we get it, but come on. Every other available cocktail is $18, so this one has gimmick written all over it.
Is It Worth It? In the immortal words of Whitney Houston, “hell to the no”. First of all, you are in an aging cigar bar, so for lack of a better word, the place stinks, and while the drink had fine flavors, there was nothing particularly special or memorable about it. For $63 you should at least be able to take home the glass, Planet Hollywood style. We can’t think of any reason anyone on earth would ever order this drink or why it was created, unless its sole purpose is to give wealthy men a bargaining chip when trying to persuade their trophy wives to accompany them to an old club to smoke cigars.
Jalapeno Ja at Bar Masa, $26
The Drink: Made with jalapeno vodka, fresh lime and muddled cucumber, this drink knocked our socks off. The taste and depth of flavor was startling, like a pleasant punch in the face. You’d first get hit with the heat of the vodka before the refreshing cucumber essence took over. Each sip was a revelation.
Why the Price? First and foremost, the setting. Masa is New York’s most expensive restaurant and so of course the cocktails – yes, made from high quality ingredients – followed suit. But also, the bartender mixologist (or whoever initially created the drinks) was a true artist.
Is It Worth It? If you are a true cocktail lover wielding an expense account, then absolutely. Though we loved this drink more than words, the $26 price tag was still hard to stomach (while there diners came in, took a look at the menu and immediately fled to more reasonable pastures). We hate to say it, but part of us felt like this place was expensive just for the sake of being expensive.
Mojito at Daniel, $25
The Drink: A champagne topper gussies up an otherwise standard mojito made with mint, lime juice and rum.
Why the Price? Name, name, name; location, location, location. That and the champagne, as most other cocktails on the menu were in the slightly more reasonable $16-20 range.
Is It Worth It? In a word, no. Though possibly one of the most beautiful mojitos we’ve ever seen (and served in the most posh environs), it was fairly basic despite the champagne, which in our plebian opinion didn’t add that much. It didn’t rest well, meaning halfway through, it started tasting a little flat. Plus, we like to relax and pretend we’re somewhere tropical when enjoying this drink, which was hard to do when we had to put all our energy into channeling our imaginary alter ego: the Countess of Liechtenstein.