When Jason Silvestri heard about Foxwoods Resort Casino's new signature cocktail, the police officer almost choked on his Absolut vodka and cranberry juice. "What?" he said. "$3,000?"
Served in a traditional martini glass, the Sapphire martini is made with Blue Curacao, Bombay Sapphire Gin and a splash of dry vermouth and is coated with blue sugar on the rim. But it's the accompanying pair of custom-made blue sapphire and diamond earrings, set in a sterling silver pick, that makes the cocktail sweet.
With the unveiling of the four-digit cocktail, the casino's new Mezz Ultra Lounge joins a growing list of bars and restaurants around the world offering pure decadence in a glass.
Luxury trade experts attribute the rising popularity of premium cocktails to a greater number of educated drinkers of all ages and a wider variety of spirits and liqueurs.
"I think people are willing to spend more to have a premium experience so they're buying less but they're buying higher quality," said Brett Anderson, senior vice president and editorial director for the Robb Report, the luxury lifestyle magazine.
Super-expensive drinks, a sort of Louis Vuitton bag for the bar crowd, are a status symbol and a great marketing tool for businesses. "It obviously makes a statement about status and the ability to afford it but I think it's also a spontaneous, celebratory thing," Anderson said.
They don’t make it up in volume
The Algonquin Hotel's Blue Bar in New York offers a $10,000 diamond martini, accompanied by a diamond from the hotel jeweler. Only two have been sold since the cocktail debuted in 2004.
The Bar Hemingway at the Hotel Ritz in Paris touts a drink called the Ritz Sidecar, a cocktail mixed with an 1834 Cognac so rare German soldiers tried stealing it during World War II, according to the hotel. The cognac drink is priced at 400 euros — nearly $500 — earning it the distinction as the most expensive commercially available cocktail in the Guinness Book of World Records.
And if the cost of that drink doesn't make you stumble, the next one will.
Created for the Robb Report, the Robb cocktail cost $87,600 when it was offered in 2003 at the Rivoli Bar at The Ritz Hotel in London. Now unavailable, the cocktail was made with 22-carat gold leaf Eskalony vodka, Grand Marnier, peach liqueur and topped off with Ritz private label champagne. It came with a custom-made 13.66-carat yellow diamond swizzle stick that doubled as a bracelet.
"To be honest, I haven't heard of anything else as expensive," said Mark Skidmore, a Rivoli bar manager. No one ever purchased the drink, he added.
Cocktails aren't the only drinks that can have a stiff price.
The Prime Steakhouse at the Bellagio hotel-casino on the Las Vegas strip offers 50-year-old aged Chivas Royal Scotch that costs $1,050 for an ounce of the extremely rare blended whisky.
Alan Shayne, president of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Sunrise, Fla., says there's nothing quite like good whisky — even if it costs a lot more. His choice: a $300 bottle of Classic Cask 35-year-old rare scotch whisky, blended.
"It is unusually smooth and bursting with flavor," Shayne said. "It's worth the price I pay for that."
As for buying a $3,000 or a $10,000 cocktail, Shayne said there's nothing crazy about it.
"The way I look at it is some people are looking for something unique to spend their money on," he said. "For them, it's worth it."