I am quite following the path of "Bartending Bushidō". It is a self-imposed code of genuineness mixology: keeping the quality high of every ingredient, don't follow every flashy trend, value the integrity of the ingredients, keep the recipes simple, promote a non-nonsense approach...
When Felix told me of his most expensive cocktail [back in the days, when he worked as manager at Skyview bar at the Burj al Arab] I was a bit skeptical. He was able to divert most of my skepticism, as he chose a very smart recipe - the Old Fashioned. Why did he not convinced me 100% about the drink? Well he chose to make a passion fruit sugar from fresh passion fruit, which I simply didn't found suitable...
There were previously a lot of attempts to do the most expensive cocktail - most of them incorporate a diamond in a glass of gin or vodka. Obviously this is cheating. Felix only cheated half - as the guest could take besides of a certificate to have consumed the most expensive cocktail to date, also the gold embroidered crystal glassware in a gift pack with them...
Back to Calabrese - first of all please check out the video:
Technically Calabrese's recipe proofed to be flawless. You can argue, how old Cognac, old Kummel, old Orange Curaçao and old Angostura Bitter play together. I have to try [maybe without the "old"].
It seems at least, that he chose just those ingredients [except maybe the cognac] because he had very old bottles of those. But overall - it is a very classic recipe [ok - it is rather a recipe which could appear in the mid or end 1800 not pre 1800's- but lets not be too hair-splitting here].
The only complain would be, that he should pre chilled his vintage cocktail glass...
Philosophically it is questionable if it is nonsense or not [any most expensive cocktail of the world - not only Calabrese's].
I am sure, that Calabrese has not a lot of cocktails in this price range. Hence he just did it to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. Which contradicts the approach of sensible, responsible bartending and mixology which reflects integrity. But admittedly this is a very fine line.
I started to offer quite expensive drinks, when the average cocktails in Germany was around € 5.00 [yes- this might be around 9 years back - or longer].
Well the drinks in hotels were anyway more expensive, however still well below € 10.00 - and the opinion of most guests was, that a good spirit would be a waste in a "cocktail".
I can't really recall, what expensive drinks we offered in the bar of the Hyatt Regency Cologne - but later at the Grand Hyatt Berlin, we offered one Mai Tai for € 35.00 [which was unsaid in Germany at that time]. This Mai Tai featured the fantastic Cadenhead Jamaica Cask Strength Long Pond Estate 18 years old rum - which was fantastic [in fact it was better in the Mai Tai, as it was straight or on the rocks - but don't bother - this rum was a limited release and can't be bought anymore].
Yes it was a fantastic drink - and it is well worth it, to make expensive cocktails. A master, who knows how to make cocktails and other mixed drinks, can be well-compared to a master blender of a spirit company. Think about the precious old whisky, which is nowadays released for a lot of money: these are also mixtures of different very old, rare and precious barrels [in the case of blended Scotch], even from different distilleries and even with the addition of old, but lesser quality grain whisky.
On that note: bartenders, who are not yet on the level of understanding comprehensively mixology [and in the last cocktail competition, I could call non of the participants anything close to a master or even craft bartender] - should not even think of using anything precious out of the liquor shelf to do their work!
It is very difficult to stay objective, if it comes to "anything, the most expensive". Can you put a price label on the precious and rare cognac, liqueurs and bitters, which are in the possession of Calabrese?
Certainly not. Could he offered this drink for the same £ 4630 as Felix's drink? I am absolutely sure.
Do we need another intentional listing in the Guinness Book of World Records? If you ask me: definitely not!
This said: I would be thrilled to see the original Sazerac - with old Sazerac & fils cognac [brand went long time from the market], old Peychaud bitters and old Absinthe...
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