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The World’s Most Expensive Cocktail Was a Fake That Helped Cover Up an Alleged Heist

A $12,900 cocktail featured in the Guinness World Records, but it might have been a cover-up for a $32 million heist

Someone please call Christopher Nolan or Martin Scorsese. This could be a movie. We previously reported on the stunningly pricey cocktail, The Winston, a $12,900 drink crafted by Club 23 in Melbourne’s Crown Casino, made with the 1858-vintage Croizet Cuvée Leonie cognac that Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower sipped when planning the D-Day landings. It was acknowledged by the Guinness World Records committee as the priciest cocktail ever sold. But it may have been part of an intricate cover-up scheme.

In early 2013, New Zealand millionaire James Manning supposedly bought the exorbitant beverage. However, according to sources at The Sunday Age newspaper, the entire expensive cocktail purchase was an elaborate heist and PR cover-up to the tune of $32 million. James Manning caught the casino’s attention when he won $32 million over the course of one evening, with eight winning hands. It turns out, according to The Sunday Age, that their VIP services manager was giving Manning elaborate secret signals under the table. He almost got away with it, too.

"We could not believe what he had won and some of the bets he placed were very, very suspicious," a former Crown executive said. "Those eight hands, in particular — he bet against the odds and won, so one of our surveillance guys decided to take a closer look."


Manning was evicted and banned from Crown Casino, but management didn’t want to admit that the incident had taken place. The casino had already told the media that they had created the world’s most expensive cocktail, but now they were short a buyer, and a PR embarrassment was looming. Not wanting to cancel the Guinness ceremony, they convinced a wealthy casino regular, Giang Nguyen, to purchase the drink, and promised to pay him back. On the night of the Guinness ceremony, Nguyen took two sips and left.

The case is currently being reviewed by Guinness for fraud.

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