On a typical Saturday night, you might run up a bar tab of $20, $40, or maybe $100 (if you’re really shelling out to impress the ladies). But can you imagine dropping thousands of dollars on a single drink?
Let’s just say the world’s most expensive cocktails are not for the 99 percent. From Tokyo to Las Vegas to New York, the most elaborate drinks on the bar may seem like an Occupy Wall Street rallying call — after all, who can really afford to put diamonds in the bottom of their martini glass?
But as famed mixologist Emilio Tiburcio, of the Bellagio’s Lily Bar and Lounge, explains, these costly drinks aren’t meant for an everyday occasion. At Lily, Tiburcio was charged with creating an unforgettable cocktail menu, Lily’s Private Stock Menu, that's $100-and-up drinks are meant for celebrations. "These are the drinks for someone who wants to have an experience in a glass," he says. "They have a lot of emotion in them — they [create] an experience that no one can take away from you."
And that's precisely why his renovated bar menu at Lily works: a $400 sidebar isn’t meant for the casual tourist who wanders into the Bellagio; it’s made for the "high roller" who scored big next door at the casino. When people come into the bar and order Tiburcio's drinks, they’re looking for something special, he says. When someone orders a drink off the Private Stock Menu, like the $480 J.W. 1800, the bartender explains why the drink he’s holding is so rare and special. "They’re always amazed," Tiburcio says. "They can’t get anything else like this in the world."
And sure, a floating gemstone or an expensive glass (Tiburcio’s crystal glasses cost $100 each) may up the price, but the ingredients also make these drinks a hit to the wallet. Many of the liquors used are rare, historic bottles. Take the tequila used in the $350 One of a Hundred cocktail at Lily: it takes four days to make one bottle of the small-batch Clase Azul Ultra tequila featured in the drink and only 50 bottles exist of the five-year aged tequila (Lily owns two). "They’re almost gone already," says Tiburcio. Or, in The J.W. 1900, the Johnnie Walker liquor isn’t what you’d find on the liquor store shelf — the bottle used is a limited-edition bottle from the 1800s (with notes of wood, cherry, and chocolate). Most of the time, these bottles aren’t sold in stores; Tiburcio must do his own research on what liquors he’d like to use, then track them down via emails and international phone calls.
Still, all that work pays off for Tiburcio: he gets to create a drink that a customer will remember for the rest of their life. It’s no different from food, he says. "When it’s a chef making a dish, you get to hear about the history of the dish, the details; it’s the same for drinks," he says. We’re sure your wallet will remember that drink, too. Check out the world's most expensive cocktails and we promise, you'll drool only a little. (Not to mention the world's most expensive wines and spirits!)
With additional reporting by Sean Flynn