The world’s most expensive cocktail, workingman’s version
February 25th, 2013
01:15 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Because there is apparently a fierce battle to the death over who can make the most expensive cocktail in the world, recently a fellow named Joel Heffernan at Club 23 in Melbourne, Australia, created a cocktail called the Winston. The Winston sells for $12,916. Per cocktail.

This was in an effort to blast from its perch the Salvatore’s Legacy, invented by a fellow named Salvatore Calabrese at London’s Playboy Club (of course), and it succeeded, as the Salvatore’s Legacy concoction sells for a mere $8,388 per drink. Of course, this is all tomfoolery for people with way too much cash, but you have to admit it gets you thinking.
Since there’s a handy-dandy video version of Heffernan mixing up the Winston, I decided that for the good of the other 99.999 percent of the world, I’d take the thing apart as best I could and reassemble it with cheaper parts, sort of like Frankenstein in a glass.

Using my liquor-trained eye, it looks to me like the Winston is 60 ml of Cognac (really freakin’ expensive Cognac), 20 ml of fancy Grand Marnier (also expensive) and 20 ml of similarly fancy yellow Chartreuse (ditto), assuming Heffernan is using metric jiggers. Plus a dash of bitters.

It’s pretty straightforward really - a riff on the classic Champs Élysées cocktail, which can be found in the similarly classic 1930s Savoy Cocktail Book. Stir all that with ice in a crystal beaker with a glass rod, then serve it up in a cocktail glass, surrounded by some absurdly twee sugar-sculpture garnish that isn’t even in the cocktail. No wonder the one guy who ordered it only drank a few sips before he left (seriously, he did; it’s unclear what happened to the rest of the thing, though you have to hope that one of the busboys downed it when no one was looking).
So to break it down, turn the metrics into ounces and clarify the whole mess:
Winston (approximated)
2 ounces 1858 Croizet Cognac Cuvée Léonie ($156,760 per bottle, at least when last found at auction; Churchill and Eisenhower allegedly drank this Cognac while planning D-Day, hence the cocktail’s name)
2/3 ounce Grand Marnier Quintessence ($800 a bottle)
2/3 ounce Chartreuse V.E.P. Yellow ($150 or so)
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir with ice, serve to billionaire.
Cost per cocktail: $12,916.
The bargain version I’m going to christen the British Bulldog (with apologies to Mr. Heffernan, whom I’m sure is actually one heck of a bartender):
2 ounces VSOP Cognac, your choice ($40, give or take)
2/3 ounce Grand Marnier ($35)
1/3 ounce green Chartreuse (much easier to find than the yellow, stronger, not as sweet and about $60)
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir with ice in regular ol’ cocktail shaker with a chopstick, serve to anyone who looks thirsty.
Cost per cocktail: $4.80.
You know what? It ain’t half bad, though a little on the sweet side. Plus, you can have 2,690 British Bulldogs for the price of a single Winston. That’s what I call value.

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Filed under: Cocktail Recipes • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Spirits

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Joel Heffernan

    For those that would like to give the working mans version a try. It would actually be more like the following.
    60ml Cognac
    15ml Grand Marnier
    10ml Yellow Chartreuse
    Dash of bitters
    It may have been a bit sweet because you added an extra 3/4oz of sweet to my recipe.
    The cocktail (in terms of flavour profile) is closer to a Widow's Kiss. The Champs is a twist on a Sidecar which is quite disimilar to my creation.
    Thank you for the article though :)

    March 1, 2013 at 4:49 am |
  2. EVN

    Stupid as can be and beyond obscene.

    February 27, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  3. Jake

    Your poor man's version was a surprisingly balanced drink. Chartreuse usually overpowers cocktails, but in this case, I thought it added the perfect herbal note. For all the alcohol in this puppy, it was remarkably smooth. My compliments to the... bartender.

    February 27, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  4. jj

    Just thinking of the cancer patient who could be saved by a new drug that costs $9,000 per month, but can't afford it.

    February 26, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Mark

      Your point being? It's not the person who is buying the drink at fault, that's the medical industry as a whole. All this drink is yet another stupid way for rich people to waste money.

      February 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
  5. Tea Party Patriot

    A growing number of us are convinced that Sarah Palin is the only one who can heal and re-unify our country. But first she must return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities both large and small, being careful to speak only to real Americans, dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can be a great nation again if we all follow the "Palin Path".

    February 26, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Truth™

      Kindly don't politicize a food blog. Thanks.

      February 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        I actually thought that was you, lol.

        February 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
      • JimSmith

        This one must be a liberal... kindly don't poke your nose into other peoples business.

        February 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Mark

      Your point being? It's not the person who is buying the drink at fault, that's the medical industry as a whole. All this drink is yet another stupid way for rich people to waste money.

      February 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
      • Mark

        replied to wrong comment!

        February 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  6. Keith

    Best expensive drink story I heard was from a buddy working in Aspen. He said a man walked into the bar with his trophy wife and smacked a hundred on the bar all cocky and said, "Give me the most expensive drink you have." The bartender went right to work pouring shots into the blender. He then grabbed the hundred dollar bill and put it in the blender and mixed it all up. He poured it into a glass and put it on the bar and said, "That will be $5." Everyone around the guy was laughing so hard he had to swallow his pride and go with it.

    February 26, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  7. unknown11

    As a working class stiff, let me be the first to say that if you can get some rich embicile to pay you $12000 for a coctail, then go for it. Your win, his loss.

    February 26, 2013 at 8:13 am |
  8. nuketim

    Cut your losses (and the sweetness) and prepare a Stinger.

    Remy Martin VSOP (or XO)
    White Creme de Menthe)
    YOU decide on the proportions....

    February 26, 2013 at 7:07 am |
  9. mick

    You would have to be straight tarded to pay that for a drink....

    February 26, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • MacInBlack

      Nope! Just loaded with $ to the teeth! If someone has that much $ to waste I'll take being tarded ANYDAY!

      February 26, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Chris

      If you had more money than you could'd give it a go.

      February 26, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  10. Bill Denis

    The funniest part of the equation is that the snobbish elitist idiots who dump money on stupidity like this will be bankrupt inside of a decade and crying how they lost it all. Al the time calling people with SENSE who would never partake in this disgusting money worship "haters" or jealous. Hey...I make ALOT of money. Not to brag...but I still shop at Burlington Coat Factory and Ross because the whole thing makes me sick to watch. Especially my lifeless acquaintances (notice I don't call them friends) who find the dumbest things important. Society is bringing about it's own wake up call. Hopefully we can duck the punch before it comes.

    February 26, 2013 at 5:54 am |
  11. Ben

    This is all pretty disgusting. The middle class is shrinking and the lower class is growing and CNN is posting "stories" about $12,000 cocktails. We don't need this kind of money-worship. This kind of thinking is what drove people to destroy our economy and social fabric in the first place.

    February 26, 2013 at 3:02 am |
    • Steve

      You missed the point of the article, yes it talks about a $12,000 cocktail, but it is more about how to make a similar drink for a reasonable price. People will drink, no matter the economy (seriously alcohol sales are recession proof) why not offer a glimpse of the high life for a reasonable price.

      February 26, 2013 at 3:15 am |
    • gager

      The destruction of the middle class is caused by government...the creation of the middle class was caused by money worship.

      February 26, 2013 at 7:40 am |
      • shibblywibblydingdongadoowop

        Booze knows no class boundaries. Also, as a poorer-than-dirt American, sometimes it's interesting to see what it's like on the "other side."

        February 26, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
  12. The End of Idiocy

    Why would you adulterate 155 year old cognac with anything? I guess, if you have enough money to burn, you don't have to have taste as well.

    February 26, 2013 at 1:18 am |
    • KF

      I was thinking the exact same thing.

      February 26, 2013 at 3:04 am |
    • Mariob195

      I couldn't agree more......

      February 26, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  13. Paul

    Isn't "British Bulldog" a premium gin?

    February 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Diablo135

      No, it's a wrestler. Well, was

      February 26, 2013 at 1:42 am |
  14. That's just crazy talk

    I'll serve Artesian water mixed with my secret sauce and stirred by my very own cocktail, you can have a glass for $16,777 per glass.

    February 25, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  15. 1/2 Price

    You can share this with a friend by puking into his mouth.

    February 25, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  16. bill


    February 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
  17. jim

    still cheaper than a dui in california.. I would rather go to this club and drop 13k on a drink that enjoy coors light all night and get a dui LOL

    February 25, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Yeah, but if you have that kind of cash, you can totally afford a cab home.

      February 26, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  18. brakon

    american dream=you have to be asleep to believe it

    February 25, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • A

      You do realize the two places mentioned in the article with these massively expensive cocktails were Australia and the UK, right?

      February 26, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  19. Al Coholic

    On second thought, I think I will just take a four loko...

    February 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Jessica

      Every Bartenders dream customer, a W I D E A W A K E drunk.

      February 26, 2013 at 1:46 am |
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