Really, Really Expensive Cocktails: Apotheke’s Semi-Secret Reserve List
Truffles are a gimmicky foodstuff, a manure-spiked mushroom shaved onto just about anything—burgers, mac n’ cheese—to drive up the price. This is what I’m thinking as I contemplate a frothy, truffle-flecked cocktail from Apotheke’s new reserve line of super-specialty drinks. It’s a Monday night. I’m sitting on a divan. I wish the trumpet guy from the jazz band that’s playing wasn’t standing so close. The cocktail before me is called Pebbles and Diamonds, and such words as “essence” are deployed on the menu to explain its unique charms, which also include Anejo Tequila, Peach Bitters, and Krug Classic Champagne. A sip: wet bark, complicated sweetness, citrus cream. The mixologist who created the cocktail, and who’s standing there observing me sample his creation, nods knowingly. If I’m going to shell out $65 clams for a drink, this is what it should taste like.
All the cocktails on Apotheke’s new reserve list, the first reserve cocktail menu in New York, cost about seven times more than what you’d usually pay for a very fancy drink, sometimes more. Compassing this simultaneously hard and all-too-easy to swallow fact, they keep the list behind the bar, where a surprisingly international phalanx of white-shirted barmen drum up a constant, maraca-like percussive din with their metal shakers. When one materializes at our table to inform us what the small spoons of house-made chocolates accompanying our Scotch are for, he slips in the word “gimmicky.” This is refreshing. My attitude shifts.
There are ten cocktails on the list. Each is “poured into a carefully selected crystal glass, specialized for each cocktail.” My friend Nick and I are determined to get through them all, starting with the Golden Flower (perfume, small fruits, cardamom; I fail to notice the edible flower garnish) and the Rule of Cortez (a corn slurry with epazote, yerba santa, chili de arbol, and blasts of heat), ending with the Miracle on Doyers Street, which we are advised to save till last. This potion is delivered inside a block of ice carved into a smooth basin shape—I am unreasonably impressed by this—and is basically straight vodka mixed with Taami Berry Powder, the “miracle fruit” that robs your tongue of its sour receptors. The Miracle comes with a bowl of assorted fruits—lime, grapes, orange—and after swirling the juice inside our mouths for a few minutes, we tuck in. Limes still taste limey, or maybe it’s that my chapped lips are stinging in such a familiar way that my brains scans, LIME. Nick, tonguing a bit of grapefruit from its rind, is giggling softly. We’ve made it through eight.
Apotheke gets that you’re paying for an experience, not a damn drink. This is the real-life apotheosis of the mixology trend, a delicious swan song you shouldn’t even try to rationalize. Beginning in October—and with a much less interesting, though possibly very necessary food menu in tow—go there, ask for the list, and choose wisely. Unless you are much richer than I, you’ve only got one shot. At least it’s nice knowing you can’t miss.