There’s one drink on The Punch Room’s menu with a name that needs no further explanation: The $400 Cocktail.
“It’s pretty ridiculous, isn’t it?” says Bob Peters, head mixologist at the Ritz’s 37-seat bar hidden on the 15th floor.
Made with 2 ounces of Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac, Byrrh and sassafrass and sorghum bitters, it’s the most expensive cocktail on the Punch Room’s already expensive menu — and yes, people order it.
“We sell, on average, about one every 5 weeks,” Peters said. “We keep count because it’s a special occasion when it happens, and it’s bragging rights when somebody sells one.”
The Punch Room’s staff hasn’t seen a consistent pattern when it comes to the customer base that orders it. Peters himself has seen a pair of older men order two as part of a celebration and a man in his thirties order one on a date.
“Nobody in particular orders it,” he explained. “It’s not, like, the old rich guy. It’s random.”
While the cocktail is, by far, the most expensive cocktail on Peters’ menu, it may also be the most expensive cocktail in all of Charlotte. Peters, who has been in the scene for years, acknowledges that while a cocktail certainly could have hit this price point in the past, he’s never seen anything like it.
It made its debut about a year ago, after he was challenged by a friend to create a luxurious cocktail.
“To me, luxury is being able to afford a $400 cocktail,” he explained when asked about the process.
When it comes to the price tag, it’s not the Byrrh or sassafrass and sorghum bitters customers are paying for – it’s the Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac.
For the uninitiated, the cognac is priced at $3,500 per 750 ml handmade blown crystal bottle and is a blend of cognacs, all of which are at least 40 years old, and some up to 100. It’s also made from superior grapes.
Peters describes the cocktail in a single word: Incredible. The combination of ingredients is purposeful as to not cover up the taste of the cognac but enhance it.
Despite the hefty price tag, it’s not, he insists, overpriced.
The cocktail includes a generous 2-ounce pour, which is, ounce-for-ounce, much less expensive than a standard 1-ounce pour usually priced at $200-$300.
“I’m giving you 2 ounces for $400,” he explained. “It’s actually not that crazy expensive. Well, it is, let me take that back. It’s expensive, but in that world, the cognac world, it’s not totally outrageous.”
When asked if there’s a certain sense of pressure to perform when it’s ordered, Peters paused.
“I definitely stop what I’m doing and do it in an incredibly proper way,” he explained. Sometimes he’ll pour the drink at the table and others he’ll invite the customer to the bar to see it made. “I just take my time and do it carefully and exact.”
What about the next “luxurious” cocktail the menu will see?
As it stands now, there won’t be one. Peters says that he doesn’t foresee himself creating anything at the $400 cocktail’s price point for quite a while – unless, of course, it was worthy of the price tag.
All photos by Justin Driscoll.