The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Do You Have $135 Burning A Hole In Your Pocket?

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Aug 3, 2005 5:36PM

Chicagoist's Bridgeport Correspondent earns his keep as a bartender. When we're on the clock we adopt the motto of "bizarro-world" Nick from "It's A Wonderful Life":

"We serve hard drinks here for folks who wanna get drunk fast. And we ain't got room for 'characters' who give the joint 'atmosphere'."

Actually, we've loosened up a bit over the years as we discovered the hard way that those same "characters" tend to tip very, very, very, veeeeerrrryy well. We still wring our hands over serving a nine-dollar martini, even if one of our own concoctions recently made Time Out Chicago's list of 25 great cocktails.

So when we read in the Sun-Times that Le Passage is serving a glorified sidecar for $135 called a "Champs-Elysees" it's enough to make us choke on our morning breakfast of Life Cereal and Wild Turkey.

The cocktail includes the very pricey Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac, Grand Marnier, orange juice and sour mix; and is served in a powdered sugar-rimmed crystal cognac snifter which the buyer gets to keep (so much for small favors). The Champs-Elysees is one example of a nationwide trend toward expensive specialty cocktails and tasting flights. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, in the past four years the market share for distilled spirits have increased 1.1 percent while beer has lost 2.1 percent of the same market share.

The numbers may seem small, but in a market as competitive as beer/liquor it's significant. Other examples of specialty cocktails in the Sun-Times article include a $69 Ultimate Margarita at N9NE Steakhouse and a $700 tea-and-cognac pairing at the Park Hyatt.

"People aren't necessarily drinking more, they're drinking better," DSCUS Senior Vice President Frank Coleman is quoted as saying in the article. Chicagoist respectfully disagrees, Mr. Coleman. We were taught that adding a mixer to any cognac, especially one as painstakingly aged as Remy Martin Louis XIII, takes away frm the flavor of the cognac. We understand that Le Passage is catering to a specific niche in their clientele, but that still doesn't make it right.

If you do have $135 to spend, however, go to your local watering hole, buy a cheap beer, and leave the rest as a tip. Your Nick's of the world will certainly appreciate the favor.