A rooftop bar in downtown Seattle has launched a new “Millionaires Menu,” with a $128 margarita, $280 cognac cocktail and more.
In the beginning, which is to say 11 years ago, the craft-cocktail renaissance hit Seattle.
One unsuspecting patron, not privy to this new world order, ordered a fancy gin martini at Liberty on Capitol Hill and was floored, absolutely floored, when she got her bill: $11. Shaking her head, she blamed “Microsoft money” for the inflated price. The sage barman didn’t even look up. One day, in this tech town, he replied, “your cocktail will cost 10 times more, and no one will even blink.”
We have arrived. Allow me to introduce the “Millionaires Menu” at Frolik rooftop bar downtown, a menu from which I suspect no self-respecting millionaire would actually order. But never mind that.
On the Millionaires Menu, a margarita costs $128, a rum old-fashioned goes for $150 and a martini, $200.
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Until this, the most expensive martini I knew of in Seattle was at Canlis, which charges $32 for an “ultra-premium vodka” martini.
Frolik is only the latest bar to charge the kind of prices that would buy you dinner with booze in smaller cities.
Last May, the cocktail bar Alchemy debuted in West Seattle with a namesake cocktail that cost $50. Hardly anyone batted an eye. That cocktail was presented as “Shrouded in mystery. Only for the adventurous.” Sure, if that’s how you want to shill an overworked Manhattan. That drink contained rye, cardamaro (a wine-based amaro that tastes like sweet vermouth), Carpano (which is vermouth), Crème de cacao and “house Madagascar whole vanilla bean bitters.”
Two years ago, another downtown rooftop bar, The Nest, rolled out a $150 cocktail, The Flamingo Punch, served in a bowl shaped like — wait for it — a flamingo. The punch — Absolut Elyx, rum, cognac, pineapple, lime, rooibos honey syrup — comes with a description that reads like an Evite: “Minimum of four required to partake. Bring some friends and your favorite Instagram filters.”
The Flamingo Punch didn’t cause outrage because, ironically, anyone who did the math could see it’s great for cheapskates: your group can nurse at least eight drinks out of that bowl while soaking in the panoramic view and the sunset over Elliott Bay.
Then there’s the cocktail temple Canon. On the 13th page of Canon’s menu is a section devoted to “vintage” cocktails, priced between $205 and $650. Its $495 Champs Elysees cocktail is made with Courvoisier and chartreuse bottles from 1935. (The lemon juice, mercifully, isn’t vintage.)
Formulas for booze have changed over the century. That’s why bartenders tweak pre-Prohibition and World War II-era drink recipes to adapt to modern-day gins and whiskeys.
That Canon menu differs from Frolik’s in that it’s a nerd-out list geared toward cocktail geeks, studious bartenders and history buffs who want to sample cocktails that are historically accurate as the originators had envisioned.
Frolik holds no such lofty goals.
Its drink menu would make economist Thorstein Veblen proud — he who coined the term “conspicuous consumption.” That’s what these expensive cocktails are in the most literal sense, drinks not so much for enjoying as for braying about in Seattle’s new Gilded Age.
In forming the cocktail menu (there’s also a separate drink list with pedestrian prices), Frolik management wanted to feature “the most expensive gin” in its signature martini. That led to a 2.5-ounce pour of Nolet’s Reserve Gin, which retails for $700 a bottle. The $200 cocktail is named “Best Martini Ever.”
Bars these days often boast top-shelf liquor with thousand-dollar bottles and rare whiskeys. In Seattle, many dives even carry a couple of cult bourbons in the $400 range. Traditionally, these expensive pours are served neat or on the rocks or with a glass of water on the side. The point is not to dilute them so the drinker can appreciate the craftsmanship of, say, a $300 shot of single malt in its pure form.
Frolik breaks away from convention by serving top-shelf liquor in cocktails, reasoning that these boozy pours are more palatable and less intimidating for the mainstream when served in mixed drinks.
The menu includes one cocktail made with Hennessy Paradis Rare cognac, which retails for $1,200 a bottle.
The $150 rum old-fashioned featured 2 ounces of Don Pancho’s 30-year rum (bottle retails for about $500). Its $128 margarita features 2 ounces of Patrón Gran Piedra Extra Añejo (bottle retails for about $400) and an ounce of premium Grand Marnier Centenaire (a bottle is about $200).
“They are in cocktails that people will recognize,” said bar manager Chris Blakeslee.
Despite the hefty price tag, management remained adamant these cocktails aren’t tailored for the expense-account suits or the Tesla-Model-3 demographic.
“I think it’s for people who just want to try something extravagant, something unique, something special,” Blakeslee said. “It is not completely out of reach” for customers who aren’t “in the high-income bracket.”
When I balked at the price tag — a cognac cocktail costs $280 — the bar staff suggested a more affordable drink, a “Masterpiece Manhattan,” made with 2 ounces of Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece bourbon.
Relatively speaking, it is cheaper. That Manhattan costs only $76.