This Famous $1,500 Martini Is Worth Ordering for Exactly Two Reasons
How much would you be willing to pay for a top-shelf vodka martini at a bar or restaurant? Probably $15 to $20, or if you’re in the mood to splurge at a fancy hotel bar, maybe 25 bucks. But what about $1,500?
That’s the asking price for the Vintage Vault Martini at Veronika, an upscale bar and restaurant inside the Fotografiska Museum in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood. At an invitation from the restaurant, I tried the exorbitant cocktail, which you can find on the “secret” Black Book off-menu, to see how it stacks up against a regular martini. It turned out to be a very subjective exercise in taste, perception, and cost—and the answer required some mental gymnastics.
The martini, created by Veronika beverage director Tim Stuyts, isn’t made with random top-shelf vodka. The spirit of choice, Polish brand Chopin Vintage Vault 30-Year-Old Original Batch, goes for $3,000 per bottle—a price tag you’re more likely to see on a bottle of single malt scotch the same age. However, the “30 years” doesn’t refer to barrel-aged vodka. Rather, the spirit came from the original batch produced at the distillery and kept in a vault for three decades.
To serve, a crystal decanter is brought to your table, and the cocktail is prepared in front of you, elegantly stirred over ice and poured into a glass containing a pickled dwarf peach with truffle essence skewered on a special cocktail pick (which you keep as a souvenir). Luxury bar snacks accompany the lofty martini: French fries and two-tone osetra caviar—the perfect complement to an ice-cold, high-priced cocktail. It’s hard to wrap your head around paying $1,500 for any drink, no matter how delicious, but indeed this was a fantastic martini. You can order it dry (barely any or no vermouth), dusted (sprayed with a vermouth atomizer), or wet (a healthy pour of vermouth). I ordered mine dusted, so the vermouth wouldn’t obscure the character of the vodka and I could still enjoy the showmanship. After a few spritzes, a well-balanced cocktail awaited me, served at a satisfyingly frosty temperature, with just a hint of sweetness and some earthiness from the unusual garnish.
Veronika also offers a Reserve Martini that costs $50 a pop and comes with caviar. This cocktail is made with Chopin Family Reserve, another relatively expensive expression from the distillery that costs about $130 per bottle. After sipping both, I preferred the $1,500 baller martini to the still very high-end regular version. Maybe it was the pomp and circumstance (or the headiness of sipping a drink worth more than my first car), but the Vintage Vault Martini had a crisp and refined palate with a pop of citrus that made it shine. Vodkas are often created to be flavorless, odorless ethanol vessels that deliver a buzz without any gustatory character, but that’s clearly not the case here. The Vintage Vault vodka is full of flavor, ranging from vanilla to citrus to a touch of roasted coffee bean.
Is the Vintage Vault Martini worth $1,500? That depends. The price attached to a car, a watch, or even a 30-year-old bottle of vodka is based on the work and materials that go into it, its exclusivity and rarity, and what value its creators assign it. If ordering the cocktail means you’re not going to be able to pay your rent or mortgage, it’s absolutely not worth it. But I’m not ashamed to get a little metaphysical and esoteric about this rarified martini. Drinking a cocktail is a fundamentally ephemeral experience. You can’t save your drink or enjoy it again at another time. Once your glass is empty, it only exists as a memory. So if you are out drinking on a corporate card or someone else’s dime like I did, or if you’re the kind of person who drops $1,500 like it’s $100, the Vintage Vault Martini is an extravagant drink worth the lavish experience—even if I do prefer gin.