Drinking like Frazier and Niles

For most of my 56 years, I’ve ignored the finest things our culture makes available. I’ve not, for example, ever taken a ride in the world’s finest car (which is, what? A Rolls? Maserati? Bentley? No matter. My buns have not dented the leathers of any of ’em). I’ve not stayed in any of the world’s finest hotels, a field choked with worthy contenders. I’ve not purchased a pair of the world’s finest shoes, although my new furry Crocs are pretty doggone nice. Recently, though, I sipped what could very well be the finest nectar made by man.

I’m talking cognac here. In the world of fine liquid tastables, cognac, simply by virtue of its price if nothing else, must be put way the hell up there, higher than the world’s finest scotches, ports or tequilas. And the world’s finest cognac is often said to be Louis the 13th, made by Remy Martin.

I sat down at the bar and noticed the tastefully fancy bottle of Louis on the wall. Discussions about the bottle gave Alberto the bartender the opening he needed to wax about the wonders of this heady concoction, a 50-year old grape juice filtered through what I imagined to be a barely permeable weave of tarantula silk lightly cemented by eagle tears. Ultimately, his message was simple. Don’t go to your grave without having at least one snifter of the stuff. Even at $210 a shot.

Yeah, Louis ain’t cheap. “Two-ten a shot?” I asked incredulously. Alberto confirmed that I indeed had not misheard. “Well,” I said, responding to Alberto’s faintly implied challenge (You do have room on your Visa card for at least one shot of Louis, do you not, Mr. Van Dyke?), “what the hell. Let’s go for it. Please proceed, Alberto.” He guaranteed there would be no buyer’s remorse.

It being a slow Monday night there at the bar, Alberto was able to give me the full, loving presentation of this most royal juice. At 210 a pop, you might think you’d receive a somewhat generous shot of this elixir. You would be wrong. You get one exact shot, poured with the precise and steady hand of a diamond cutter. The snifter is then laid on its side atop another snifter, this one filled with hot water. Then, you patiently wait as the revered fluid is slowly and gently heated, so as to release all of its vapor, flavor and glory. Which is nice. It would be unfortunate if this booze, at this price, didn’t rate some kind of ritual.

The minutes pass, and Alberto gives me the signal to go ahead and touch the hallowed glass. Step one, of course, engages the nose, not the mouth. I thrust my beak into the snifter and … oh, drat. I’m out of space. OK, I’ll get this adventure in conspicuous consumption tidied up next week. Hint: Snifter-licking may well come into play!