Nectar of the gods

Last week, I wrote that while at some rooty snoot steakhouse in Vegas. (And of course this is taking place in La La Crazy Town, where it’s absurdly easy to succumb to that notorious “gee, I’m in Vegas so I guess I’m supposed to just pound the sap out of this here Visa card” vibe.) I said what the hell and ordered a snifter of one of the world’s most hallowed liquors, the cognac called Louis the 13th. At this particular bar, a shot of Louis goes for a heart-stopping $210. After the proper ritualistic heating of the snifter (I half expected the bartender to put on a hood and break into an ancient Da Vinci code chant while pouring the stuff), I raised it to my nose …

Wow! There’s something goin’ on here. Seriously, the dreamy strength of the incredibly aromatic vapors coming off this liquid was impressive. And thoroughly appropriate for the price. I mean, let’s face it, you fork out two Bennies for a glass of hootch, you want this to be a cocktail that’s completely out of the ordinary. So far, it was.

After dangling my nose in there for a couple of truly revelatory inhalations and performing the required marvelling and savoring, I thought I would go ahead and actually take a sip. So I again raised the snifter, this time daring to put my lips on the rim, preparing to let the exalted Louis make its acquaintance with my now tingling mouth. But I was in store for another surprise, because before the cognac could make actual contact with my lips, I was overtaken by the vapors. They were so strong, as the booze got closer to my mouth, that I had to set the snifter down and cough lightly.

I don’t believe I’ve ever had that happen before, where I had to put the glass down before the liquid could touch my lips because I was unexpectedly overwhelmed by its roaring vapors. Cool! I set the snifter down on the bar and stared at it. “Alberto,” I said to my intrigued bartender, “it’s obvious to me that I’m gonna have to suck it up and gird my loins if I’m actually gonna taste this shit.” “Sir,” said Alberto, “we never refer to the Louis as ‘shit.’” Indeed. I had just exposed myself as a rookie vulgarian.

I took a few deep breaths, girded up, and dove back into the snifter. This time, being more prepared for the glorious gases that once again assaulted my facial orifices, I was able to actually get a tiny but superbly significant amount of the Louis into my yearning piehole, where I allowed it to drape itself all over the surface of my tongue. Explosions of vapor and flavor were unleashed, and it seemed a mistake to go ahead and swallow the stuff. Better, I reckoned, to just let it sit right where it was so that it could slowly and magnificently evaporate, demolecularize, and then vanish into some sublime, ethereal realm.

“Alberto,” I asked, “what’s the happy hour price for this sh—superfine nectar?”