Would you drop $100 bucks for a single drink?
The Bank, the sleek new 30,000-square foot market hall downtown, is betting a Ben Franklin isn’t too steep for the connoisseurs it’s hoping to attract with a pair of “high society” tipples — a martini and a Manhattan — currently on the menu of the mezzanine bar.
“We wanted to adhere to something where it’s like,‘This is the most elegant and proper cocktail you can do,’” said The Bank’s beverage director Eric Van Valer.
So far, the second-floor lounge has sold eight of the specialty Manhattans and seven martinis in eight days, Van Valer said, bringing in $1,500 in sales.
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The price sounds lavish, but it’s all about the ingredients, said Van Valer. The Manhattan is made from cult-favorite WhistlePig Boss Hog V rye whiskey, a limited-batch 13-year-old spirit finished in Calvados brandy casks. It sells for $500 a bottle, and its predecessor, Boss Hog IV: The Black Prince, won top honors at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
The whiskey — named in honor of the Vermont distiller’s pet pigs, not the fictional corrupt county commissioner Jefferson Davis Hogg of “Dukes of Hazzard” — is barrel-proof, meaning its not diluted after production, and hits home with an alcohol content of about 57 percent.
“It’s for the man’s man or the women among girls kind of whiskey drinkers,” said bar supervisor Devin Sheffey, with 50’s throwback swagger. “You’re definitely going to feel that winter warmth after drinking that one.”
The martini is made with Nolet’s Reserve Gin, which goes for $700 a bottle, a botanical concoction with notes of verbena and saffron and a golden-hued color. It’s mixed with Lillet fortified rosé wine and saffron bitters, and garnished with a grapefruit slice.
“Everything we add to the cocktails is going to accentuate the spirit and really liven it up as much as possible,” said Van Valer.
Each drink comes with a two-ounce shot pour instead of the typical ounce-and-a-half. Ingredients are painstakingly measured and stirred in crystal coupes retrieved with a ladder from the bar’s top shelf. The order is a show: It can take several minutes to prepare each glass, part of a deliberate production meant to attract attention, and maybe a bit of envy.
“We want to give the guest that’s ordering those cocktails our full undivided attention and make sure that everyone recognizes who’s spending the big bucks and who came to drink like an adult that night,” Van Valer said.
The martini is smooth, with floral notes from the fortified wine and a spice from the gin that Sheffey likened to black pepper. As a finished drink, Sheffey said, it’s “a rainbow kaleidoscope of flavors.”
The Manhattan is more liquor-forward with tobacco notes from the bitters and a dark citrus aroma clearly traceable to the burnt orange peel. WhistlePig releases its upper-echelon rye once a year, meaning The Bank’s lone bottle likely won’t be replaced until September once it runs out.
The Bank’s exorbitant offerings aren’t the only expensive drinks in town.
The priciest cocktails at places such as Ella, Localis and Firehouse all fall south of $20, but midtown tiki bar Jungle Bird sells a $100 mixed drink dubbed the “Three Hour Tour.” It’s served in an elegant bowl meant to serve at least six people.
And if you break down the bottle price, The Bank’s Whistle Pig and Nolet aren’t that costly, per sip. Manhattans and martinis made from Bulleit rye and Hendrick’s gin, popular mid-range brands, would be available for $4-$5 in Sacramento’s ritziest bars if the same cost standard were used for them.