Play, big spender

Why burn money when you can drink it?
By SARA FAITH ALTERMAN  |  March 16, 2007
Elit at the Bristol Lounge

How do you define luxury? Is it 1200-thread-count Egyptian-cotton sheets? Evian bubble baths? Remote island vacations spent basking in the toasty sunshine? Such indulgences are definitely divine, but let’s not forget the luxury that can be poured from a bottle, settle smoothly in a glass, and be enjoyed sip by sip. Yes, it can be hard to justify dropping a grand on a bottle of vino, but consider, for a moment, the history and complexity that is corked inside: the lineage of the grapes, the … you don’t care, do you? That’s fine. But trust us: once you’ve sampled premium vodka or the crème-de-la-crème of cognac, you’ll be reluctant to order anything less.

Margaritas don’t have to be frozen, sticky-sweet, candy-colored beach drinks. High-quality tequila deserves better than sour mix and a splash of Rose’s lime. Fortunately, Bonfire (50 Park Plaza, Boston, 617.262.3473) gets it. Although Todd English’s steak house is an unlikely venue for a Mexican cerveza, the Ultimate Margarita ($35) couples divinely with most of Bonfire’s creative cuisine. This margarita is made with Casa Herradura Suprema, a tequila that warms your tongue with hints of rosy cinnamon, and Grand Marnier 150 Year, a limited-edition cognac. Finished with fresh lime juice, the Ultimate Margarita is a far, far cry from those neon sugar fests you’re used to choking down as a tortilla-chip chaser.

Stolichnaya Elit is one of the premier vodkas of the world. Filtered at sub-zero temperatures to eliminate impurities, the premium spirit is smooth, refined, and incredibly easy to drink. Two of Boston’s paramount establishments have created cocktails that showcase Stoli Elit’s velvety, heavenly body. The drink list at the Bristol Lounge (Four Seasons, 200 Boylston Street, Boston, 617.338.4400) boasts a cocktail that epitomizes class: the Elit ($40), a martini made with Stoli Elit and a dollop of caviar. A few limousine lengths down the road at Excelsior (272 Boylston Street, Boston, 617. 426.7878), slip into something a little filthier: the Dirty Elitist ($25). Olive juice and blue-cheese-stuffed olives never had it so good. Of course, if you’re ready to make the move to what the real elitist big boys (and girls) drink, nix the martini and order up a snifter of Hennessy Ellipse ($500), a spectacular vintage cognac that blends seven Hennessy eaux de vie (fruit brandies).

Cognacs are among the most elegant of elixirs, so the best, most complex ones come at a price. City Bar (Lenox Hotel, 61 Exeter Street, Boston, 617.933.4800) is a fine host for all things refined, and its cognac selection is the epitome of opulence. Born from Grand Champagne grapes that are aged in antique barrels, Louis XIII de Rémy Martin ($110) is the essence of French finery. Perhaps you prefer an homage to a master blender? Richard Hennessy ($125) was created in honor of Monsieur Hennessy himself, and is a complex blend of over 100 eaux de vie, each with unique characteristics that somehow mingle harmoniously.

Across the river at UpStairs on the Square (91 Winthrop Street, Cambridge, 617.864.1933), enjoy your spirits in one of the most whimsical dining rooms in town. Owners Mary-Catherine Deibel and Deborah Hughes have paired fine dining with pink walls, artisan chandeliers, and zebra-print carpeting. And the drink list! Pink cocktails aside, the spirits are quite mature. Enjoy a glass of Ancestrale cognac ($70) by the fireplace for an experience that’s part snooty, part whimsical, and all enveloped in peculiar charm.

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