Monday, February 25, 2008


There’s an economic concept known as the Law of Diminishing Returns, which states that past a certain point, each additional unit of variable input yields less and less additional output. Or, put another way, if you spend more, you get more...but as you continue to pay more, you get less and less socko for your simoleons.

If I pay $50 for VSOP Cognac instead of $30 for VS, I’m getting a big boost in quality for that extra $20. To move up to XO, the next quality level, may run me $50-60 or more above and beyond the cost of the VSOP, yet the difference between XO and VSOP is not nearly as dramatic as that between VS and VSOP. And that $1500 bottle of Louis XIII? Sure, it’s good. Hell, it’s better than good...but that extra $1400 buys an improvement that is more subtle than it has any right to be.

Having said all this, it’s still true that the price of a given tipple is a rough guide to quality. Sure, there’s all that marketing ballyhoo - which is why a product such as “premium vodka” even exists - but there really is a huge difference between that $150 flagon of 21-year-old single malt Scotch and the $20 bottle gathering dust on the bottom shelf at the local Schnapps Merchant.

It’s also true that high quality consumables are best enjoyed with minimal doctoring...and, conversely, why complex recipes are helpful in masking the nastiness of cheap ingredients. I can get away with using rotgut gin and brandy when I mix up a batch of Chatham Artillery Punch...but for a Gin and Tonic or a Martini, only the best will do.

Likewise, I will drink a fine single malt Scotch whisky - or a high-end bourbon, for that matter - neat, or with a splash of water. Soda? That’s for mixing with blended Scotch (if you must). And nobody in his or her right mind makes a whisky sour with Lagavulin or Talisker: It’s stupid and wasteful. Like eating Beluga caviar on a Ritz cracker.

You got Dom Pérignon? Great. Pour me a flute full, and I’ll get a snootful. But don’t you dare make a Mimosa with it. That’s why Gawd invented Korbel Brut. Making a mimosa with Dom Pérignon is like lighting a cigar with a $100 bill. No: it is like wiping your ass with a $100 bill.

It’s like having an Oscar Mayer wiener with yellow mustard, sauerkraut, and chopped truffles.

So imagine my horror when I see that the local Longhorn Steakhouse is offering up a “Gold Dust Margarita,” their attempt at a top-shelf drink. It contains Patrón tequila (nice!), the usual margarita sour mix, and Grand Marnier. But not just any Grand Marnier: this drink contains Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire, a hyper-costly version of GM containing rare old Cognac.

Top-shelf or not, folks, a Margarita is still a fucking Margarita. The quality of the tequila is important, as it is the drink’s main Active Ingredient. But the orangey triple sec component is there to provide a minor flavor note at best. The subtle, delicate quality of Grand Marnier gets lost amidst all that tequila and lime juice like a fart in a windstorm.

With this drink, it’s not even the waste of money that pisses me off. It’s the misuse of a precious natural resource: Expensive Booze.

You want a Margarita? Use good tequila, by all means...but you can get by with Hiram Walker triple sec. If you feel like getting fancy, go with Grand Marnier (the basic Cordon Rouge kind), or, even better, with Cointreau.

But if I see you dumping fifty-buck-a-shot Grand Marnier into a stupid-ass Margarita, I will either want to laugh at you or kick your ass on account of you’re Too Stupid To Drink Like A Human Being.

Now, can you bring me a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese...with a slice of duck Foie Gras and extra ketchup?

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