Not every bar carries the premiere Louis XIII, Remy Martin's top-shelf Cognac. But the bars and restaurants that do offer this royal spirit, usually referred to as "Louie Tre," often build special cases and shelves for it, sometimes adding subtle lighting and velvet backdrops.
It wasn't until I worked in a five-star hotel bar that I learned about this fine beverage. And at $125 a shot, it's one I didn't forget. We were told to be mindful of dusting off the bottle every now and then (a crystal decanter made by Baccarat), and instructed to keep it in our hands or firmly on the bar if any customer was interested in viewing it. We were also informed that the bottle, valued at $700, was to go to the person who finished it off. This bar's bottle? Almost empty.
One evening a man strolled up to the bar in khakis and a polo, with his New York Times in one hand and a cigar in the other. Very non-chalantly he said, "I'll have a glass of the Louie Tre, neat." The other bartender and I immediately shared a quick look, and I very clumsily said, "You...um, did you mean, uh...that one?" Without looking up, the man said, "Yes, please."
As if removing a faberge egg from its cradle, I moved with extreme caution. My colleague polished an already spotless rocks glass, then lowered the volume on the TV. This was a special moment. We needed to focus.
Our guest put two c-notes on the counter and began unwrapping his Cuban cigar as I started to pour. The hotel required a jigger but this was no time for measurements (see Rule #74!). As I watched the cognac flow into the glass, I knew that at least two of us were hoping, praying, this bottle would run dry, and give us the opportunity to gift this bottle. We wanted to see his reaction. We wanted bragging rights. We wanted to be able to say we'd poured that last drop of Remy Martin's best cognac and handed over a crystal sculpture as the reward. But he stopped me.
"But sir," I said, "I haven't completed the pour."
Holding up his cigar he said, "I'm just using it to dip this in."
I don't know how long the silence was, but neither I, nor the other bartender knew what the hell to say. Lucky for us, a miracle happened.
"Have you ever tried it?" he asked.
We shook our heads "no," afraid we might wreck the moment with words.
"Then why don't you pour the rest for yourselves and keep the change." He pushed the hundred dollar bills over, took his Louis XIII, cigar, and paper to the patio, and smoked and dipped away. What did we do? Shake out every last drip of cognac into our own shot glasses, and sip like kings.