The Gold Standard Cosmopolitan

Mandarin, 44 Maryland Plaza, 314-367-4447.


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What does a $50 martini taste like?

Like sugarplums dancing with Tinkerbell in Moöt? Like a drop of Brigitte Bardot's sweat mixed with Chanel No. 5? Like liquid cocaine sweetened with the essence of Audrey Hepburn's nectar and a splash of olive juice?

And who drinks a $50 martini? Heads of state, princesses and debutantes? Or rap stars, most valuable playas and trust-funders? Or maybe goddamn fools? By process of elimination, you can easily narrow down into which category Drink of the Week falls: We're not royalty, are broke as a joke and couldn't rap our way out of a used Hyundai. But what's wrong with dipping a ladle into life's finest things?

We're at Mandarin, this month's hottest club in St. Louis, sipping the Gold Standard Cosmo, which at 50 bucks a pop ranks as the most expensive cocktail in the city. It's the color of a peach, tastes like a tequila sunrise on ecstasy and has flecks of 23-carat gold floating in it (which to us seems a bit stingy; why not 24-carat?).

Yes, you read that correctly: The Gold Standard Cosmo tastes like a really good tequila sunrise. Which stands to reason, considering that unlike your basic cosmo, which uses as its base vodka, the Gold Standard is made with Gran Patrón tequila, a top-shelfer that retails for $230 a bottle. It's combined with Gran Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire (retailing for $125 a bottle), fresh-squeezed orange juice, white cranberry juice and said flecks, which look like miniature corn flakes floating in the Sea of Nectar.

Served in a coned lowball — what, no bejeweled goblet? — and garnished with an orange twist, the drink is exquisite, and we heartily recommend it to rap stars everywhere — with the following caveats. First, it should come with a placard attached to it that reads, "I am currently drinking a $50 martini." Because, really, a drink this expensive is mostly a signifier of wealth and/or casual abandon. "I drink this cocktail because I can." Why else?

Which brings us to point number 2: If you truly cared about drinking handmade heaven, you'd order your Gran Patrón neat and sip it slowly, in order to fully enjoy the exquisite pleasure of a top-shelf tequila. Gran Patrón is truly an amazing creation: a touch smoky, as smooth as Britney Spears' lady-parts and as dynamic and deep as a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. Why dilute it with so many add-ons, which only serve to minimize its brilliance?

Maybe because you, Madame Moneybags, can?

Sure, why not — you're at Mandarin, which sits nestled above Maryland Plaza in the Central West End like a private perch in an ornate opera house. The most recent addition to Buddy Coy and Pete Ferretti's mini-empire — they also own Nectar and the Pepper Lounge — the beautifully designed club caters to the well-heeled and the eager to be seen. Ashanti threw Nelly a surprise birthday party here in the fall, and baseball MVP Ryan Howard parties here when he's visiting his family. Most impressively to us, Naughty by Nature ("You down with O.P.P.? Yeah you know me!") recently threw a party at Mandarin. Combined, the celebrity sightings and velvet ropes have provided the club with requisite heat. Saturday nights draw Star Wars-like lines out front. A few weeks back, patrons were shivering in the drizzle while they awaited entry, eager to drink from Mandarin's ace cocktail menu (of particular note is the Geisha Blossom: Cîroc vodka, green tea with honey and ginseng, peach nectar, and mint). Were they crazy, or just thirsty? Neither. They were chasing a gold-plated dream, and they knew that the shiniest nugget was barely within their reach.

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