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$100 margarita! America's most expensive cocktails

By Kristin Hunt, for CNN
updated 12:47 AM EDT, Fri June 14, 2013
What makes this marg from Red O Restaurant in Los Angeles worth a C note? Three extra añejo tequilas and an edible-gold-and-kosher-salt rim! What makes this marg from Red O Restaurant in Los Angeles worth a C note? Three extra añejo tequilas and an edible-gold-and-kosher-salt rim!
HIDE CAPTION
The Benjamin, $100
The World Cocktail, $50
The Daiquiri 1981, $150
St. John, $200
El Series cocktails, $220
The JW 1800, $480
Menage a Trois, $3,000
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Across the U.S. bars are playing a ritzy game of "Who Can Make the Spendiest Cocktail?"
  • Red O Restaurant in Los Angeles serves a $100 margarita
  • At Lily Bar & Lounge in Vegas, $480 gets you drink with a super-rare Johnnie Walker vintage

(CNN) -- Think the $18 martini you ordered at the hotel bar was steep?

That was peanuts.

As in, the little dish of complimentary germ-infested peanuts on the bar.

From California to New York and everywhere in between, ritzy bars are playing a crazy game of "Who Can Make the Costliest Cocktail?" -- and the competition is as stiff as the product.

We scoured the country for examples of the most over-the-top pours we could find, excluding those accompanied by crown jewels or crystal goblets.

Even still, you may need to skip a mortgage payment or two to enjoy a night of these extravagant cocktails.

The World Cocktail (World Bar, New York City)

Price: $50

If you want to grab the attention of The Donald, ordering the priciest drink in all of Trump Tower is a place to start.

That drink would be the World Bar's aptly named World Cocktail, a blend of grape juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, 23k edible liquid gold, Pineau des Charentes and bitters, topped with Veuve Clicquot champagne.

When the cocktail debuted in 2002, it was considered the most expensive in the world.

Oh, how times have changed.

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The Benjamin (Red O Restaurant, Los Angeles)

Price: $100

Mexican cuisine master Rick Bayless made noise in 2011 when his L.A. spot Red O debuted its $100 margarita, dubbed The Benjamin.

So what makes a marg worth a C note?

To start, it uses three exquisite, extra añejo (or "ultra-aged") tequilas: Patron Burdelos, Herradura Selection Suprema and Partida Elegante.

Add some Grand Marnier Cuvee du Cent Cinquentanaire, 100% organic agave syrup, fresh lime juice and Louis XIII cognac to float and you're almost there.

Can't forget the blood orange caviar and edible-gold-and-kosher-salt rim!

Daiquiri 1981 from The Breadfruit in Phoenix: Ready for National Daiquiri Day in July.
Daiquiri 1981 from The Breadfruit in Phoenix: Ready for National Daiquiri Day in July.

The Daiquiri 1981 (The Breadfruit, Phoenix)

Price: $150

This decadent daiquiri was created just last year by Breadfruit co-owner Dwayne Allen to commemorate National Daiquiri Day (which is July 19, so mark your calendars).

The key ingredient is English Harbour 1981, a rare rum aged for a minimum of 25 years in old whiskey and bourbon barrels.

The still on which this rum was originally produced is gone, meaning English Harbour 1981 will eventually run out. Get it while you can in this drink, which also includes hand-squeezed key lime juice, demerara syrup and house-made cherry bitters.

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St. John (Osteria 177, Annapolis, Maryland)

Price: $200

The baby of the list, the St. John made its debut mere months ago in Maryland's capital.

Osteria 177 mixologist Lucien Smith, riffing on the classic sidecar recipe, mixed up a cocktail consisting of Louis XIII cognac, Grand Marnier Cuvee du Centenaire, Meyer lemon juice, syrup made from Meyer lemon and Grade 1 saffron and 23k edible gold flakes for garnish.

So far, Smith says they've sold two of 'em.

El Series (El Gaucho, Portland, Oregon)

Price: $220

The bar staff at El Gaucho Portland first made its name in the extravagant cocktails game with The Josephine, a $500 cocktail featuring L'Esprit de Courvoisier and Grand Marnier 150.

Once the bar's stash of L'Esprit de Courvoisier ran out, The Josephine was retired, but its siblings in the "El Series" have carried on the mantle.

A collection of four $220 cocktails, the El Series uses Louis XIII cognac as its base. Entries include the Louis Smash (add fresh mint and a splash of soda) and Louis Sidecar (add Grand Marnier, lemon and orange juices).

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JW 1800 at Lily Bar & Lounge: no extra charge for the twist
JW 1800 at Lily Bar & Lounge: no extra charge for the twist

The JW 1800 (The Lily Bar & Lounge at The Bellagio, Las Vegas)

Price: $480

You've probably come across some member of the Johnnie Walker family in your lifetime, but have you ever met the Johnnie Walker?

You will if you order The Lily Bar's JW 1800.

This cocktail includes "The John Walker," an incredibly rare vintage whiskey that dates to the 1800s.

When we say incredibly rare, we mean it: only 180 bottles exist and once they run out, that's it.

In case you're interested in sipping this endangered species, the JW 1800 also includes sweet vermouth, whiskey-barrel-aged bitters and a Maraschino cherry.

Drinking the Stars (The Starlight Room, San Francisco)

Price: $735

You could easily buy a whole constellation of stars for the price of The Starlight Room's "Drinking the Stars" cocktail.

Originally created by mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout, the concoction takes 1979 Chateau de Ravignan Bas Armagnac brandy and infuses it with Madagascar vanilla bean, orange peel and raisins.

It's topped off with Dom Perignon, and they'll even leave the bottle with you.

Order a 750 ml version of this drink for $365, or play high roller with the $735 1.5L.

If vanilla bean isn't your bag, the Starlight Room has three more so-called "million dollar cocktails," ranging from $90 to $200.

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The $1K and Over Club

All the flashy cocktails above are built on nothing but booze and edible garnishes, but if you're looking for something that comes with a keepsake, there are plenty of even pricier contenders.

The Kentucky Derby has offered a $1,000 mint julep served in a complimentary sterling silver cup for almost a decade, while $3,000 to $40,000 martinis with actual jewelry have sprung up in places like the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut and the White Barn Inn of Kennebuck, Maine.

The most cocktail Happy-Meal-heavy city is Las Vegas.

In the last few years, Vegas has seen drinks ranging from the Gotham and High Roller martinis at The Capital Grille (perks: necklace or ring) to the Ono at the XS Nightclub (perks: necklace for ladies, cufflinks for gentlemen).

Then there's the Menage a Trois, $3,000 at the Tryst Nightclub in Wynn Resort. The drink itself consists of Cristal Rose champagne, Hennessey Ellipse, Grand Marnier 150, liquid gold syrup and 23k gold flakes.

But you get to sip it out of a complimentary 24k gold-plated straw with its own diamond, making for a trinket that puts all your crazy straws to shame.

Remember, folks, tip that waitstaff well.

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