Los Angeles is no stranger to the exorbitantly priced cocktail, be it Red O’s $100 margarita made with a trio of extra añejo tequila or Powder Room’s $500 Swarovski-topped milkshake. So, Gracias Madre’s new $50 El Dorado cocktail with edible 24k-gold flakes doesn’t even register as a blip on the outrageous meter. The glittery cocktail made its debut on barman Jason Eisner’s spring menu, and it’s intriguing for a lot more reasons than its price tag.
As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, Jason imagined himself as Indiana Jones, doing dive rolls over his couch on the hunt for the lost city of El Dorado, the mythic South American “city of gold” dreamed up by a bunch of greedy Europeans in the 14th century. Today he has created a drinkable homage to the glittering city at West Hollywood’s “plant-based” Mexican restaurant, Gracias Madre.
“The Benesin mezcal we use is wild harvested, limited production, super rare agave that’s fermented with rain water,” says Eisner. “Every step of the process is overseen by the 1,500 natives of San Juan del Rio and all of the profits go to the village,” said Jason. It’s because this spirit is so rare that Gracias Madre limits the sales of El Dorado to three a night.
The cocktail is also comprised of Benedictine, French aperitif wine, organic apricot brandy, and homemade gentian bitters. Its gilding comes in the form of 24-karat edible gold leaf from Germany that is shaken liberally over the finished cocktail. And none of that cheap stuff. “Fifty milligrams of this gold costs the bar over $50!” says Eisner.
The journey to El Dorado is initiated before the first sip. “When you shake agave-based spirits it creates las perlas, the pearls, and that’s a good thing. It means that it’s 100 percent agave. For the first five minutes it’s milky and then all of a sudden it’s gold,” said Jason. Sure, it’s corny but it’s still fun to watch with the eyes of a little kid "finding gold.”
“The whole purpose of this drink is to take something that the average American has been taught to be low brow, and make it magical, exotic, mystical, and exciting,” says Eisner. “It's fun to be glamorous, we want people to see agave-based spirits as just that.”
By the way, don’t bother asking Jason if there’s a cheap version of the cocktail on offer. I already asked him. It’s a no.
Gracias Madre, 8905 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, (323) 978-2170.