Have you ever in your life accidentally let a bottle of alcohol slip through your fingers, see it fall and shatter on the ground before an audience gasping for breath? The feat would be tragic and sacrilegious on two grounds: 1) It is the only bottle you could procure for the night, for the party. 2) The bottle is very, very, very expensive or has monumental value because of its archaic tag.
Well, if you call it tragedy what would you call the event with, when a customer to a club lets a bottle of 224-year-old cognac, a historical piece from 1788, fly across the length of restaurant and finally get it smashed against the floor, spilling its contents, worth 4 lakh rupees a shot? What would you name it with, when a rare bottle of 1787 Chateau Margaux once owned by Thomas Jefferson, which cost around Rs. 2,60,00000/- bump against a serving table, tumble down, spraying around its content on the floor in a party?
Believe me. Drunkards have arrived surviving all that hell.
It was at London’s Playboy Club that a businessman who was a regular, expressed his wish to see the bottle of the drink he was served with. Can’t blame, as he had already ordered two glasses of that liquid platinum, worth $7,800 a pop. The bottle was brought forth with pomp and ceremony. As he stood up to hold the bottle against the light, he bumped against the table. And here it slipped off from his hand, went sailing across the room and smashed on the floor completing its destined trajectory, spilling its content. That was the last bottle of its kind! World renowned mixologist Salvatore Calabrese was present to mix the potentially record-breaking cocktail using the drink, but for the first time in his life he was reduced to a mute witness as precious drink sloshed out of a bottle before his shocked eyes.
“We all just froze, then it sunk in. I’ve been heartbroken. Not because of the value of the bottle, but because it is a piece of history that has been lost,” said Salvatore Calabrese, later. There wouldn’t be any insurance coverage for a bottle, which had been opened.
Englishmen! They were too polite and gentlemanly to make mincemeat out of that customer that night. They forgave. Just imagine, what would have happened to us if we did it in a restaurant here!
If what happened in London was purely accidental, the incident in Newyork was a bit, William Sokolin, that crazy wine merchant, asked for. Or why should at a dinner at Four Seasons, on a Sunday night hosted to herald the arrival of 1986 Bordeaux vintage, Sokolin decided to flaunt his private treasure?
William Sokolin got all the attention he wanted, when he arrived at the dinner with that irresistible bottle of wine, which the experts believe was once owned by Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the US and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He brought the bottle not to sell it, “but it was a power play in a sense,” he later said. It was a rare opportunity for him to display his prized catch before all the wine experts in the country gathered at the Four Seasons. All limelight now fell on Sokolin and the bottle in his hand. He strutted towards centre of the party hall with it, but accidentally it knocked against a metal-topped tray table on the way. The bottle didn’t shatter. But suddenly Sokolin noticed two holes in the smoky green bottle. As he and the other guests watched it aghast, wine began to gush out through the holes soaking the rug.
Screaming, Sokolin ran back to his apartment, holding the bottle tight against his chest, but forgetting his wife in all that panic ( Gloria, his wife and real estate broker later said she had to ask around: “Somebody had to lend me $5 to get a taxi home.” On the way home when Sokolin reached the coatroom, he momentarily had to put the bottle down on the counter which left a puddle of red wine on it.
That was when the restaurant manager Julian Niccolini had his tryst with destiny, got a chance to know, what Thomas Jefferson tasted two hundred years ago. He dipped his finger into the red ring of wine on the table for a lick. He said: “Yuck.”
(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)