World record cocktail covers up heist

30 June, 2015 by Stefanie Collins

News broke this week that the original buyer in the Crown Melbourne’s Guinness World Record breaking cocktail sale was involved in an elaborate multimillion dollar casino heist.

The cocktail, created at Club 23 by bartender Joel Heffernan (pictured) using Cognac dating back to 1858, was sold for $12,500 but never made it to the intended buyer.

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On the day, it was reported that the actual buyer, who was seated behind ropes in a throne-style chair, only took a couple of sips of the cocktail before signing his bill and leaving the remainder of the drink behind. It has now been revealed by Fairfax Media, that in fact the he did not apparently pay for the drink and indeed was never the intended recipient. The sale was faked to cover up a $32 million scam perpetrated by the original buyer the day before.

And who was this movie plot-worthy thief? A New Zealand millionaire by the name of James Manning.

The night before the purchase, Manning used his connections on the inside to go on a winning streak that saw him blitz eight consecutive winning hands, netting himself a rather tidy sum. Fortunately the casino’s security are a suspicious bunch, and they investigated his rather fortuitous streak – according to SMH some of the bets were very, very risky, even for a seasoned gambler.

Rather than cause a fuss, Manning and his family were reportedly turfed out of their casino villa the middle of the night by security and banned from the premises. Into the breach stepped a regular, Giang Nguyen, a financial backer of the Geelong Football Club. He signed for the cocktail, took a sip or two then scooted out – and was apparently recouped the amount in full by the casino at a later date.

As for the cocktail recipe – it featured two nips of Cognac Croizet’s 1858 Cuvee Leonie Cognac – which had previously sold at auction for USD$157,000 – as well as Grand Marnier Quintessence, Chartreuse Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé and a dash of Angostura bitters. The drink was misted with dry ice infused with orange and lemon peel, angelica and star anise, before being served on a bed of chocolate and nutmeg soufflé ‘soil’, and garnished with one of the most extravagant garnishes ever seen: handmade spun sugar and Chartreuse grapevines created by Mr Hive Kitchen and Bar’s chefs John Lawson, Dalmaine Blignaut and Mario Wischnewski.

The spirit itself was brought out to Australia by Vanguard Luxury Brands’ James France for the Crown Melbourne event. Only a few hundred bottles of the Cognac Croizet’s 1858 Cuvee Leonie exist, and according to Cognac Croizet, some of the precious spirit was drunk in 1944, on the eve of D-Day, by Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower.

There is no word on whether the record for the sale will stand after these revelations.