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Object Lesson: The Big Gulp

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What: Introducing Hardy Perfection Cognac, a dark-amber liquor that promises to put Alain Ducasse to shame: A two-ounce serving will set you back $500. Only 49 bottles of the precious potion remain in the world (this particular one came all the way from Chicago). The brandy was bottled before 1888, when the phylloxera virus destroyed virtually all the French vineyards of that period. Where you'll find it: Villard Bar and Lounge, which debuts on Valentine's Day at the New York Palace hotel, is the only boîte in the city that pours the stuff. The lush warren of rooms will be given a test drive one day earlier, when Vanity Fair scribe George Wayne hosts the fashion flock for one of his typically "queen-ious" events. How it tastes: "It has chocolate and coffee flavors," swoons manager Claudio Bertoni. To savor the cognac properly, food-and-beverage director Colm O'Callaghan recommends a clean palate: "Clear the table, sit back, and don't add ice, for God's sake." Guess you guys don't watch CNBC: "We're not worried about the recession," shrugs O'Callaghan. "We have rooms that cost more than the bottle, and we sell them all the time."


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