While it most definitely does not cost a million dollars to produce, nor should a cocktail cost that much, the sweet and sour components of the Millionaire makes this cocktail quite well balanced and into a tasty treat.
There have been quite a few cocktails that cost quite a bundle, usually featuring very old liquor, and or jewelry and gold in the production of the drink. For instance, the “Diamond is Forever Martini,” found in the Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, in which a diamond is placed at the bottom of your cocktail, all for the price of about 18000 USD. Or at the Ritz in Paris, within Bar Hemingway, you can have a Sidecar that uses 19th century cognac, specifically the Ritz Sidecar which features 1830 vintage cognac for a meager price of 500 USD. Beyond adding in expensive jewelry items, or using expensive ante prohibition liquor in a drink, a well made cocktail is priceless, being able to capture the flavors of the components without over balancing the components. And the Millionaire is one well made cocktail, if made properly as Ted Haigh would note.
Like a Corpse Reviver, the Millionaire cocktail has several variations. Besides the one presented by Ted Haigh, which is also probably the best, there are two other ones: one listed by Trader Vic, which is pretty atrocious, a gin based version known as Millionaire #2, and a bourbon one listed by Jason Wilson in the Washington Post. Haigh presents two versions of one specific form, changing out the ratio of ingredients to make it more sour and drier than a sweet, almost dessert type drink. Specifically the version that Haigh talks about calls for grenadine, lime juice, apricot brandy, Jamaican rum and sloe gin, three of which are rather sweet ingredients, especially if the apricot brandy refers to the cordial and not the eau de vie, the former being the product to which it most likely does refer (Haigh 204-207).
The version Haigh writes about is dubbed Millionaire #4 in The How and When of 1937, but also is cross referenced as Millionaire #1 in Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (Craddock 105). Like most of Craddock’s drinks, this version of the Millionaire calls for equal proportions of the spirits, and a single lime: this produces a rather sweet drink, and does not exhibit good balance in terms of flavor since three of the ingredients are rather sweet. Haigh muddles about with this drink, giving a variation that turns the rum into the main note, with the two liqueurs being added as accents, and a removal of the grenadine since it hardly adds anything but some extra sugar. While this actually makes a rather palatable cocktail, it is still by no means the best; personally I would rather switch out the apricot brandy for apricot eau de vie, or increase the total ratio of lime to make sure the sour component has a strong presence in the drink as reflected in the recipe I provide. By ensuring that the lime juice is not a miniscule amount in ratio to the rest of the ingredients, the cocktail can pull through with a burst of flavor.
Of the other two aforementioned variations: the recipe that is given in Trader Vic’s book is one which has horrible balance, featuring gin, Italian vermouth, grenadine, pineapple juice and the white of an egg; on the other hand, the version which is presented by Jason Wilson of the Washington post calls for the use of bourbon, Cointreau, lemon juice, grenadine, absinthe and an egg white. Just like the Corpse Reviver, the variations are drastic, and seemingly the only shared ingredient between these drinks is the grenadine and the juice. But this semblance of similarity takes a dive for the worse when we look at the second version provided by Craddock, which has nothing in common with the other variations.
The original recipe calls for the juice of a lime, which can range widely; as such, I just use a set amount of lime juice, since the drink should have some uniformity when made repeatedly, rather than vary depending on the size of the lime at each location.
The Millionaire #1:
3/4 ounce sloe gin
3/4 ounce apricot brandy
3/4 ounce Jamaican rum
1 dash grenadine
1 ounce lime juice
Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass.
Craddock, Henry. 1999. The Savoy Cocktail Book. Originally published 1930. London: Pavilion Books.
Haigh, Ted. 2009. Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond. Beverly, Massachusetts: Quarry Books.