Much has been said and written about Cristal in recent years, and perhaps the best way to understand this unique champagne’s special appeal is to pay attention to what people have said about it. From wine experts and connoisseurs to dedicated Cristal drinkers, from those who serve the drinks to those for whom it is part of a lifestyle, it seems everyone has an opinion about Cristal … and those who drink it!
In the early 2000s, the Lotus restaurant and nightclub in New York’s Greenwich Village was the place to be seen — and more often than not, that involved being seen drinking Cristal. The club’s owner, David Rabin, was frank in his assessment of the drink’s popularity among the rappers, sports stars and models that frequented Lotus: “It’s a huge drink. I’ve never seen Puffy [Sean Combs] without a bottle of Cristal whenever he’s been in here. Many of our best customers don’t drink anything else.”
In fact, Combs developed quite the reputation as a voracious drinker of Cristal. So much so, that when he threw a private champagne party for the 2008 Super Bowl, he apparently spent thousands of dollars buying up Arizona state’s entire supply of the tipple. You can be sure that those at the party had a great time … but not everyone appreciated his excesses. A spokesman for an Arizona wine company told a New York newspaper at the time: “He’s hoarding all of it. Cristal is hard to get anyway, but with the Super Bowl in town, it’s impossible!”
Perhaps it’s a problem that follows Diddy around, and Arizona should have taken a warning from similar difficulties in Houston, Texas four years previously. By the time he had arrived in the city for the start of that year’s Super Bowl, local liquor retailers were complaining that they had already sold out of the drink. Amir Alani, owner of the Live Sports Cafe, said: “It is the drink that is so popular with the rappers. You can’t find it anywhere. We are going far to make sure we don’t run out!”
Cristal culture has drawn light-hearted, but arguably accurate, analysis on both sides of the Atlantic. Vincent Mazieres, manager at London’s China White, quipped in 2002: “There are two types of people who buy it: those that want to show off and the people who really like it.”
Harsh, perhaps, but New York Times style writer Julia Chaplin offered a similar, if slightly sexier assessment: “If you go to the trendier, expensive clubs in New York, buying Cristal champagne, especially for a man, is a way to prove his mojo.”
So there it is. Huge, hard to get, and a way to prove your mojo. Cristal champagne is all these things and more.