Friday, May 11, 2012
Cocktail Culture Comes to Las Vegas
And I'm conflicted about the whole thing.
On one hand, any trend that emphasizes quality is a good thing. I've had some incredibly inventive drinks that tasted like liquid heaven, and I love that you can get Old Fashioneds at almost any bar these days. I like to drink my Old Fashioneds pensively and pretend I'm Don Draper listening to The Beatles for the first time (the real original studio recordings, exorbitant licensing fees be damned!).
While I dig on the retro speakeasy style and delicious drinks, there is something a bit d-baggy about the whole thing. The bartenders at all of these places wear vests... seriously, can't we get a little more creative with the costuming? But more problematically is that cocktail culture in its mutant inception becomes just another thing for yuppie assholes to be pretentious about as they try to impress people with facts about imported Vodkas, the best bitters, and seasonal fruit infusions. Plus a lot of these idiots show up dressed in striped vests just like the bartenders behind the bar, which is just so immensely stupid I don't know where to start.
However conflicted I am about it, the trend continues to grow, and has certainly found its way to Las Vegas. Below is a list of some of the best spots to get haute-cocktails in Sin City.
Herbs and Rye: If you're really into old school cocktail culture, this off-Strip freestanding bar and restaurant on Sahara Avenue is a great bet. Decked out in velvet wallpaper, black leather booths, and chandeliers, the bartenders mix one of the best Old Fashioneds I've ever had in my life as well as the Broken Spur (a resurrected classic made with White Port, Dry Gin, Vermouth, Anisette, Brisard, and a fresh Egg yolk). The food isn't bad either, as my friends and I split a few small plates, and the roaring 20's style vibe is complimented by live Jazz band performances on Monday nights.
Fusion Mixology Bar: Located in the middle of the casino floor in The Palazzo, this Latin themed bar serves fresh fruit infused cocktails from Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Trinidad with an emphasis on liquors like Tequila, Rum, Cachaca, and Pisco. Drinks like the Flora Fresca (made with Lemon-Ginger Simple Syrup, Vanilla Vodka, Jasmine Liqueur, Hibiscus Liqueur, Lavender Spice Bitters, and Fresh Ginger) or The Gondolier Blanco (made with White Chocolate Liqueur, White Creme de Menthe, White Creme de Cocoa, White Chocolate Syrup, and Cream) are complimented by high energy Salsa, Samba, and Rumba music. It's also refreshing to visit a place that emphasizes mixology where the bartenders are not wearing striped vests and the vibe is isn't that same old fake-Speakeasy thing which was cool a few years ago when it first started coming back but has quickly become an uncreative cliche.
Nora's Italian Cuisine: The family-run, old school eatery, which has been open since 1991, serves classic Italian cuisine in a warm and inviting off-Strip space. While it's not a place that anyone would describe as hip (or even on the same planet as hip), Nora's has been on the vanguard of high quality cocktails for years before it became trendy. Signature cocktails made with fresh seasonal ingredients (with the name of the bartender who invented the concoction listed next to the drink on the menu, a nice personal touch) include The Meadow's Mist (made with Bombay Sapphire, MB Peach, fresh Strawberries, Honey, Rosemary, and Lemon), The Cable Car (with Absolut Mandarin Vodka, Cruzan Mango, Mango Coulis, Alize Red, and Sour), and The Pilgrim's Passion (made with Hendrick's Gin, Elderflower Liquour, Passion Fruit Couilis, Mint, and Sour). The homestyle Pastas and Pizzas aren't bad either.