Las Vegas is 20 years into a craft cocktail revolution that arguably started with the opening of Bellagio in 1998. Mixed drinks are considered an art form by some of the greatest bartenders in the world, both on and off the Strip. Here are a few places that show off that movement, which is way too big to be called a trend.
Tony Abou-Ganim’s credits as a mixologist are too numerous to mention; inventor of the Cable Car, creator of Bellagio’s original cocktail program and mixologist for T-Mobile Arena are just a few highlights. He’s also chef Shawn McClain’s partner in Libertine Social. So you can be certain every cocktail you get here is taken very, very seriously, and there’s something for every taste. Serious cocktail devotees, however, will want to visit the Arcade Bar behind the main bar, which is dedicated exclusively to lost and forgotten pre-Prohibition cocktails. Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-632-7558, mandalaybay.com
Herbs and Rye
When top bartenders from around the world visit Las Vegas, they usually end their evenings here. That’s because Herbs and Rye has been the off-Strip center of the local bartending community since opening its doors in late 2009. If you want a classic cocktail, this is the place you go to do it up right. And its late-night happy hour specials on food that kick in at midnight make it one of the top late-night dining spots among the hospitality industry. 3713 W. Sahara Ave., 702-982-8036, herbsandrye.com
Downtown Cocktail Room
Hidden behind a door with no name on it, just a few steps off Fremont Street, this was one of the first hits of the “new downtown” when it opened in 2007, thanks to a dedication to craft cocktails aimed at discerning drinkers rather than drunken tourists. The cocktails change seasonally and are rated to indicate how challenging they may be to an inexperienced palate. But chatting with the man or woman behind the bar is a better way to make sure you get something that will rock your world without freaking you out. 111 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-880-3696, downtowncocktailroom.com
The Laundry Room
As one of Fremont Street’s most popular watering holes, Commonwealth caters to the masses. Its secret back room, known as The Laundry Room because it once served that purpose, was set up for a more personal experience for discerning drinkers. The style leans toward Prohibition-era cocktails, but the staff creates some amazing custom-made one-offs. The catch is, you need to make a reservation by texting a secret phone number (polite inquiries with employees of downtown establishments go a long way in securing that). It can book up weeks in advance, however. So if you can’t get in this show, start asking around for next year. 525 Fremont St.
This is a relatively tiny lounge by casino standards, with only about 65-seats. But its cocktail program is big league, and the setting is elegant and sexy. Classic cocktails accented with seasonal fruits are prepared with gold and copper barware and served in etched crystal glasses. And guests in the know can spend an evening exploring the secret julep menu. All of cocktails are served amid decadent art deco details in shades of black, pearl, gold and burgundy. If the room gets too full, its sister bar The Dorsey at The Venetian is a short walk away. Palazzo, 3325 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-607-1945, venetian.com/rosina
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates Palazzo and The Venetian.