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Spirits soar: Elevated holiday cocktails in Las Vegas

The Twitter bird has landed.

Coursing its way from aggrieved employees and fickle advertisers, billionaire whims and that whole free speech donnybrook, blue birdie has alighted on the bar top at The Chandelier in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, folding its wings and straightening its beak.

Or so it fancifully seems when a South for the Winter cocktail touches down — in a chubby glass bird that resembles the Twitter mascot at rest.

The drink, a high-style take on a piña colada, is one of nearly a dozen new and new-ish cocktails now on holiday pour at three bars at the property (plus the buffet!). The cocktails come courtesy of Andrew Pollard, who joined The Cosmopolitan this spring as property mixologist. In 2010, he helped create the mixology program when The Cosmopolitan launched.

The other afternoon, Pollard showcased his cocktails at a tasting for invited guests down the entrance-making (and stiletto-challenging) curved glass staircase at The Chandelier. How does he feel to be back in harness at The Cosmopolitan after more than a decade away?

“There is a romance to this property,” he said. “We dare to be different and innovate and lead — it really gets inside of you. We’re always on the hunt, looking for unique ingredients, a sense of discovery, always looking for what’s not the ordinary. Our guests anticipate a journey and an experience. That’s what keeps people coming back.”

The Chandelier

South for the Winter: Our bibulous bird features a mingling of Bacardi rum aged eight years in a sherry cask, Smith & Cross Jamaica Rum (with banana notes) and house piña colada mix. Birdie is dusted with confectioners’ sugar to resemble winter snow. “It’s bright, clean, vacation, coastal, a sense of escape,” Pollard said of the drink.

Catch of the Day: This variation on a gin gimlet also is presented in a striking vessel: a glass fish aswim in a wooden seafood shipping box. Gray Whale Gin anchors the cocktail. It’s made using botanicals foraged from the California coast, along the migratory path of the gray whale. Blue Curaçao and sea salt add to the oceanic experience.

Cigar Lovers Manhattan: Here’s another twist, this time on a manhattan. The cocktail, Pollard said, is like a gentlemen’s club in a glass: rich, leathery, smoky, boozy. And how on the boozy, with Remy Martin 1738 Cognac, El Dorado 12-Year-Old Rum, WhistlePig Rye (single barrel aged 10 years), Lustau PX Sherry and tobacco bitters coming together. A notch in the tumbler cradles a Remy-infused chocolate cigar. Smoke up!

Vesper Bar

Violet Femme: Pollard features the Violent Femme, an Aviation variation, at every bar he works, first serving it when he opened The Cosmopolitan. Bombay Sapphire Gin, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and elderflower commune inside a violet sugared rim. The taste? Very clean, like violets, plus a sharp note from the citrus in the gin, Pollard said.

Kimono: The Kimono offers a Japanese variation on the classic highball, drawing on Iwai Japanese whisky, Avuá Amburana Cachaça (aged in amburana wood) and sparkling yuzu to create a warm baked malty profile with a pop of citrus. Kinomi leaf supplies a gust of minty eucalyptus; a sheet of nori releases roasty brine as it dissolves in the cocktail.

Most Certainly Wood: Smoke Wagon Bourbon from Nevada H&C Distilling of Vegas stars here, backed by strawberry-infused Campari and Vesper house vermouth blend (for flavor control beyond any single vermouth). Torched chunks of the bourbon barrel staves bring the smoke. “That’s some gas in the tank right there,” Pollard said of the potent drink.

Ghost Donkey

Lucha Libre: Ghost Donkey bar celebrates all things tequila and mezcal. The Lucha Libre is like a Oaxacan mezcal-inspired rum and Coke, uniting Fidencio Clásico Mezcal (moderately smoky), Zaya 16-Year-Old Rum, Fernet Branca and glass-bottled Mexican Coke. “I always have my one vanity drink. It’s everything I love in one glass,” Pollard said. A luchador wrestler straddles the glass in a cocktail hold.

Lavender Vida Loca: This cocktail keeps things on brand, its color matching Cosmopolitan purple. To get there, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Ketel One Grapefruit & Rose Vodka (zesty meets floral), lavender, lime and black sea salt all shack up in, yes, sips brimming with flavor. Here, complexity works.

Wicked Spoon Buffet

Champagne Wishes, Caviar Dreams: Elegance is refusal, Chanel famously said. That philosophy guides this pairing, which needs nothing more than a flute of glacial Veuve Clicquot and a mother-of-pearl spoon of briny caviar. Lively, stylish, eternal.

Whiskey in a Jar: “Bourbon is America’s spirit,” Pollard said, and warm caramel Old Tub Bourbon is joined in the glass by “the comforting flavors of the South: watermelon, lemonade, mint.” The cocktail, light and refreshing, descends from the whiskey sour, another American classic.

Morning Buzz: The drink (delivered in a Chinese takeout container) delivers a double buzz. There’s the buzz of the cocktail itself — orange blossom vodka, pineapple ginger nectar, jasmine honey, five-spice bitters — and the tingling numbing buzz imparted by the Sichuan button blossom set in the garnish, a dehydrated pineapple wheel. The blossom once starred in a different cocktail when The Cosmopolitan debuted. Now, it’s back for another buzz.

In other cocktail news

Here are more cocktails being served around town for the holidays.

Clique Bar & Lounge (The Cosmopolitan): Up All Night (Cruzan Rum, orgeat, lemon juice, ginger syrup, blackberries, strawberries, whipped cream, oversized sparkler). $25.

The Dorsey Cocktail Bar (The Venetian): The Grinch (gin, green chartreuse, lemon). $21

Emporium Arcade Bar (Area15): Dirty Basil Angel (Grey Goose Essences Watermelon & Basil Vodka, housemade black tea, basil-infused simple syrup, lemon juice, basil sprig). $13

Galpao Gaucho (Fashion Show mall): Mojito (Koloa Gold Hawaiian Rum, lime, sugar, mint). $18.

Más Por Favor Taqueria y Tequila (Nightmare Before Xmás experience): Oogie Boogie (reposado tequila, pumpkin pie horchata, allspice dram, agave). $18

Minus 5 Degrees Ice Bar (The Linq, Mandalay Bay, The Venetian): Winter’s Harvest (Bacardi Spiced Rum, cranberry juice, ginger ale, dash of thyme) served in a glass made of ice. $14

1923 Prohibition Bar (Mandalay Bay): Mistletoe Mojito (Smirnoff Strawberry Vodka, fresh strawberry preserves, lime and soda, mint). $18

Oddwood Bar (Area15): Jungle Bar (Botanist Gin, Aperol, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, cherry bark bitters). $20.

Onyx Bar (Red Rock Resort): Rum Rum Rudolph shooter (Captain Morgan Rum, Baileys S’mores Liqueur, coffee liqueur, graham cracker crumble rim, toasted marshmallow). $8

Overlook Lounge (Wynn Las Vegas): Harlow Spritz (Grey Goose Essences Strawberry Lemongrass Vodka, Italicus Bergamot Liqueur, prosecco, citrus. $19

Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant: Café-tini (freshly brewed coffee, Teremana Blanco Tequila, Jägermeister cold brew liqueur, Baileys Irish Cream, Licor Spanish citrus liqueur). $13

Peyote: Drunkin’ Pumpkin (Corrido Reposado Tequila, pumpkin purée, lime juice, orange bitters). $14

Scotch 80 Prime (Palms): Maker’s Merry Old Fashioned (Maker’s Mark 46 infused with orange oil, rosemary simple syrup, bitters, rosemary sprig, Luxardo cherry). $16

Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar: Coconut Eggnog Martini (Tommy Bahama whisky, coconut rum, coconut milk eggnog, nutmeg). $14.50

Vetri Cucina (Palms): Santa Sangre (Wild Turkey Rye, Hennessy VS, Lustau Vermut Rosé, Visciola Cherry Wine, house-mulled wine syrup, lemon juice, egg whites). $22

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ItsJLW on Twitter.

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