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Summer cocktails are hot in Las Vegas

Updated July 9, 2019 - 9:45 pm

A good cocktail hits the spot any time of year. But as temperatures rise into the triple digits, we may seek different kinds of adult beverages. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, hanging by the pool, cruising the Strip or grilling in the backyard, summertime beverages are in a category of their own. Of course they need to be cold — really cold. But what else satisfies thirst during these dog days? We asked experts for a rundown of the classics and latest trends.

Taste of the tropics

When it’s hot, you can’t go wrong with a tropical drink. Local bartenders say the classics are still in.

“A lot of people’s best memories of a vacation are usually drinking by a body of water,” says Mariena Boarini, chef mixologist at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. “And a lot of those do tend to be in tropical locales. So whether you had a tiki drink or a margarita by a beach, that’s just such a strong memory, there will always be a place for the tropical drinks, the tiki drinks and things like that.”

Kaos Dayclub’s Sam Tiano agrees.

“The pina colada and the daiquiris, those are always kind of the traditional, frozen, ‘I’m going to the resort and I’m going to have a frozen drink!’ cocktails that’ll probably never die.”

Marshall Altier, corporate mixologist for MGM Resorts International, puts it a little more simply.

“Rum never goes out of style by the pool. Tequila never goes out of style by the pool. That’s for sure.”

One new twist that’s sweeping Las Vegas pools is a grown-up version of Disneyland’s Dole Whip. While the slushy pineapple cocktail first sneaked into our market as a year-round offering at Chinatown’s Golden Tiki, you can now find a spin on it at multiple local pools.

From bitter to botanica

Tiano is quick to note, however, that those traditional drinks have a downside.

“Where those start to fall off a little bit, is they’re super sugary.”

As an alternative, bartenders are turning to different flavor profiles.

“You’re seeing a lot more of the Aperol spirits,” Altier notes. “And things like cucumber-flavored spirits (such as) cucumber vodka. St. Germain (elderflower liqueur), I’m seeing pop up on a lot of menus now. So floral, sort of refreshing flavors, those botanicals — like the Ketel One botanicals.”

Boarini says gin drinks are also having a moment.

“Years ago, if you mentioned gin, people always wanted to bring up their grandparents. But now people really have come around to the reasoning that gin can be so crisp and light and refreshing in a poolside drink.”

Cuckoo for coconuts

Another poolside cocktail trend is born out of the desire to undo the double-dose of dehydrating damage brought on by consuming alcohol in the hot sun. While the idea of staying hydrated is nothing new, bartenders have seized on the idea of using coconut water in cocktails to do the trick.

“Coconut water is everywhere now,” Altier says. “Sort of spa-friendly, I guess, would be a way to think about it.”

“There’s the perfect hydration drink: coconut water,” Tiano says.

Its effectiveness in preventing a dehydration hangover may be questionable. (“Anything you’re doing that’s helpful, it can’t hurt,” Boarini offers with a touch of skepticism.) But there’s no question that serving cocktails inside shaved coconuts, branded with a hotel or bar logo, looks cool.

Rose (or frose) every day

While cocktails are king, chilled wine is also red-hot this summer, particularly the pink variety.

“We’ve seen a huge spike in rose wines,” Tiano notes. “The idea is that it’s very quenching. It almost seems refreshing, like you’re not drinking alcohol.”

Moreover, the wine lends itself incredibly well to frozen drinks, particularly the type that come out of a bar’s slushie machines.

“I feel like everybody has a frose now,” Boarini says. “But they’re delicious.”

Contact Al Mancini at amancini@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

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