Palazzo Takes All

Noir Bar, Caesars Palace and Carnaval Court were all well-represented at April’s Effen Vodka Art of Design competition, but it was the Palazzo’s Fusion Bar that dominated. Along with their respective assigned teammates, Fusion’s Emilio Tiburcio took first place, and Wendy Verdel and Greg Black tied for second place. All three teams shared their award-winning recipes for the ultimate, artfully designed Effen cocktails:

Effen Sweet Heat

By Wendy Verdel (Fusion) and Raymond Williams (Caesars Palace)

  • ¼ cucumber, peeled, reserving some peel for garnish
  • ¼ jalapeño with seeds, reserving one slice for garnish if desired
  • 8 raspberries, plus one more for garnish
  • 1 ounce fresh sweet lemon sour
  • 2 ounces Effen vodka

Method: Muddle the first four ingredients in a mixing glass. Add vodka and some ice, then shake hard. Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a raspberry and long cucumber peel or a thin jalapeño 
slice—or all three.

Effen Good Time

By Greg Black (Fusion) and Justin Keane (Carnaval Court)

  • 5-7 blueberries
  • 5-7 blackberries
  • ½ ounce egg whites
  • ½ ounce Cointreau liqueur
  • 1 ounce Effen black cherry vodka
  • 2 ounces fresh sour mix

Method: Set aside a few berries for garnish, then muddle remaining ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and shake, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish and serve.

Sun Burn

By Emilio Tiburcio (Fusion) and Andrew Pollard (Noir Bar)

  • 1½ ounces pineapple juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 pieces cactus paddle
  • 2 ounces Effen vodka
  • 3 sprigs sage, torn, plus one for garnish
  • Caramelized Angostura bitters (see instructions, below)

Method: Muddle first three ingredients in a mixing glass, then add sage and vodka. Briefly dry-shake (no ice), then add some ice and shake again. Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass, add bitters and garnish with sage leaf.

Brûlée your way to better bitters!

To caramelize bitters, pour a small amount into a small glass atomizer/mister (often used to add vermouth to martinis; available for about $15 at bar supply stores or online at Hold a brûlée torch (yes, as in crème) six inches over the cocktail, then spray three clouds of atomized bitters over the flame, allowing the caramelized mist to fall over the top of the drink. This technique brings out the aromatics in any bitters and puts the “burn” in the Sun Burn. When you drink, you should get a whiff of burnt orange rind.