Best Mixology Event
As Vegas’ only true speakeasy at present, you actually do need to know somebody and really must know the password to get into BarMagic of Las Vegas’ Social Mixology cocktail party series, which turned one year old in March and spurred a Miami offshoot this summer. The brainchild of acclaimed bartender/mixologist Tobin Ellis, Social Mixology consists of two to five parties per month, held in secret, mixology-friendly locations and featuring one spirit brand before packing up the citrus presses and antique soda siphons and hightailin’ it outta there. Signature events such as the annual Repeal of Prohibition Party are always the talk around town the next day. To join, newbies must simply sign up at socialmixologyvegas.com and keep an eye on their in-box for locations and passwords.
Best Classic Cocktails
If classic cocktails, cocktail lore and cocktail esoterica are your idea of a good night out, then your place is Herbs & Rye, where you will go back in time with just the aid of a glass and a couple of knowledgeable bartenders. Sure, Nectaly Mendoza’s family doles out tasty goodies from the kitchen, but the cocktails are every bit the main course here—as the sign reads, “Bar, Lounge and Restaurant.” There’s a man who has his priorities in order. The extensive menu (19 classic cocktails plus two wild cards) is broken down into seven eras of American cocktailing, from Gothic to today’s Revival. One recent intelligence gathering session began with a luxurious Brandy Crusta from Harry Craddock’s 1930 edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book and ended with a Prohibition classic for dessert, the Bee’s Knees. If you’re curious about any of these cocktails or anything cocktailian, just ask Mendoza. A seasoned barman, mixologist and outright cocktail history fiend, he’ll be happy to keep you drinking on the edge of your bar stool. 3713 W. Sahara Ave., herbsandrye.com.
Best Original Cocktails
Switching things up like Mother Nature intended, Downtown Cocktail Room debuts a new batch of creations four times a year. To achieve this, owner Michael Cornthwaite employs a simple system: As soon as one menu launches, work begins on the next one. All conversation turns to trends, seasonal produce and, most importantly, the bartenders’ own inspiration. Among others, DCR has brought Vegas the likes of the Downtown Dill Bloody Mary, The Huntridge and the Cat’s Pajamas, original cocktails that have become veritable staples among Vegas’ cognoscenti. 111 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
Best Enomatic Wine Selection
Photo by Anthony MairFriendly Enomatics at the Hostile Grape.
Think of it as a liquid shopping spree—flitting back and forth between the hulking Enomatic machines that line the walls and dot the floor in the subterranean environs of M Resort’s Hostile Grape wine bar. Without the high-tech wine preservation and dispensing system, offering more than 160 wines by the glass would be nearly impossible, driving even the most organized cellar master to drink. From Australian shiraz to Washington state pinot, you virtually circle the globe as you circle the cozy room, pre-paid wine card in-hand. Prices start as low as $2 per ounce and launch from there up into the stratosphere. Best of all, the Enomatics’ one-, three- and five-ounce pours allow you to be as promiscuous as you want to be. 12300 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Henderson.
Not your traditional concoction of red wine, liquor, sweetener and macerated fresh fruit, mixologist Michael MacDonnell’s signature Pear & Elderflower Sangria takes the workaday wine punch to a place few have gone—the nightclub. Specifically, Eve nightclub above Beso restaurant. Generously doled out in a 24-ounce Bordeaux wine glass and topped with a berry patch of raspberries and blackberries, MacDonnell’s delicate, feminine white sangria is pretty enough even to grace the hand of restaurant/nightclub owner Eva Longoria. The recipe is a MacDonnell trade secret, but he combines sauvignon blanc, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Cointreau, white cranberry juice and fresh Asian pears. Then—we are left to suppose—the sangria fairies work their good magic. In Crystals at CityCenter.
Best Wine List for the Money
Don’t worry about greedy Strip wine pricing at Vintner Grill. Its encyclopedic list has 50 white and sparkling wines for less than $50, and 50 red wines for more than $50, from both the Old and the New World, all put together by Hawaiian sommelier Troy Kumalaa. In addition, the restaurant offers 22 wines by the glass, starting at $7. 10100 W. Charleston Blvd., 214-5590.
Best Wine shop
The newest addition to the marketplace, Total Wine needs 27,000 square feet for its inventory, making it The Home Depot of wine stores. There are more than 8,000 labels from which to choose, excluding spirits, and the average price is less than $15. Some wines are sold directly from Total Wine vineyards, further keeping the prices down. Shelves are labeled according to country, region or type, which makes the process more user-friendly. 730 S. Rampart Blvd., in Boca Park, 933-8740 (new location coming to Stephanie Street in Henderson in late August).
Photo by Anthony MairMix master Tom Kunick
“Unassuming” is probably a good word to describe Rumor’s new bar manager and lead mixologist, Tom Kunick. The Artisan and Downtown Cocktail Room alum pretty much flies under the radar, preferring to make cocktails for cocktails’ sakes and then let them (and the customers) speak for themselves. But this is not to say that Kunick is unaware of the impact he has had on the Vegas cocktail scene in the last five years. He has amassed a loyal following, many of whom can be found parked in front of the five-seat bar in Rumor’s swanky lobby. Best known for his Old Fashioneds and original creations such as the Foxtail and the Agent Orange, Kunick just seems to read herbs and spirits. A cocktail whisperer, perhaps? It can’t be coincidence that foams just seem silkier and more tender from his dessert whipper. The Kunick signature of elegant, well-balanced cocktails that showcase either a spirit, key ingredient or technique becomes more established with each creation. 455 E. Harmon Ave.
Best Midweek Drink Special
On a Tuesday night, Todd English P.U.B. beats the price at any dive bar—or even Costco. The bar serves eight-ounce cups of Pabst Blue Ribbons for a nickel each (if you order $12 or more worth of food), and you can order five at a time—that’s 40 ounces of PBR for a quarter! Not surprisingly, the place packs a good-looking crowd, too—up to 1,000 hipsters and young professionals on a Tuesday. 9-11 p.m., in Crystals at CityCenter, toddenglishpub.com.
Best Old-Time Tavern
We hadn’t been in the Hitchin’ Post Saloon in years when our pal Moss invited us to accompany him. Come to think of it, had we ever been in the Hitchin’ Post? Attached to an RV park in North Las Vegas since 1953, this tavern has long been a part of the collective consciousness of Old Vegas. Reopened two summers ago after a yearlong remodel, the saloon is one of the few remaining taverns from Vegas’ good old days. The small room is all knotty pine and stone, and despite the Blue Moon, Guinness and Fat Tire on tap, this is the kind of place hipsters don’t go. Here’s what else they’re missing: delicious food from a kitchen run by a talented refugee of the old Commander’s Palace (!!) who bakes bread and makes sauces from scratch. Steaks, booze and gambling? Now that’s a real bar for real Las Vegans. Have a seat, ma’am. 3650 Las Vegas Blvd. North, 644-1220.
Best Sports Bar
The most important ingredient in a sports bar? Not the greasy food, not the frosty beer, not even the attractive barmaid with the plunging neckline (although that ranks a close second!). Above all else, what gets us in the door and keeps us coming back are the quality and quantity of the flat-screen TVs. And this is where Buffalo Wild Wings hits a home run. While there are nine branches in the Valley, one in Henderson scores the highest marks because no matter where you sit, multiple high-definition TVs are within view. This place has the added bonus of a Leroy’s sports book kiosk onsite (you must first set up a wagering account). Three more pluses: Free wireless Internet (gotta keep track of that fantasy football team!), an attentive staff that’ll help find your game, and if you’re bringing the family, a separate dining/drinking area with multiple big screens that shields your clan from the drunk college students next door. Everybody wins! 10271 S. Eastern Ave., 492-1880.
Best New Bar Trend
Ginger. It’s so hot right now. Spicy, too. In spirits, infusions, tinctures, bitters, syrups, foams and sea-salt rims, ginger is the root of all things tasty at the moment. It adds a predictable kick, pairs well with fruit and sweeteners, and can be easily grated, juiced and macerated. To experience the hotness for yourself, try Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur in the Strawberry Ginger Daiquiri at Rumor; ginger-infused sea salt at Fusion Mixology Bar; Hitichino Nest Ginger Brew at Dragon Noodle Co.; house-made ginger syrup at Noir Bar; or just pick up Skyy Infusions’ ginger vodka at Lee’s Discount Liquor. Sorry, Mary Ann fans.
Best Bloody Mary
And the winner is … yours! That is, yours as made by you at Simon Restaurant. Every Sunday, chef Kerry Simon rolls out the tomato-red carpet for a do-it-yourself brunch Bloody Mary bar to beat ’em all. It starts with the chef’s secret tomato base, then instantly careens wildly off the rails as you add booze, veggies, hot sauce and God only knows what else. Love it? Well, then you can take all the credit. $38 for brunch, plus $10 for all-you-can-drink Bloody Marys, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays, in the Palms, 944-3292.
Best New Mixology Bar/Lounge
Photo by Anthony MairTiki Room owner’s head on a swizzle.
The current aesthetic would have many cocktailians believing that, to be good, a mixology bar must be small, antique-y, out of the way and presided over by a mustachioed dandy in a bowler. While fun, those trappings say little about what’s in the glass. Aria’s Sage Restaurant, on the entirely other hand, is beautiful and brand new. Mustaches are discretionary, but let’s not hold that against it! The cocktail menu—assembled from the best of chef Shawn McClain’s Chicago bar menus—is simply superb, showing restraint and careful editing with not a frivolous drink to be found. Instead, nine elegant classics (each with an artisanal twist) take you to New Orleans, Italy, Manhattan and beyond. Only the finest boutique spirits have made the cut: Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, Plymouth gin, Luxardo Maraschino, Chartreuse, St. Germain and bitters, bitters, bitters. In other words, our bowler hat’s off to you, Sage! arialasvegas.com.
Best Swizzle Stick
As swizzle sticks go, the one found posting up among the South Seas tiki creations at Frankie’s Tiki Room has serious panache. So much more than a humble bamboo toothpick or cocktail umbrella, the long, green plastic totem does triple duty as stirrer, garnish and souvenir. Sporting the shaggy, bearded visage of Frankie’s owner, P Moss, the stick was said to be modeled after artist Tiki Ray’s totem by the door, which similarly features Moss’ head on a stick. Not so with that squat, non-functioning umbrella. And, anyway, we’re not expecting rain in our cocktails. So let’s hear it for the swizzle-stick gods: Long may they be vain. 1712 W. Charleston Blvd.