Please, set down that carafe of cranberry cocktail. Put down the soda gun that sips diet cola syrup concentrate from a bag-in-box somewhere deep within the bowels of the casino. Do not crack open another tiny bottle of tonic from the cubby beneath your bottle service and don’t even look at a can of Red Bull.
Now that we have your attention, consider the spirit in your glass, the glass now devoid of a sugary, tart or faux-fruit distraction meant to mask its quality or lack thereof. Would you drink it straight? Perhaps not …
Look instead to these fine specimens—three “sipping spirits” of unparalleled quality, craftsmanship and taste. They invite your discretion and deserve your undivided, undiluted and uncarbonated attention.
Let There Be Flavor
Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
Available by the glass throughout Mandalay Bay, $12, and by the bottle at Lee’s Discount Liquors, $28.
The notion that vodka must be “without distinctive character, aroma or taste” is a relic and a too-literal adherence to the U.S. government’s definition for most premium vodka connoisseurs. Distilling a spirit into utter submission yields a “pure” product certainly (sterile, really), but at the cost of its becoming devoid of any noteworthy and appreciable characteristics. And really, what fun is that? Intentionally giving up on the premium vodka market’s race to neutrality is Karlsson’s Gold Vodka, made from a blend of individual vintages of seven varieties of virgin new potatoes grown in Sweden’s Cape Bjäre, and distilled but once at the Gripsholm Distillery by master blender Börje Karlsson, also known as the father of Absolut vodka. Potatoes hold a special place in Swedish hearts. Says Karlsson’s area sales manager Gilby Olsen, “They’re known throughout Europe for having the best boutique potatoes; they’ve been growing them for centuries.” Grain distillation was not even legalized until 1980. Collectively, these Golden potatoes (18 pounds per bottle) give Karlsson’s its distinctive and complex flavor: at once earthy and minerally with a touch of natural sweetness, silky on the palate with a long floral finish. Like terroir to wine, this vodka remembers where it came from. But while Karlsson’s behaves itself in cocktails (especially savory and those with orange bitters, basil, tarragon or mint), it is best appreciated on the rocks with a touch of freshly cracked black pepper, a.k.a. Black Gold. KarlssonsVodka.com.
Oxley Classic English Dry Gin
Available at BOA Steakhouse, $14 per glass, and at Wynn/Encore property bars, $15-$17.50.
To paraphrase the Oxley Gin marketing think tank, every single drop of Oxley is meant to be savored. So while mixologists and bartenders will happily guide you to an Oxley & Tonic, Oxley Martini or to specialty creations such as the C’est la Vie by Wynn/Encore property mixologist Patricia Richards, Oxley is fine enough stuff to be considered a sipping gin. And though qualified to be called a London Dry Gin, it is currently named otherwise to separate it from the pack. In a squat bucket glass with naught but a few quality ice cubes and—maybe—a swath of grapefruit rind, revolutionary, small-batch Oxley is in her element. Unlike other heavier or perfume-ier gins, Oxley is bright, herbaceous and spring-like, full-flavored yet light even in the midst of her intense blend of 14 botanicals with fresh grapefruit and orange peels, and almond-y meadowsweet being among them. It took Oxley’s creators 38 tries over eight years to finally alight upon the perfect method for creating the first spirit made by cold distillation, a method used in the perfume industry where the product boils at minus 5 degrees Celsius. Oxley is said to be the only spirit being made in this fashion and only two 120-bottle batches (240 individually numbered bottles) can be made per day. And only upon final inspection does each receive its leather tag, the Oxley seal of approval. The verdict: remarkably sippable. OxleyGin.com.
One Bottle at a Time
Casa Dragones Sipping Tequila
Available at Mesa Grill for $45 per glass, The Bank for $70 per glass and $1,175 with bottle service.
Co-founder and CEO Bertha González Nieves says it best: “We worked really hard so you don’t have to do anything.” And every lead-free crystal bottle, hand-engraved in the traditional pepita style, states it plainly that Casa Dragones is a “sipping tequila.” Casa Dragones—so named for the still-standing stables of the soldiers of the brand’s “spiritual home” of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico—is a joven tequila, a style almost never seen in a 100 percent de agave tequila, more so with mixtos. Young (joven) white tequila is finished with just a touch of extra añejo, in this case aged five years in new American oak barrels to impart luxurious vanilla and hazelnut nuances to the blanco’s citrus, floral and pear notes. In 2009, just 1,000 cases were released in the first production for both Mexico and the United States, with a second production about to begin. Following an October launch in Vegas, Casa Dragones will be available for about $275 per bottle retail. The recommended method for enjoying it is from the official Overture tequila-tasting glass by Riedel. “It has the ideal shape to appreciate clarity, body, color, aroma, taste and aftertaste,” González Nieves says. Not to bash the snifter or the workaday shot glass but “from a connoisseur’s point of view,” she continues, “this glass provides an extraordinary experience.” When not available, a champagne glass will do. But please, enjoy it either neat or on the rocks. Let the citrus notes speak for themselves. CasaDragones.com.