RM Seafood lead bartender J.R. Starkus is a barman’s barman: He gives his cocktailian colleagues the subtly complex creations they crave and invites his guests to step outside of their comfort zones while he maintains a strictly all-fresh program. He tames aggressive ingredients and shines a spotlight on the simple and the fresh. Of course, he says, “It doesn’t have to be complicated to be good.” Take, for example, two of his latest recipes, inspired by the Las Vegans for whom they are named.
Video: The Standard Pollard-cy
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When he isn’t drinking champagne, Southern Wine & Spirits’ high-image account manager Matthew Stober is drinking scotch. Inspired by Stober’s passion, the “Totally Stober” is truly a work of art because, Starkus says, “each component is tasted separately, but blends beautifully: the scotch smokiness followed by the nuttiness of the sherry, the subtle sweetness of the St-Germain and the bitterness of the grapefruit—perfect!”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the “Standard Pollard-cy” combines a full complement of ingredients, each with its own special significance to Wirtz Beverage Nevada beverage development specialist Andrew Pollard. “I wanted to use as many of his favorites as I could,” Starkus says. He wisely selected gin (Pollard’s base spirit of choice), Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, Fernet Branca and Campari and knit them together tightly for a complex-yet-balanced drink that reveals itself in layers over many sips.
“To me this cocktail speaks of everything that I stand for: complexity by simplicity,” Pollard says. “It’s a Ferrari: sleek and sexy, and it goes really fast. Hold on to your barstool!” And if you ask for it “Animal Style,” it will arrive en flambé. You’ve been warned.
In a mixing glass, combine 1 dash Angostura bitters, ¼ ounce Campari, ½ ounce Fernet Branca, ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice, ½ ounce honey syrup (2 parts honey to 1 part hot water, cooled), ¾ ounce Plymouth gin and 1 ounce Domaine de Canton. Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a fresh swath of lemon peel.
In a mixing glass, combine 1 ounce Glenmorangie 10 Year, 1 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur, ½ ounce fresh pink grapefruit juice and ½ ounce Sandeman Character sherry. Add ice, stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh swath of grapefruit peel.
Gorillaz are coming to Las Vegas for the first time ever. 2016’s Grammy winner for best new artist, Chance the Rapper, will return. English rockers Muse will bring their dizzying live show to the streets of Downtown. And that’s just the top of an eclectic bill that features more than 70 acts, along with comedy, interactive art installations, a group art exhibit featuring the work of Mark Ryden, Tara McPherson and Shepard Fairey and much more. Last year saw more than 137,000 attendees trod the festival footprint. Who’s ready for more?