Getting in the Game

How to introduce a patron to a spirit they don’t yet know they’re going to love. And how not to insult or alienate them in the process. These are the sorts of delicate questions that gnaw at consulting beverage developer Michael Przydzial in the odd quiet moments at Henderson’s Hi Scores Bar-Arcade and The Players Club.

During his time behind the bar at Central in Caesars Palace, Przydzial hovered between two worlds: slinging workaday beers to tourists zipping through the lobby, and skillfully preparing classically inspired original cocktails for the restaurant. But always in the back of his mind was Przydzial’s own burgeoning recipe list, and hopes for just the right opportunity to put them into play. Tasked now with crafting the menus for two of the city’s newest neighborhood watering holes, the 26-year-old is finally getting to share his perspective. And so far, it’s working.

You can’t miss the lime-green Hi Scores building and its Siamese twin, the brick Players Club at 65 S. Stephanie St. Side-by-side doors separate the 18-and-over barcade—a futuristic restaurant and bar with game room—from the dimly lit 21-and-over lounge, with its classic fireplace and cozy chairs. Owner Richard Ditton, a former NASA engineer, has smartly incorporated the oh-so-essential bar-top gambling (hey, it keeps the lights on!) into the overall arcade environment. And it is the gaming revenue that actually allows the operators to remain independent from the commodity beers and spirits that shackle many a neighborhood joint.

Instead, Przydzial, along with assistant general manager Alfredo Delatorre, gets to delight guests with his thoughtfully produced cocktail menus, which combine familiar spirits with items newer to market (Caffé Borghetti and Templeton rye have been big hits), as well as fresh juices, purées and infusions. Don’t shy away from the La Zanahoria margarita, made with fresh carrot and lime juice, or Przydzial’s eponymous Prizz Fizz—and, yep, that’s real egg white, friend. Should you require a gentler induction, some interesting large-format and local beers beckon from their display, and the kitchen even got in on the action, serving tacos with a shot of locally owned Davalos tequila.

Think the suburbs aren’t quite ready for carrot margaritas and egg-white foams? Przydzial has full faith. “This is for anyone who has been bartending for the last eight hours on the Strip who’s looking for a nice place to unwind with a handcrafted cocktail made with fresh ingredients, a select wine or a simple craft beer that is full-flavored and bold,” he says confidently. Looks like the game is afoot.

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Following the kitchen’s lead, Fox Restaurant Concepts beverage manager Mat Snapp is committed to using house-made syrups and infusions at Culinary Dropout wherever possible. “Everything tastes better when you put time, effort and energy into it,” Snapp says. His original creation, Bells & Whistles, actually had its beginnings in the kitchen, at a barbecue festival’s cocktail competition. “I wanted a cocktail that mirrored all the great things about barbecue: some smokiness, some sweetness and some heat.” Simple syrup infused with charred bell pepper and jalapeño does the trick nicely.

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