P Moss’ résumé is as eclectic as they come. He runs two of the city’s most iconic bars, the Double Down near UNLV and Frankie’s Tiki Room on West Charleston—the former was one of the 10 inductees in last year’s inaugural Las Vegas Bar Hall of Fame; the latter is among this year’s nominees. He’s the brains behind two legendary drinks (Ass Juice and the bacon martini). He’s a musician whose band, Bloodcocks UK, is a huge hit in Japan. And he’s a former screenwriter-turned-author, having penned two novels, as well as the forthcoming Liquid Vacation (Stephens Press, $30). The ode to tiki culture, which includes 77 (previously secret) tropical drink recipes, is set to drop July 1.
Bar owner, musician, author—is there anything Moss can’t do? “Yeah,” he says. “Everything else.”
Does it blow your mind that people come from all over the world to go to your little dive bar?
Oh, God, yes. When that first started happening, I couldn’t believe it. I would tell people, and they’d laugh. I’d say, “I don’t expect you to believe this, but it’s true.” Now I don’t have to tell anybody, because it’s obvious and it’s well-documented. But I never would’ve believed that in a million years.
What’s your most memorable bar moment, as an owner or patron?
[Laughs.] Well, there are a lot of moments, but they all involve sex. I guess historically speaking, it would probably be the original Double Down Pony Rodeo. About 12 years ago, we had a mechanical pony in the middle of the room and girls would always ride it topless. So one day we had a competition, and, uh, it was the most amazing thing anybody there had ever seen. I’ll just leave it at that. God, it was a memory I’ll never forget.
Is there a booze trend that Vegas’ current bar scene needs?
Yeah: Go back to the basics. The craft cocktails [scene], a lot of it is just bullshit. … With craft cocktails, people just make some shit and they call it that. Cocktail culture, it’s oversaturated; the attitudes are generally elitist; everybody’s trying to be clever and outdo people. I think if somebody just got back to the basics and, most importantly, did it well, there would be a great demand for that.
Think back to the ’50s and what you’d see in the movies or on TV—people going to a really beautiful cocktail bar, and the most exotic thing there is a martini or a Manhattan or a gin and tonic. Those don’t have to be boring drinks. They can be made beautifully, they can be served properly, the ambience of the room can lend itself to [that]. You go into a bar today and order a gin and tonic, and the bartender immediately looks at you like you’re worthless because that’s all you can think of to order. Well, there’s a talent to making a proper gin and tonic and making it well and serving it well. That’s what’s missing.
Everybody’s looking to put big-titted girls behind the bar who don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. They serve the most outrageous stuff they can serve because … Lord knows why. But nobody in this town takes the basics and does it right. That’s a bar I would go to.
You not only own two of Las Vegas’ most iconic bars, but you’re responsible for serving one of the most iconic shots in town. So what’s the story behind Ass Juice?
The Ass Juice story is pretty good. It was a few months after the Double Down opened, and there was a liquor promotion for this Jägermeister knockoff, and it was just disgusting. So they brought in the big-titted girls with the shot glasses and passed this stuff out. Nobody wanted it. So I had a bunch of it left over, and I put a sign up: $3. Nobody. Crossed it out and put $2. Nobody. Made it a $1— bums wouldn’t even drink it. So I crossed out the [brand] name and I wrote “Ass Juice,” put the price back to $3—sold like crazy. And I thought, “Hey, I can make my own Ass Juice!” That’s how it started.
Now it’s a gigantic, gigantic thing. In fact, on the front page of The New York Observer a couple of weeks ago, they did a cocktail story, and the subhead was “blah-blah-blah, Ass Juice.”
What inspired you to take on the Liquid Vacation project?
There are tiki-drink books, but most of them are crappy. Nobody’s ever really done a great one, and Frankie’s drinks are great. So I asked my mad scientists—I have three people who create the drinks—“Can you guys create enough drinks?” They ended up creating way more than we used. But it was a very hard project—not only writing it, but it involved a lot of editing and fact-checking. I hated it. But once it was done and I held it in my hand, it was all worth it.
More exhilarating: Opening a bar or releasing a book?
Releasing a book. I can put this into really great perspective: I have a band called Bloodcocks UK, and we don’t play in America; we play in Japan a lot. And what I learned was that when you’re onstage and you’ve got a crowd that’s just screaming at every move you make, it’s the most exciting thing in the world—it just is. But that is nothing compared to the pride of writing a book and having it come out. It makes the band thing look like nothing—and the band thing is really fucking amazing. But the book thing is that much of a rush.
Any other bar ideas brewing, or is your mug pretty much full?
I’ve got two really amazing bar concepts that I may do. But if I do them, the opportunity has to be perfect—it needs to be the perfect location, the perfect everything. And if that doesn’t happen, I’m very happy with what I have.