Not that the bar manager at the new Elixir lounge can’t finesse a mean drink menu with the well-developed sensibilities of a seasoned professional. No, it’s that Teresa Kelly is not just a mixologist.
“I think I’m more than that. Can I make up a drink? Absolutely. And I want you to try it because you will like it,” Kelly says. “But this is a locals place: I’m also your waitress. I’m your slot hostess. I’m your VIP greeter. I’m everything to you. I’m your bartender,” albeit one who reluctantly joined the profession at first.
Kelly was the captain of her high school mathlete team and a super Trekkie (well, she’s still that). A dozen years ago, following a stint as an Ipanema girl at the Rio, a friend helped Kelly land her first bartending job to pay the bills as she worked on a special-education degree. But bartending was more fun. “I was shy, bordering on awkward, for many years,” she says. “But then the braces came off. Bartending gave me confidence. It’s like being onstage.”
Since then, Kelly’s stuck with locals places, including Town Center Lounge and, most recently, Remedy’s Taverns, because she could build her clientele. She was often brought in to turn around struggling locations and soon learned that this job could be a career. “People sometimes think female bartenders are airheads, or—I’ll say it—slutty. But not so much in Las Vegas or in a locals place. Most of us are educated, married with kids. We know it’s skill and work that make a bar successful. It’s not ‘Look at me and give me money.’ I think if you act like a professional, you’ll be treated like one.”
Then, her bosses offered her Elixir, the first place she’s been from the start. “When they approached me about this, they said, ‘This place fits you.’”
First things first: She’s elevated the glassware. (“I hate when a place serves you wine in an itty-bitty glass. It makes the wine almost undrinkable—not almost; I won’t drink out of those glasses.”) She made sure Elixir’s bartenders can move around in their red-sequined bustiers. (“It’s a physical job! It’s ridiculous what some managers want you to squeeze into.”) Her staff will be hand-stuffing the Spanish green olives with blue cheese for the martinis. She’s also a fan of tequila, so there’s a broad selection for sipping.
For the bar’s signature drink, the Elixir—$5 during the 3-6 p.m. daily happy hour—Kelly offers an alternative to a cosmopolitan or appletini. The key ingredient is Marasca cherry syrup. The cherries are used in her Evan Williams bourbon-based Manhattan. (“These are nothing like the cloyingly sweet, chemical-tasting maraschino cherries,” she says.) Kelly also wanted the bar menu to reflect the swanky chandeliers and velvet-draped walls, so the Old Fashioned and Manhattan were a must. “I think of Elixir as the Artisan meets the Peppermill, an old Vegas-y vibe. It’s for locals who want it taken up a notch.”
In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 ounces Absolut Citron, 1 ounce Pama pomegranate liqueur, ½ ounce Luxardo Marasca cherry syrup and ½ ounce fresh lemon juice. Add ice, cover, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with red sugar. Garnish with a sugar-coated gummy candy wheel.
2920 N. Green Valley Pkwy., grand opening 7 p.m. Sept. 21, 272-0000