Step Aside, Bourbon—It’s Tequila’s Turn

Velveteen Rabbit took first place in the fifth annual Margarita Festival cocktail competition.

Velveteen Rabbit took first place in the fifth annual Margarita Festival cocktail competition.

National Bourbon Heritage Month came to a nice oak-y finish this week. Which means that it’s tequila time!

Even while I was unpacking my “souvenirs” from Kentucky, I was up to my ears in agave spirits back home, where I recently sat in on an intimate 20-person tequila tasting (mostly women, I might add!) with seventh-generation distiller José “Pepe” Hermosillo at the Foundation Room. Casa Noble tequila has many accolades to its name but it can now tout that it is officially one of the first 100 percent agave tequilas in China. (Actually, it has been enjoyed there for years on the gray market. But the September 12 event in Shanghai made it official.) Another feather in Pepe’s cap is Casa Noble’s new barrel-proof, unfiltered 100-percent agave joven, the first product debut since the brand launched its añejo in 2008. Just released in New York, the Casa Noble Single-Barrel Joven is aimed at top mixology markets—Las Vegas included—and set to arrive next year.

In addition to its win in Vegas Seven Restaurant Issue for Best New Bar, Velveteen Rabbit will be heading down Mexico way thanks to its first-place win in the fifth annual Margarita Festival cocktail competition. Seventeen teams of two represented bars and properties including Jean Georges Steakhouse, Hakkasan, Station Casinos and Central. At the end of the first round, five teams advanced to the Iron Chef-style round with a pantry of fresh ingredients and their choice of tequila. But in the end only two teams were standing: Herbs & Rye and Velveteen Rabbit, making for quite the showdown of off-Strip independent proprietor-run bars. Both teams chipped their own ice and worked from a mystery basket of ingredients that included Montelobos mescal, which had to be incorporated into the drink along with their choice of tequila. For their efforts, owner Christina Dylag and barman Lyle Cervenka won an educational distillery tour of Fortaleza Tequila in Mexico.

Meanwhile, trick or treating will take on a new meaning this month over at the Cosmopolitan, where the dining tenants of the P3 Commons have launched The Social Hour, a collaborative happy hour that highlights the best cocktails and bites at each location. From 5:30-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, enjoy $7 specials, cocktails and featured beers at Blue Ribbon, D.O.C.G. and Scarpetta; the meze menu at Estiatorio Milos; $10 dishes plus Belvedere specials at STK; and sherry flights at Jaleo. Comme Ça keeps the party going with small bites at the bar and lounge and half off selected cocktails 5-10 p.m. every night.

Save the date for The Fall Cocktail Collection, 6-10 p.m. October 19 at the Keep Memory Alive Event Center ($55 general admission, $70 at the door; $85 VIP, $100 at the door). The Sipping Society’s inaugural seasonal event is a celebration of mixology, cuisine and fashion with a fall beer garden, themed cocktail lounges, a mixology competition, celebrity chef appearances and fall fashion showcases. Bartenders from Velveteen Rabbit, Vanguard, Commonwealth and special guest “The Modern Mixologist,” Tony Abou-Ganim, will pour “cocktail canapés” with food pairings from KGB, Capo’s and Via Brasil, and a portion of proceeds benefit Keep Memory Alive.

The Orleans has gotten in on the drinking and painting craze with its own Buzz’n Brushes, art classes in the former Big Al’s Comedy Club. In addition to the separately priced themed nights (Paint With the Wranglers, HoneyBee couples night and, ahem, Shag-A-Bee singles night), the $45 “Honeycomb” classes led by an instructor will be held Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays while the $25 “BeeYou” open classes will be held each Thursday. Each ticket includes a cocktail, light appetizers and painting supplies.

Finally, UNLV’s Chef Artist Dinner Series will welcome Nina Manchev of Forte European Tapas Bar & Bistro to host at the Stan Fulton building on October 15 ($100, 6:30 p.m., 895-3903). Manchev will work with students to prepare an action-station buffet for dinner guests. Manchev opened Forte while pursuing a degree at UNLV’s Harrah Hotel College in Food Beverage Management, and was featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with UNLV alumni Guy Fieri. Chef Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill in Mandalay Bay will host the four-course dinner at 6 p.m. November 12.

More from Dining…