When we came up with the idea of creating a Las Vegas Bar Hall of Fame back in the spring of 2012, we all agreed it would put a fresh spin on the traditional bar-guide concept. It was one of the last things we agreed on with respect to this project.
You see, asking a group of passionate barflies to decide which watering holes belong on a list of the city’s best bars has proven to be as difficult as asking Congress to decide the merits of health care legislation. Unlike our elected public servants, however, we can have a royal rumble (beverages included) and come out with a consensus that’s in the best interests of our constituents.
Here, then, we present the third edition of the Las Vegas Bar Hall of Fame, a list of nearly three dozen of what we believe to be the city’s foremost drinking establishments—ones that have fulfilled our two main criteria:
Each bar must possess a significant amount of quality and/or character, and have contributed something positive to this city’s bar culture;
Each bar must be at least 5 years old—opened in 2009 or earlier—to be considered (because Hall of Fame careers aren’t built in a day … or a year … or even three years).
Now, once again, we turn to you for help: Through July 10, we invite you to vote daily for your favorite nominees in each of five categories—Classic, Neighborhood, Pioneer, Specialty and Resort/Casino. Armed with your suggestions, our panel of experts will reconvene and select the five bars that will join our 15 previous inductees.
Then, in the July 17 issue of Vegas Seven, we’ll unveil the Hall of Fame Class of 2014—followed, naturally, by a huge celebration filled with food, drink and good cheer. Now, that we can agree on …
There’s a lot of history within these here walls …
Pouring since … 1952
Drink it in … “There are no second acts in American lives,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald. While that may be true for most of Las Vegas, Atomic Liquors is the exception. The recipient of the first liquor license issued in Clark County was a neighborhood stalwart for decades, welcoming patrons from Rat Pack-prime Sinatra to recession-era motel residents. Atomic shut down in 2011, changed owners, renovated and reopened two years later. (It kept its liquor license—and maintained its eligibility for this list—by opening for a single day each year during the makeover.) While sprucing up the old joint, the new owners made a point to respect the past, which is why today’s patrons will find vintage signage, a sparkly ceiling and an old floor safe that has been turned into a mini-shrine to original owner Joe Sobchik. Sure, there’s a patio where the “ring bell for entry” used to be, and you’re more likely to run into Anthony Bourdain taping a TV show than a Vietnam vet discoursing on The Who. But the Atomic is still a damn fine place to throw back an Old Crow.
Tell the cabbie … 917 Fremont St., 702-982-3000.
Pouring since … 1963
Drink it in … 1960s Vegas wasn’t all the Sands and Sahara. It was also spots like this, a high-ceilinged, veneer-finished bar, where neon beer signs blink and a roster of regulars drink. Even if you’ve never been here before, you’ll feel like you have, thanks to bartenders who make newbies feel as welcome as the guy who’s here four nights a week. Adding to the retro vibe—and convenience—the Decatur is the center of a strip mall that also provides a laundry facility, drugstore, post office and lunch counter. Also in the throwback column are the prices: A pint-size libation will run you less than a fiver, including tip.
Tell the cabbie … 546 S. Decatur Blvd., 702-870-2522, DecaturTavern.com.
Pouring since … 1976
Drink it in … A gloriously comfortable time capsule from the era when Carter was running the free world and Farrah was every teenage boy’s Angel, the Dispensary remains the perfect hideaway from an overwhelming world. The décor can best be described as retro rec room: plaid couches, sculpted shag carpeting, brass and ferns, along with a slowly spinning mill wheel whose gently trickling water adds to the overall zen. Soothe your soul further with a cheese-drenched patty melt, washed down with a pint or a highball (although they can probably mix you up a Fuzzy Navel, if you desire). Lean back, relax, listen to a little Peter Frampton and let all the troubles of the last 30-some years drift away.
Tell the cabbie … 2451 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-458-6343, TheDispensaryLounge.com.
Four Mile Bar
Pouring since … 1950
Drink it in … Las Vegas is more than just glitz and glam, so let’s raise a glass to the working man. The Four Mile Bar—positioned precisely four miles from Downtown—has been serving up cold ones for the dealers, drivers and plumbers that make Vegas run since the days when “Fourmyle” was the city’s red-light district. The parking lot has plenty of trucks and bikes, and inside is a classic dive bar: low tin ceiling, red-brick walls, oversize wood bar, the blue glow of video poker. Check out the lively karaoke Thursday-Saturday nights, and come with a light wallet, as a five-spot will buy you a drink, plus tip, with enough left over for Funyuns and beef jerky.
Tell the cabbie … 3650 Boulder Hwy., 702-431-6936.
Hard Hat Lounge
Pouring since … 1962
Drink it in … Oh, that mural. That pulp cover/noir poster/Edward Hopper artwork that has loomed behind the bar of the Hard Hat since 1963. Painted by onetime customer Frank Bowers—he did it to pay his tab, or so the story goes—the mural is a frieze of vintage masculinity, as men in unbuttoned collars and rolled sleeves play cards, pound bourbon, shoot craps, swill beer and leer at stacked dames. The bar itself carries on the aura: a dim room with dark wood where you drink brown liquor on the rocks and beer from a can. The Hard Hat also crams bands, DJs, comics (free on Monday nights), karaoke and kitchen service (until about 10 p.m.) into the tiny space. But the bar is often at its best during the off-hours, when it’s just you, a bottle, a few friends and those tough guys on the wall.
Tell the cabbie … 1675 Industrial Rd., 702-384-8987, HardHatBar.com.
Pouring since … 1962
Drink it in … In the context of the new Downtown Las Vegas, the HT is nothing less than a goddamned rainbow unicorn: Here, you can afford to order a round for all your friends without checking your balance. (Just ask Kate—the sweet-as-pie, take-no-shit manager of the place—what’s on special that day; $3.50 shots of Jameson and $1 Hamm’s in a can seem to be regular deals.) The HT has other things going for it, sure—board-game nights; occasional live bands; genuine old, crusty drunks—but really, it’s those pre-millennial prices that have compelled so many to swear a blood oath to protect this place. We live in fear of the day that the assholes discover the HT, tell all their friends and drive up the prices. But we’ll be ready for them. Oh, yes. We will be.
Tell the cabbie … 1116 E. Charleston Blvd., 702-384-7377.
Piero’s Monkey Bar Lounge
Pouring since … 1982 (original location), 1987 (current location)
Drink it in … Las Vegas isn’t always all about flamboyance—sometimes we like to stay on the down-low even as we’re going top shelf. Such is the philosophy of Piero’s, where the meals are familiar but lavish, the cocktails are simply garnished but carefully mixed and the celebrities are very quietly fawned over. In the Monkey Bar Lounge, bartenders in vests and ties work their shakers with discreet flourish, pouring out shimmery martinis, while icing Scotch to an Arctic chill. The room is a bit of an ’80s throwback (but in a classy way) and adorned with paintings of various members of the primate family. There’s also live entertainment—Pia Zadora has been known to turn the lounge into “Pia’s Place” on weekends, working the room with tuneful renditions of old standards and the occasional guest star.
Tell the cabbie … 355 Convention Center Dr., 702-369-2305, PierosCuisine.com.
Pouring since … 1973
Drink it in … Here’s what makes Sonny’s the quintessential Las Vegas watering hole: Not much happens before the witching hour. After today turns into tomorrow, though? You’re likely in for an experience you won’t soon forget. That’s because Sonny’s attracts all types: old-timers … off-shift industry folk … ladies who, um, are looking for companionship … monkeys (that’s right: According to Sonny’s folklore, a guy once let his monkey loose on the bar). Want an atmosphere other than dark and smoky, or a cocktail with more than two ingredients? Head somewhere else. Want a cold bottle of Bud, a shot of Jack and some of the best dive-bar people-watching in town? You’ve come to the right place.
Tell the cabbie … 3449 Industrial Rd., 702-731-5553.
Stage Door Casino
Pouring since … 1976
Drink it in … The more the Strip changes, the more the Stage Door stays the same. Even as dayclubs and overpriced mixology abound, there’s still a place within spitting distance of Las Vegas Boulevard where Miller signs and Bud posters pass for design elements, where a shot of Fireball whiskey is considered cocktail exotica and where heat-lamp hot dogs pass for tapas. This true hole in the wall—adjacent to Battista’s Hole in the Wall—is where you’ll find locals savoring a cold one after a long shift and tourists slamming down a quick one before cabbing to the airport. And even if tips were lousy tonight or you got totally cleaned out at the tables this weekend, you can still afford a round or two at the Stage Door.
Tell the cabbie … 4000 Audrie St., 702-733-0124.
The taverns where everybody knows your name …
Pouring since … 1972 (original location); 2001 (current location)
Drink it in … You have to drive a couple of miles south of the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign to get to the Bootlegger, but once inside, you know you’re in deep Vegas. There’s the wall décor— historic photos of long-gone casinos, autographed pix from all the life stages of Steve & Eydie and ads from proprietress Lorraine Hunt’s pre-lieutenant governor days as lounge singer Lauri Perry at the original Bootlegger on Tropicana Avenue. The 24-hour menu is classic Italian comfort food featuring Mama Maria’s red sauce, and the chatty bartenders can shake quite the ice-cold, dry martini, as well as other uncommon-yet-apropos cocktails like the Scotch-and-amaretto Godfather. The Bootlegger’s dining room also offers late-night entertainment from a roster of the city’s lounge and showroom pros. Deep Vegas, indeed.
Tell the cabbie … 7700 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-736-4939, BootleggerLasVegas.com.
Pouring since … 1977
Drink it in … The feeling of community here is strong and genuine, and why wouldn’t it be? We’ve been heading to the Four Kegs to watch the game for more than three decades. In addition to the walls being covered with TVs screening multiple games, the bar’s namesake quartet of kegs—Coors Light, Killian’s Red, Shiner Bock and Budweiser—are always fresh and cold. Additionally, the kitchen cooks up bar chow that can truly be described as rib-sticking: Philly cheesesteaks, Sicilian pizzas and their specialty, the Stromboli—basically, a pizza folded upon itself. Those strombolis are just a small part of the reason why one of the oldest sports bars in the Valley remains one of its best.
Tell the cabbie … 276 N. Jones Blvd., Suite B, 702-870-0255, FourKegs.com.
Gold Mine Tavern
Pouring since … 1965
Drink it in … Every town needs a rock ’n’ roll dive bar, even Henderson. Or, as the T-shirt hanging behind the bar calls it, “Hendertucky.” The Gold Mine draws a steady stream of locals who come to shoot pool on one of several tables or shoot the breeze with one of the bartenders, who will make you a mean Hendertucky Mule (a knockoff of the Moscow Mule). There’s live music several evenings a week, from blues to death metal to ska to the ubiquitous ’80s tribute act. Wednesday is ladies’ night, Thursday is bike night, Sunday is the Bloody Mary special. Henderson may only have one rock ’n’ roll dive bar, but that may be all it needs.
Tell the cabbie … 23 S. Water St., Henderson, 702-478-9965, TheGoldMineTavern.com.
Pouring since … 2007
Drink it in … The theme is vaguely medieval—stone walls, fire pits, dim lighting—but Excalibur Jr., the Griffin certainly is not. First of all, no slots. And the tourists who do drift in blend with the Downtown types huddled on the banquettes taking selfies and sipping beer or bobbing their heads to the band in the back room while someone orders another round of shots. The staff, from bouncers to bartenders, is pleasant and helpful, even on a crowded Saturday night. And, of course, there’s the jukebox, a mixture of indie-rock classics and cutting-edge bands, all for a quarter a song.
Tell the cabbie … 511 Fremont St., 702-382-0577.
Pouring since … 1987
Drink it in … Ichabod’s evokes a more gracious time, when folks savored the prime-rib special and a gin ’n’ tonic, while a lady in a white pantsuit sang Cole Porter in the background. The billiard-green walls and dark-wood furniture provide a nice escape from the relentless shine of the sun and signage, as does the icy G&T proffered by your bartender. Ichabod’s habitués run from older gentlemen talking odds over shrimp cocktails and French onion Philly sandwiches to young couples—she in a halter top; he in an Ed Hardy shirt. You also get the cross-generational delight of watching a guy do shots with his mom.
Tell the cabbie … 3300 E. Flamingo Rd., 702-451-2323, IchabodsLoungeLV.com.
Pouring since … 2005
Drink it in … There’s always a time for burritos and beer, tacos and tequila, and it is these elemental cravings that keep the barstools full at Paradise Cantina. The tiki thatch over the bar, Coors surfboards and Mardi Gras beads make this place look like an archetypical tourist trap—and in any other town it would be. In Bizarro World Vegas, though, it’s where locals hang out, particularly off-duty industry types and UNLV denizens. The central location across from the Hard Rock Hotel is a draw, but so are the cheerful staff and reasonable drink prices—which get even more reasonable during the daily two-for-one happy hour.
Tell the cabbie … 4480 S. Paradise Rd., 702-434-0031, ParadiseCantinas.com/LasVegas.
Pouring since … 1998
Drink it in … This stylish local chain offers affordable casual dining, an abundance of brews by the draft or bottle and ample seating to watch the big game. What’s that you say? So do plenty of other bars in town? Well, this self-proclaimed “Nevada Style Pub” separates itself from the pack by living up to its nickname, paying homage to the Silver State with an impressive array of memorabilia. There are framed turn-of-the-century newspapers, genuine mining stock certificates and vintage photographs lining the walls of each location. The diverse food menu also incorporates Nevada towns, casinos and landmarks into the names of its offerings, such as the Lake Mead Dip sandwich, the Searchlight Caesar salad and the Round Mountain roast beef sandwich. We’ll start with the Alamo nachos, please—with a tall Newcastle draft on the side.
Tell the cabbie … 8410 W. Cheyenne Ave., 702-395-8777; 1750 N. Buffalo Dr., Suite 115, 702-304-8084; 8168 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-214-6700, SteinersPub.com.
The masters of their domain …
Aces & Ales
Pouring since … 2009
Drink it in … An extensive menu of taps and bottles will satisfy the most ardent brew snob, but snobbish this place ain’t. In fact, Aces & Ales is a craft-beer gastropub dropped in a neighborhood-bar setting, the kind of place where you stop in for a quick pint and find yourself lingering over a few, sunk in your comfy chair, hypnotized by the TV screens. And, oh, those beers. You can deliberate over a choice of IPAs and porters, or tickle your palate with a black-cherry sour ale or perhaps a spiced ale with curry, cumin and Kaffir lime. Stop by either location on Tuesday and partake in Tuesday Night Tastings, when $20 gets you a six-beer sampler (4 ounces each) paired with a specialty dinner from the outstanding kitchen. There are also regular keg-tapping events, announced on their website and Twitter account—which is also where you’ll find daily updates of the beer list, not only to let you know what’s pouring out of the 22 craft-beer taps, but also which kegs are running low. Talk about customer service!
Tell the cabbie … 3740 S. Nellis Blvd., 702-436-7600; 2801 N. Tenaya Way, 702-638-2337, AcesAndAles.com.
Crown & Anchor
Pouring since … 1995
Drink it in … At first glance, Crown & Anchor seems like a niche bar, a solid British pub with the requisite Tudor cottage exterior and shepherd’s pie baking in the kitchen. But, in truth, it’s all things to all kinds: It’s karaoke night for the UNLV women’s softball team. It’s where beer connoisseurs compare exotic imports. It’s the perfect hangout for English expat crowds to watch European soccer games at 4 a.m. It’s where senior citizens and college students indulge in baskets of fish & chips. It’s where dart players and pool shooters get their game on. About the only thing you won’t find here? EDM and bottle service. We’ll drink to that.
Tell the cabbie … 1350 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-739-8676, 4755 Spring Mountain Rd., 702-876-4733, CrownAndAnchorLV.com.
Pouring since … 1985
Drink it in … This family-run Italian restaurant may be best known for its delicious house-made pasta and such old-school dishes as osso buco and tripe in tomato sauce. But Ferraro’s is equally proud of its 67-page wine list, which has been recognized by no less authorities than Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Indeed, bottles are part of the décor, lined up on shelves behind dining tables and stacked in rows along corridors. More than two dozen varieties, from prosecco to pinot noir, are available by the glass, and they also have smaller tasting sizes for the curious and/or connoisseur. There’s also a daily happy hour offering drink discounts and tapas-size snacks. So grab a seat in the lounge or out on the vine-shaded patio, and try to pretend you’re in Italy.
Tell the cabbie … 4480 S. Paradise Rd., 702-364-5300, FerrarosLasVegas.com.
Frankie’s Tiki Room
Pouring since … 2008
Drink it in … This dark, old-school lounge has developed a loyal following—among the regulars: Nicolas Cage—who pack the place for its skull-shaking tropical drinks and cool tiki vibe. Of course, a city known for heat, extravagant drinking and a love for all things retro should be afloat in tiki bars, but all we have is Frankie’s—which would rise to the top in a ton of tiki. No plastic masks and polyester foliage, but badass pinup/lowdown art and giant hand-carved tiki gods. Drinks like the exotically spicy Pikake, green ’n’ powerful Fink Bomb and the classic mai tai offer the best of both worlds: crafted with care and liable to blow your socks off.
Tell the cabbie … 1712 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-385-3110, FrankiesTikiRoom.com.
Pouring since … 2002
Drink it in … UNLV professor Adam Carmer touts his place across from campus as the “largest beer bar in the country.” Although attempts to fact-check the assertion proved futile, it’s difficult to imagine any other bar in this great land topping Carmer’s selection of more than 1,300 beers. As impressive as that number is, what’s more astounding is the fact that the bartenders possess an encyclopedic knowledge of everything on the menu. And they’re ready to impart that knowledge, whether you fancy yourself a 21st-century beer connoisseur or are simply looking to expand your
palate beyond Coors Light. As much as Carmer’s dimly lit den of dark wood is dedicated to the amber nectar—hence the sign outside that promises “Beer, Beer & More Beer”—he’s just as passionate about whiskey: Upstairs is the semi-exclusive and intimate Whisky Attic, where you’ll find wooden shelves lined with more
than 1,500 versions of the spirit.
Tell the cabbie … 4700 S. Maryland Pkwy., 702-217-6794, FreakinFrog.com.
Pouring since … 2009
Drink it in … Want to drink your way around the world—all while cheering on your four-team parlay in a boisterous environment? Then this bar/lounge that rings the back end of the M Resort’s cozy sportsbook was built specifically for you. The L-shaped bar offers nearly 100 beers on tap from more than a dozen countries. Care for a taste of the Czech Republic? Denmark? The Netherlands? It’s all here. (Heck, when’s the last time you had a choice of eight Belgian beers?) No reason to be intimidated, either, as the menu provides a detailed description of every selection (even Budweiser). Speaking of menus, leave some room in that beer belly for tasty grub courtesy of the Vig Deli that’s steps away. Or have one of the lovely cocktail servers bring it to you. Beers, bets, bar food and beautiful barmaids—all within
a 20-foot radius? Sold!
Tell the cabbie … In the M Resort, 702-797-1000, TheMResort.com.
Toasting the innovators that blazed a trail …
Pouring since … 2004
Drink it in … The original Beauty Bar was an authentic vintage beauty parlor, located in New York City’s East Village in its early gentrification days. Likewise, Vegas’ Beauty Bar opened when Fremont East was still East Fremont, a sketchy place of cracked sidewalks and vacant storefronts. The pink-tinted, gold-glittered space pours cheap drinks—really, really cheap during Nickel F—n Beer Night on Tuesdays—for a lively crowd that has spent a long time thinking about their haircuts. Indoor entertainment runs from garage-rock DJs to drag-queen karaoke to ’90s cover bands, while bigger-name live acts perform in the trailer-park-in-a-good-way backyard.Although Beauty Bar will change hands July 1 (see Page 14), we’re confident the new owners—who include Corey Harrison of Pawn Stars fame—will maintain its Hall of Fame status.
Tell the cabbie … 517 Fremont St., 702-598-3757, TheBeautyBar.com.
Big Dog’s Draft House
Pouring since … 1988
Drink it in … There once was a time when the only handcrafted beer you could find in the Valley was in Uncle Jimmy’s garage. Now, breweries are about as ubiquitous in this city as overpaid DJs, and for that we can thank brothers Tom and George Wiesner. The Wisconsin expats gave birth to Big Dog’s Brewing Company in 1988, opening the Draft House in what was then the northern outskirts of town. More than a quarter-century later, Las Vegas’ original brewery—recognized by its iconic, tongue-wagging black-Lab logo—is still serving up down-home Wisconsin hospitality alongside award-winning craft beers such as Leg Lifter Lite, Red Hydrant Ale and Dirty Dog IPA, along with seasonal brews and various bottles. Little brother Big Dogs Café & Casino on West Sahara Avenue closed late last year, but you can still enjoy Big Dog’s beer in the comfort of your own recliner, as bottles are sold at grocery and convenience stores all over town.
Tell the cabbie … 4543 N. Rancho Dr., 702-645-1404, BigDogsBrews.com.
Hard Rock Center Bar
Pouring since … 1995
Drink it in … We’ll be honest: We’re shocked that three years into this project, the Center Bar is still among this list of nominees and not chilling in the back room, cocktail in hand, with the enshrinees. Not only was this the place to see and be seen for the better part of a decade, but it served as the center-bar architectural prototype that was ripped off by hotels all over the city and beyond. (Even the Hard Rock itself copied the concept, constructing circular bars in properties from Biloxi, Mississippi, to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.) Granted, tastes change, and as such the original Center Bar isn’t packing them in like it used to. But there’s something to be said for originality and longevity. Remember: Babe Ruth wasn’t the dominant force at the end of his career that he was at the beginning, but that didn’t make him any less Hall of Fame-worthy.
Tell the cabbie … In the Hard Rock Hotel, 702-693-5000.
Herbs & Rye
Pouring since … 2009
Drink it in … Mixology is everywhere these days, but Herbs & Rye was one of the first local bars to make beautifully crafted cocktails the focus. The chronologically organized cocktail menu includes such masterpieces as the early 19th-century’s Jack Rose and a Prohibition-era Corpse Reviver, with a Hemingway Daiquiri somewhere in between. The red wallpaper and dark wood create a clubby, vintage atmosphere for imbibing and dining—Herbs & Rye also serves up appropriately classic food such as rib-eye steaks, pork chops and truffled mac ’n’ cheese. Come in during one of the two daily happy hours, when that rib eye is half-off. You can spend the savings on another Aviation or perhaps a Blood and Sand.
Tell the cabbie … 3713 W. Sahara Ave., 702-982-8036, HerbsAndRye.com.
Pouring since … 1976
Drink it in … Even as its neighbors have changed, from Bob Stupak’s Vegas World to Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, Snick’s has remained, as eternal and unchanging as Cher. Clark County’s oldest gay bar welcomes all kinds—local artists and suburban professionals, tipsy twinks and cocktailing mature queens. It ain’t fancy, but it’s got dim lights, cheap drinks, charming bartenders, a good jukebox, shuffleboard and a history that encompasses the birth of disco and your last round of Jäger bombs.
Tell the cabbie … 1402 S. 3rd St., 702-385-9298, SnicksPlace.com.
Take a sip above and beyond the Strip …
Pouring since … 1999
Drink it in … Subtly promoted, hard to find and still rather exclusive, this 43rd-floor Buddha/voodoo-style lounge operated by House of Blues has survived both the recession and the headlines to remain one of the most interesting spots to drink in the view. The scenery, inside and out, is gorgeous, and access for the nonmember hoi polloi has been eased in recent years. Sexy, seductive and selective describe both the venue and the crowd, so dress the part and you too might party with the players high atop the southernmost resort on the Strip.
Tell the cabbie … In Mandalay Bay, 702-632-7631.
Pouring since … 1997
Drink it in … Perhaps the first locals casino bar to break away from conventional design, this elegantly appointed circular centerpiece was inspired by legendary Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí with its curved lines and 6,000-square-foot, 12-ton mosaic stained-glass ceiling. But the main attraction here is the killer martini program. Russell the bartender creates a new martini every week, and you can’t beat the prices: None of the martinis on the extensive menu cost more than $8, and all are discounted to $5 from 4 to 7 p.m. daily. Looking for something cool during the summer? Might we recommend the banana strawberry martini or the Hello Kitty? Want something sweet? Try the Orange Creamsicle or the Reese’s peanut-butter cup. James Bond never had these kind of options.
Tell the cabbie … In Sunset Station, 1301 W. Sunset Rd., Henderson, 702-547-7777, SunsetStation.com.
Pouring since … 2009
Drink it in … At the Mandarin Bar, you are above it all in every sense of the term. Of course, there’s the stunning view, looking down on the Strip from the 18th-floor windows. Then there’s the clientele—not a hangnail or wrinkle or fleck of dandruff to be seen, every one of them cool-as-a cucumber French 75. Which brings us to the Mandarin Bar’s libations, many of which take an old classic and lift it to a new level. Take, for instance, the Eastern Drop, which elevates the basic Lemon Drop with St-Germain and egg white, while the Spiced Apple Whiskey Sour adds Calvados and cinnamon. Uplifting, indeed.
Tell the cabbie … In Mandarin Oriental, 702-590-8888, MandarinOriental.com/LasVegas.
Parasol Up/Parasol Down
Pouring since … 2005
Drink it in … This pair of elegant casino bars—one on top of the other—embodies the Wynn’s lavish aesthetic. The extravagant décor is focused on a series of enormous parasols, embellished as one of Scarlett O’Hara’s gowns, with the upper bar offering a more intimate, couch-y setting, while the lower bar looks out onto the Lake of Dreams. The beverages are not cheap, but they’re worth it, and so are you—the whiskey-blackberry Sinatra Smash blends smoky with a hint of sweet, while the Cucumber & Ginger Cooler is a chilly concoction of Hendrick’s gin and ginger liqueur. Sip your cocktail, nibble on the scrumptious and swanky bar snacks, and gaze out at that waterfall. And then, in the midst of all of this upscale serenity, a giant inflatable frog appears and lip-synchs War’s “Low Rider” …
Tell the cabbie … In Wynn Las Vegas, 702-770-7000, WynnLasVegas.com.
Pouring since … 1941
Drink it in … The Parlour is Las Vegas as noun, verb and adjective. Located in Downtown’s historic El Cortez casino, the bar has undergone many changes over the years, but still offers up lounge acts that fall on the right side of cheesy and cocktails the way grandpa liked them. The location in Bugsy Siegel’s original casino breathes vintage Vegas, as does the fact that your server remembers you and what you drink. Entertainment is provided by Frank Sinatra and Elvis tribute acts, men committed to their inspiration and their audience, working the room with a networker’s thoroughness and a performer’s panache. Grab a seat, sip something chilled and be reminded of what people come to Vegas for. And remember: You don’t have to join the conga line if you don’t want to.
Tell the cabbie … 600 Fremont St., 702-385-5200, ElCortezHotelCasino.com.
Pouring since … 1999
Drink it in … We’ll cop to being a bit nervous when nightclub powerhouse the Light Group took over Red Square in late 2012, especially with it being positioned adjacent to the soon-to-open, massive Light nightclub. Does this mean do svidaniye to the vodka vault, blood-red motif and Russian cuisine, and privyet to DJ Tchaikovsky and bottle service? Thankfully, the Light Group stuck to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” blueprint. From the headless Lenin statue out front to the innovative ice bar inside, Red Square remains the coolest place in town to get your fix of old Soviet culture—right down to the shot of vodka that will chill your tongue and warm your toes. There’s a reason Playboy once named this place the Best Bar in America.
Tell the cabbie … In Mandalay Bay, 702-632-7407, RedSquareLasVegas.com.
Pouring since … 2009
Drink it in … If you’re one of those people who prefers an elegant, thoughtfully crafted cocktail over the tail end of a PBR keg poured into a dirty glass (read: If you’re someone who has a date), Aria’s Sage offers an oasis of top-notch cocktailing in a spot mainly known as a foodie haven. It’s buttressed on one side by a cocktail menu designed by Aria property mixologist Craig Schoettler, and on the other by an absinthe menu nearly 20 deep with different brands of the Green Fairy, including the terrific Leopold Bros. Absinthe Verte. Or stick around for all of them and indulge your inner Van Gogh. Just take it easy around the steak knives if you do.
Tell the cabbie … In Aria, 877-230-2742, Aria.com.
Matt Jacob talks the Las Vegas Bar Hall of Fame on 97.1 the Point. Listen to the broadcast below.