It was more than 100 degrees on Wednesday afternoon—temperatures that just screamed for a cocktail. Or seven. SLS Las Vegas beverage director Ryan McCallum—his waxed ’stache bested only, perhaps, by that of local beer expert Russell Gardner or barman Adam Rains—obliged with a preview of what he has in store for us when SLS Las Vegas opens in the former Sahara footprint August 23.
1. Adriatic Fresh
Get it: The Buffet, Cleo and Center Bar.
In the glass: Muddled grapes, Bombay Sapphire gin, sage and thyme simple syrup, Carpano Bianco dry vermouth, egg white and lemon juice.
The story: “It makes me think I’m on a Mediterranean island,” McCallum says. “The smell of it, the lightness of it—the Carpano Bianco and herbs give it a European feel.”
The verdict: Delicate and feminine, but not so much that men won’t also be able to appreciate such a refreshing, light summer cocktail.
2. Jasmine Margarita
Get it: Property wide.
In the glass: Casamigos blanco tequila, Pom pomegranate concentrate, fresh lime and lemon juices, with a chipotle-and-salt rim.
The story: Named for designer Philippe Starck’s wife, the Jasmine Margarita is said to have been commissioned by Sam Nazarian, the CEO of SLS parent company SBE, to keep Starck from making them take a pit stop in Miami for someone else’s pomegranate margarita. An earlier iteration featured a traditional Oaxacan spice mixture, sal de gusano—which contains toasted, ground agave worms—on the rim, but McCallum thought the garnish might be a little too exotic, especially for vegetarians.
The verdict: Spicy as all get out, but dangerously delicious. I’ll take a pitcher! And maybe keep a little sal de gusano on hand, by request only?
3. Prell Punch
Get it: Foxtail, Cleo, Monkey Bar, Umami Burger.
In the glass: Hennessy V.S Cognac, Grand Marnier peach raspberry liqueur, Chinese five-spice syrup, top of Moët & Chandon brut Champagne.
The story: “Foxtail has a lot of sparkling cocktails,” McCallum says. But don’t let the name fool you—this one has nothing to do with the shampoo brand. It’s named for Milton Prell, the original owner of the Sahara.
The verdict: I prefer more Cognac than the ¾ ounce that went into this one, but it’s definitely more complex than it looks, thanks to the Chinese five spice. If you can get past the name, the reward is pretty sweet, as is the drink.
4. Monkey Suit
Get it: Monkey Bar
In the glass: Bulliet bourbon, Giffard banana liqueur, Dolin Rouge sweet vermouth, a dash of walnut bitters. Garnished with a brulee’d banana slice and a cherry.
The story: “I came up with this cocktail before the pictures went up in Monkey Bar,” McCallum says. “Now that the photos have gone up, they’re all gorillas and monkeys wearing suits!”
The verdict: A touch lighter and sweeter than my preferred style of Manhattan (make mine rye!), but one I could easily put into my friends’ hands and say, “Look! You’re drinking whiskey! Good girl!” The banana liqueur is every bit as good as it is odd.
5. Beach Life Paradise
Get it: Beach Life and Center Bar
In the glass: Sugar Scull vanilla rum, Coco Lopez coconut cream and Perfect Puree of Napa Valley strawberry puree.
The story: This is just one of a number of property-wide cocktails being formulated for both indoor and outdoor (read: poolside slushy machine) use.
The verdict: Oh, this is going to cause trouble—it’s so mellow and yummy. It’s the “I can’t even taste the alcohol ones” that do the most damage.
6. Rico Siempre
Get it: Center Bar, Umami Burger, Katsuya and more.
In the glass: Avion reposado tequila, hand-crushed limes, muscovado syrup and Fentimans ginger beer.
The story: It’s a Mexican twist on a Moscow Mule—so it’s a Mexican Mule. But since that name could cause misunderstandings, the drink is named instead for a beloved SBE family member who passed away.
The verdict: Fun and interesting. It’s like a Moscow Mule and a Margarita got together to make a richer and much more satisfying Mule. Can I say that?
7. Sahara Cooler
Get it: Property-wide
In the glass: Ketel One orange vodka, Aperol and Perfect Puree of Napa Valley passion fruit puree topped with Stiegl Radler grapefruit beer.
The story: “I love the flavor, I think it’s so refreshing, especially out here [in Las Vegas]. The color as well—something about the desert—it all works in my mind,” McCallum says. “It packs a good punch, too.”
The verdict: We have a winner! The Ketel One orange matches beats with the Aperol (a low-alcohol bitter Italian aperitivo flavored with orange peel) and gives it an alcoholic boost; the passion fruit puree imparts a refreshing sweet-tart character; and the Stiegel Radler (a loooow-alcohol fruit beer) puts some texture on the palate. A delicious tribute to the venerable casino that once stood where the SLS Las Vegas now rises. I’ll have another, please.
An SLS Bar Primer:
Center Bar: SLS’ home for molecular mixology. Think spherified chasers, encapsulated Red Bull vodka shots, flavored “clouds” for cocktail garnishes and liquid nitrogen ice cream.
Monkey Bar: The lobby bar, a place for high-end whiskeys, wines by the glass, fine Champagnes and cigars.
The Griddle Café: A diner-style bar offering a full complement of spirits. Expect drinks here to be “whimsical.”
Katsuya and Cleo: Sip on SBE’s proven performers, such as the Katsuya Fresh, Burning Mandarin and Love Unit.
Umami Burger and 800 Degrees: Beer is what’s going down here. Check out the crafty but approachable draft selections or get weird with the geeky reserve bottle list.
Foxtail, Life, Foxtail Pool Club, Beach Life: Tasty but fast!
Sayers Club: Classic cocktails meet classic SBE cocktails. Check out the single barrel Lock, Stock & Barrel 13-year-old straight rye, a one-off by Cooper Spirits just for SLS Las Vegas.
Bazaar Meat: Full bar with cocktails as wild and crazy as chef Jose Andres himself. Beef stock shooter with pork belly jerky? Yep. And don’t miss the 27-liter bottle that will be shipped to terroir-driven wineries to be filled, and then shipped back to Bazaar Meat to be served on tap.