Could famed Chicago cocktail bar The Aviary be coming to Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas? That’s the scuttlebutt among industry insiders, including an employee at The Aviary’s sister restaurant Alinea. “Our most portable concept is The Aviary, and [owner] Nick [Kokonas] has been stockpiling rare spirits,” says our source. “Mandarin Oriental executives have also been coming in for weeks, and word is that The Aviary could make for a great rebranding of their bars, starting with their Vegas property.” We heard the same story from a major Las Vegas and national culinary icon.
Often hailed as one of the top “liquid kitchens” in the country, The Aviary employs a dedicated “ice chef” and creates avant garde concoctions such as a truffle negroni served over sod and an edible cocktail contained in a lightbulb. Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Mandarin Oriental said she had “no information” about a possible Aviary partnership. But Kokonas in 2012 discussed the idea of replicating The Aviary: “We have been offered deals all over the place for Alinea—and even a few for [James Beard-recognized restaurant] Next—but that is against the spirit and requirements of those places,” Kokonas told Eater. “The Aviary is more adaptable to different locales. I can imagine the one in L.A. being very different from the one in N.Y.C., or Shanghai, or Vegas, and each being true to themselves.”
As to who would run the day-to-day operations in Las Vegas, that is up in the air. But former Aviary alum Craig Schoettler has been running Aria’s mixology program for nearly a year.