According to the festival’s founder, Rehan Choudhry, there are four pillars central to the Life Is Beautiful mission: music, food, art and learning. There will be significant changes this year to the food and beverage pillar. In 2013, attendees were asked to purchase food in the Culinary Village and beverages in the Alchemy Garden (leading to comical scenes, at least for this writer, of trying to not eat a hot, tasty morsel until exactly the right beer or cocktail has also been obtained). This year, food and beverage will be reunited in the Culinary Villages—plural.
The two areas have been combined and then divided to conquer hunger with one mini Culinary Village installed at each of the festival’s four main stages. “The idea [is] that food and beverage will live together this year,” says Drew Levinson, director of strategic activation for the event’s beverage partner, Wirtz Beverage Nevada.
Pairing will be a cinch as top-level chefs from all over the Strip take over culinary booths that will be near the craft beers, high-end wines and cocktails that will most enhance the cuisine served.
For example, the Culinary Village at the Downtown stage, the largest of the four, will offer attendees 10 food experiences in 10-by-10-foot booths (Honey Salt, RM Seafood and Due Forni among them); one 30-by-30-foot booth by Nobu Caesars Palace; a massive Ketel One vodka station; a Stellina de Notte sparkling wine station; an Infinium Spirits station (Templeton rye, Teeling Irish Whiskey, Zaya rum and Fernet Branca); an 86 Co. station (Fords gin and Caña Brava tequila); J. Lohr wines; a Bacardi station; a Tanteo Jalapeño tequila station (paired, I’m told, with Nacho Daddy); and a Bols station (Galliano and Bols genever; paired with Nobu).
Now multiply that by four.
Elsewhere you’ll sip Nolet’s gin, sake (paired with Yusho), Tequila Partida and Sazerac whiskey (paired with T-Bones and Hank’s steakhouses). “The level of execution we’re putting out there is so much higher than you find in other festivals where there is no thought put into the food and beverage component,” Levinson says. “By elevating that here, and by giving the guests an experience that they can connect more with, long term, it’s of greater value to the brand and the customer. That’s how the brands learn and grow.”
Cocktail-wise, Wirtz Beverage is putting its best brands forward, with mixologists Willy Shine and Leo DeGroff joining Levinson and Wirtz cocktail developer Andrew Pollard in a central batching kitchen that will pump out fresh, consistent cocktails for three days. There will be 55 cocktail recipes served, including the Dutch Mule, a Ketel One Citroen Moscow Mule that is also the official cocktail of Life Is Beautiful. Levinson estimates the team will put out from 1,300 to 1,400 gallons of specialty cocktails during the festival.
If wine is more your speed, you’ll find 25-30 high-end wines from Michael David, Bonterra, Rombauer, the Prisoner Wine Co. and more. Partiers in the Wynn Nightlife VIP areas will have access to large-format Champagne from Taittinger. And the premium concession stands will offer labels from the portfolios of Diageo, BV and the Great American Wine Co.
Beer lovers will find their brews in the Culinary Village at the Ambassador Stage, which will also have an additional 12 stations featuring 24 craft beers as well as six food trucks.
Last year’s uber-geeky beverage tent within the single Alchemy Garden has been scaled back. Instead educators will be embedded in each Culinary Village at the booth they represent, making each sale a potential educational experience. Want to know more about Fords gin? Ask Simon Ford; he’ll be there.
Also keep your eyes out for unannounced brand activations. One currently in talks would create a private social club serving Ketel One Bloody Marys in the morning and Taittinger Champagne and Heineken in the afternoon. All this is in addition, of course, to the premium concessioners that will dot the festival footprint, where top-shelf brands and marquee sponsors such as Ketel One, Heineken, Dos Equis, Bacardi, Jack Daniel’s and Hendrick’s are the standard.
Gotta have something to tide you over on the walk from stage to stage.