Henderson hasn’t historically been what you’d call a mixology destination. Sure, there are plenty of places to wet your whistle. But not many that will fully appreciate your dismay when they vigorously shake your Manhattan. Two new venues—Due & Proper and Whist Stove and Spirits—would like to see that change. Immediately.
Located in the District at Green Valley Ranch, both 24-hour gaming bars and restaurants hail from the team behind Commonwealth, Park on Fremont and BLVD Cocktail Company. (Creators Ryan Doherty and Justin Weniger own WENDOH Media, parent company to Vegas Seven.) Of the two, Whist is the bright, garden-inspired, contemporary American spot, while Due & Proper takes its cues from the late 19th century, as well as from the film Gangs of New York, a line from which actually gives the pub its name.
I recently had a private audience with Wirtz Beverage Nevada’s cocktail development specialist Andrew Pollard, who took me through his contributions to the menus at both venues—here are some highlights.
The cocktail menu at Whist Stove and Spirits is approachable and fun, with flavors and styles ranging from bright and acidic to sweet and contemplative. Pollard tries to incorporate every taste experience into his drinks—sweet, salty, bitter, sour and even savory/umami. And he does so with as few ingredients as possible. “The more sensation you can put into a cocktail without complicating it,” he says, “the better.” You also won’t see “mojito” or “margarita” listed as such, but if you look closely, your drink is there.
Aunt Ruby’s Slippers: Finlandia grapefruit vodka, Aperol, fresh lime and Stiegl Radler grapefruit shandy.
With its relatively low alcohol content, you could easily knock these back one after another. Similar to an Aperol Spritz, it also gets your palate and stomach fired up for a meal. You’ll also find this utterly addictive, bright, shandy-style cocktail Downtown at Park on Fremont.
Lipstick Collar: Basil-infused Caña Brava rum, fresh lime, salted watermelon juice and freshly cracked black pepper.
A simple variation on a daiquiri, but well layered for way more interest than most (typically sweet) watermelon drinks. It definitely makes you think. “And hopefully, by the time you figure it out, you’re on to your next drink,” Pollard adds.
Rosemary’s Baby: Rosemary- and raspberry-infused Tito’s vodka, fresh lemon, house-made grenadine and Barritt’s ginger beer.
A Moscow Mule with a whole lot of intrigue. The pomegranate juice (grenadine) and ginger really warm it up a little, so while it looks like summer, it sips like fall.
King of Hearts: Partida Blanco tequila, Canton ginger liqueur, fresh lime, pineapple and sage.
Here’s the promised margarita, but with a tropical twist and a sweet-to-savory progression. The garnish—candied pineapple and papaya, pineapple “ears,” and a lime wheel—is a stunner.
Night Owl: Zaya 12-Year rum, Caffè Borghetti espresso liqueur, dark chocolate syrup and hand-whipped Giffard vanilla-infused cream.
The dessert cocktail: You either love it or hate it. “It’s a lost segment that people don’t always embrace,” Pollard admits. “But you don’t have to have a chocolate martini.” Which is a shame because this is the best chocolate martini I’ve ever had. Eschewing vodka for the task, Pollard starts with Zaya 12-Year—a “whiskey drinker’s rum”—then adds espresso liqueur and real chocolate, serving it in an Irish coffee glass a la San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café, with a foam as rich and thick as the Bay Area fog.
Also taking its lead from the 19th century, Due & Proper looks to how America was drinking at that time—whiskey, spirit-forward, daily rations of rum or gin—and brings them into the modern era using high-quality products such as the Giffard liqueur line, Teeling Irish Whiskey and Hangar One vodkas. “You don’t need every rum, gin or whiskey, if you have the benchmarks,” Pollard says. He prefers instead to incorporate amer, vermouth and amari, “bottled cocktails” that give his creations “a lot of flavor, but with only three ingredients.” The Due & Proper menu really picks up on complexity right where Whist leaves off.
Dead Rabbit: Teeling Irish whiskey, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, fresh lemon, Clément spiced sirop de canne, Odwalla carrot juice, a touch of egg white and fresh grated cinnamon.
Pollard turned to the film Gangs of New York for the name of his Irish whiskey cocktail, naming the Dead Rabbit for one of 19th-century New York’s infamous Irish-American Five Points gangs. Built on the foundation of a classic whiskey sour—whiskey, fresh lemon, sugar, egg white—the drink then takes a turn down the rabbit hole with a healthy dose of … carrot juice. And as one who hates carrot juice, I’m astounded to admit that I love this drink. It’s a whiskey sour, but unlike any I’ve ever had—truly a “you gotta taste it to believe it” drink. Find out more about the Dead Rabbit here.
Brass Knuckles: Knob Creek Single Barrel bourbon and Bigallet China-China amer over a spritz of Borghetti espresso liqueur.
An off-menu specialty as of yet, there is nowhere to hide from the huge, assailing flavors in this snifter—no ice to melt, no mixers to soften the blow. Just a long, dry, bitter finish after the barrel-proof whiskey has stripped the sugar off your palate. If you’re going in for a “one and done,” Pollard says, “this is the one to have.”