There could be no better duo to bring a little spice to the Forum Shops at Caesars than the Too Hot Tamales, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. Las Vegas’ second Border Grill opened not long ago in the former P.J. Clark’s space and completely obliterated the spot’s tired, TGI Friday’s-esque décor in favor of vibrant orange walls and tiles, lively original artwork and new spaces, such as the ceviche bar.
At the other kind of bar, Doug Chippewa worked along side Southern Wine & Spirits’ J.R. Starkus and Wirtz Beverage’s Andrew Pollard to give the Grill’s encore location a cocktail menu of its own. Of course, the classic Blanco Margarita—the standard-bearer for all Border Grill locations—is included and is offered on draft along with a rotation of other cocktails. And the ideal pairing from the new menu: Caribbean carpaccio of the catch of the day in coconut chile broth with celery leaf, shaved red onion and crispy shoestring yams.
Here are seven more sips (and even a few bites) of the new Border Grill.
Piña Verde – Herradura silver tequila infused for up to three days with pineapple and mint, combined with fresh lime, green Tabasco and agave nectar.
Nothing better exemplifies Las Vegas’ recent re-acceptance of infusions. Time was that every hip restaurant had a giant glass jug of cheap, high-proof vodka-soaked something that long ago gave up its color and flavor. Today, Pollard is rapidly spreading the good news: It’s possible to offer high-end infusions, and there’s a right and wrong way to create them. Luckily, he knows that the right way is to experiment with ingredient extraction times and base spirits. This allows bartenders to honor a spirit’s intended expression and profile while pre-introducing it to complementary ingredients for speed of service. It’s a win-win.
Blood Orange Jalapeno Margarita – Olmeca Altos Plata, blood orange puree, agave nectar, fresh jalapeños, lime juice and a mole rim.
This is another classic imported from Mandalay Bay and look out—it’s a spicy one! “And the jalapeños are going to be even spicier in the summer months than in the winter months,” Chippewa adds. The mole (made from orange zest, roasted chilies and a freshly grated chocolate) will continue to evolve on your palate as you sip and dine.
Ruby Cerveza Rosa – Partida Blanco, fresh ruby red grapefruit juice, agave nectar and Stiegl Radler grapefruit beer.
Corporate mixologists and beverage professionals have a portfolio within which they must work. While that might seem confining, the combinations are actually almost endless. Just change out the spirit, swap the citrus and you have an entirely new flavor profile suited to its own dining experience! This drink is the Mexican cousin of Pollard’s Aunt Ruby’s Slippers at Whist, which pairs Finlandia grapefruit vodka with Aperol, fresh lime and Steigl Radler grapefruit shandy, which is a low-alcohol fruit beer.
Pairing: Veracruzano ceviche of the sustainable catch of the day, picholine olive, Mexican oregano and shaved Serrano pepper.
Jalisco Burro – Corralejo reposado, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, fresh lime and ginger beer.
It makes perfect sense that the new Border Grill would offer a Mexican take on the now ubiquitous Moscow Mule—Feniger is a fan of the drink. Fortunately for her, Chippewa has been making a Jalisco Mule since he started bartending with Border Grill in Mandalay Bay seven years ago. This version benefits from addition of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur.
Pairing: Smoked mussel ceviche of cold-smoked PEI mussels, golden beets, spiced jicama and beet greens.
Incendio Orange – Cointreau Noir, Patrón XO Café Incendio, almond milk and Virgil’s orange cream soda.
You know those milk- and dark-chocolate “oranges” wrapped in foil and sold at checkout stands around the holidays? You whack them on the table to split the segments and then dive in? Yeah, this Starkus original tastes just like that, and perhaps even better.
Pairing: Seclusion. Or an espresso.
Smoky Bean Negroni – Del Maguey mezcal, Madagascar vanilla-and-coffee-infused Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth and Campari.
Found: The after-dinner Negroni. This one was a Milliken inspiration. The chef was at a dinner where she enjoyed a few Negronis and requested that the classic gin/sweet vermouth/Campari drink have a place on the new menu. Well, you know it had to have a Mexican twist to it, hence the mezcal. “I have a feeling this will evolve into a barrel-aged cocktail at some point,” Chippewa says.
Avocado Colada: Rhum Clément canne syrup, green Chartreuse, blended fresh avocado, fresh pineapple and lime with coconut cream.
Pea-green, savory and creamy is this avocolada, with fresh pineapple flavor on the attack followed by the herbal green Chartreuse and finally the avocado on the finish. If you’re doing the Paleo thing, ask for the coconut cream without the half and half added.
Pairing: Guatemalan shrimp cocktail with cerveza-poached Mexican shrimp and house-made cocktail sauce with a chile-dusted lime.