Social, the aptly named center bar at the Palms, recently unveiled a new drink menu designed by Mia Mastroianni. A regular on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue, Mastroianni works behind the stick at L.A.’s members-only Soho House, so Social is the only place most will have the opportunity to try her innovative cocktails. For this new menu, Mastroianni used a “social media” theme to put whimsical spins on old favorites, such as the iPaloma and the Espresso Uploader (for the record, my favorite). Keep an eye out for the hashtag symbol atomized atop Mastroianni’s oh-so-Instagramable Clover Club Chatroom.
How were you were initially approached for this project?
Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer has a personal relationship with Todd Greenberg, the president of the Palms. He wanted help revamping Social, to put energy into the cocktail program. So Jon approached me and I was absolutely, 100 percent on board. After the first meeting, I went to work creating cocktails I thought would align with that concept—working with very strong individual presentation, turning this from the Social bar to the “Social Media” bar. We want guests, when they’re served one of these drinks, to immediately take a picture of it and Instagram, Facebook and Tweet about it. These are signature cocktails that can only be found at the Palms. When you’re visiting Las Vegas, you want a drink with a hashtag on it. So we’re really thinking of it from a marketing standpoint, as well.
How has social media affected your work?
It holds everyone accountable to another degree. Because when your work is being photographed, you want to present the best possible form. I definitely think about the presentation of my cocktails in a new way, because I know the first thing that’s going to happen is someone’s going to say, “I got a drink made by Mia, and this is what it looked like.” So I gotta up my game, I have to be on top of presentation.
What has changed for you since the TV show?
I work in a bar in Los Angeles that is private, and I have a lot of A-list clientele. It is fascinating for me that Bar Rescue has the scope that it does. Celebrities come into my bar all the time, but now they’re saying, ‘I saw you on Bar Rescue.’ I love what the Food Network has done for food and hospitality, but I really do think there’s a space for bartenders. There’s a whole movement as the back of the house is now working with the front of the house. Bartenders are looking at the same ingredients as chefs and asking, “How can I make that work in a cocktail?” We’re also picking out really abstract nostalgic flavors such as children’s cereals: “How do you infuse it into a drink?” People are making their own marshmallows and their own Jell-O. There are so many different aspects of the cocktail scene. It’s time for it to get the spotlight.
What is one drink you tried to make that resulted mostly in failure?
A lot of what I do is trial and error. I have to work very hard at making a new version of a cocktail and get it to the point of success—where I’m happy with it, where it’s balanced. I do have a select group of guinea pigs who act as my tasters when I’m working on a recipe. Last year, we had a bartender competition at Soho House, and I decided I was going to make an adult version of a creamsicle. Clementines were in season at the time, so I was making my own vanilla syrup, squeezing the fruit by hand and trying to come up with a creamsicle. There must have been 13 variations of it before I landed on something I did not have to spit out.
What are the best bar cities?
Of course, you have New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, even Portland has a thriving scene. What I love about Bar Rescue is that I’m traveling to states that I otherwise would not have had an opportunity to go to. And if I do have a day off, I love throwing it out to Facebook: “I’ve never been to Cleveland. Cocktail minds, where do I go?” I ended up going to two mind-blowing cocktail bars that were so on point, really just crushing it.
What is your signature cocktail?
The Bubbly Black Rose made with Plymouth Gin, lemon juice and blackberry syrup. People are constantly Tweeting me, hitting me up on Facebook, saying, “Mia, I’ve seen you on Bar Rescue. Where can I get one of your cocktails?” I wanted to put one of my cocktails on this menu, so I can now say, “You can get one of my drinks at the Palms.” This is actually extra special to me, because it’s one of the cocktails I did on my very first episode of Bar Rescue, which I shot here in Las Vegas. I stayed at the Palms that week, so it’s all kind of coming full circle.
The Espresso Uploader
As served at Social Center Bar in the Palms, $14
In a mixing glass, combine 1 ounce cooled espresso, 1 ounce coffee liqueur and 2 ounces vodka. Add ice, cover, shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with three espresso beans.