Photo by Krystal Ramirez

Two Vegas Firsts: Solera Rum at Zuma and Highballs on Tap at Sparrow + Wolf

Get familiar with the restaurants' noteworthy alcohol dispensing systems.

Upon entering Zuma in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, your attention will be immediately drawn to a connected four-barrel contraption sitting at one end of the bar, and like most other guests, you won’t be able to resist asking someone what in the world it is. The Zuma Zacapa Live Solera is the first of its kind in Las Vegas. The system contains three barrels that have been conditioned with Everclear for 10 months (even before the restaurant opened in January 2017)—one with added banana peels, a second with maple syrup and the third with passion fruit and melted bubblegum. At the end of each night, a batch of Vieux Carre cocktails made from Ron Zacapa 23-Year Centenario Guatemalan Rum, Cognac, rye, vermouth and Angostura Aromatic Bitters are poured into the top barrel. From there, it filters down through a series of conditioned barrels, picking up the various flavors that have found their way into the cracks and crevices of the wood, before arriving in the fourth barrel at the bottom of the system, where it awaits service. The “Live” aspect references the fact that each pour may taste a little different as myriad flavors intertwine.

Photos by Krystal Ramirez

The concept was created by Zuma‘s global bar development director, Jimmy Barrat, who says, “This is really a friendship story between [Fluid Movement co-founder] Thomas Aske, [Zuma’s global beverage director] James Shearer and I sharing the same love for the Zacapa system itself. Each Live Solera [uses] the same recipe, but the flavoring of the barrels is different and reflects the city it is in. Ultimately, the end result is different and showcases the importance of the wood.” The cocktail ($16) is served with a hand-carved ice sphere stamped with the words “Zuma Zacapa Live Solera,” of which you’ll want to snap a picture before it melts.

Another alcohol dispensing system that is the first of its kind in Las Vegas can be found at chef Brian Howard’s Sparrow + Wolf in Chinatown (4480 Spring Mountain Rd., Suite 100). The Suntory Japanese Whisky Highball Tower is a machine that dispenses the perfect mix of whiskey and soda, and it is only the third of its kind on the West Coast. It draws in water, runs it through a filtration system and a superpowered carbonator, and adds 1½ ounces of uber-chilled, light-bodied, gold-hued Suntory Toki blended whiskey before tapping. The resulting mix brings small, tight bubbles and goes down easy, reminiscent more of drinking a beer than a mixed drink.

Photos by Krystal Ramriez

“Highballs are now more popular in Japan than beer,” says general manager John Anthony. “It’s so easy-drinking, it can be dangerous.” He also speculates that more of these systems may be arriving soon in Las Vegas, but Sparrow + Wolf lays claim to being the first. The Highball is garnished with a lemon twist and sells for $14.