“This is the Circle of Doom,” Antony Sazerac declares as he pulls out a blowtorch and sets the top of his serving cart ablaze.
I take a step back as he jokes, “You get to be afraid for my safety.”
It’s a handheld blowtorch, not industrial-size, but the ring of flames surrounding a cocktail glass is enough to get the attention of the room.
“Circle of Doom is a fun, playful, smoky Old Fashioned,” explains Sazerac, a mad scientist who is also head mixologist at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ CliQue Bar & Lounge. “It’s a mixture of Gosling’s Black Strip, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Ancho Reyes, to give it a little bit of a kick, and vanilla bean cordial.”
A pouring of 151 provides the fuel for the flames, which Sazerac douses—carefully—as he hands me the finished cocktail. Surprisingly, the glass is not hot, and the “kick” is … well, it’s quite pleasant.
I ask Sazerac, who’s been here since the beginning, how often he gets a chance to pull out the blowtorch.
“Not as [often] as they would like,” he says, laughing, gesturing toward CliQue frontmen Ryan Labbe and Jason “JRoc” Craig. The duo, whose 81/82 group partnered with Clique Hospitality to launch the casino-floor venue, are among those gathered around Sazerac’s cart for this midday tasting, which also serves as a planning session for CliQue’s upcoming birthday bash.
On February 26, the lounge marks two years as the go-to destination for “tableside mixology” at The Cosmopolitan. Two Birds One Stone (Tanqueray London Dry Gin, Silver Cachaça, Amontillado Sherry, Dry Curaçao, Basil Cordial and Yuzu citrus) will be on the menu, as will the Cookies and Cream Shooter (Ciroc vodka, Dorda double chocolate, banana liqueur and chocolate whipped cream).
Among the fan favorites: “The Benny Blanco is by far the most popular cocktail on our bar menu,” Sazerac says. “On our tableside mixology menu, it’s been Up All Night.”
While CliQue didn’t invent tableside mixology, you can credit Labbe and Craig for making the term top of mind in Las Vegas’ bar and nightlife scene. In their efforts to replace traditional bottle service with a more interactive, informative experience, the pair have turned CliQue into an educational venue of sorts, where mixologists approach their roles like teachers preparing a lesson, and the lounge’s well-tended blog acts as a reference guide for guests.
“The education part is definitely something we’ve put some time into,” Craig explains. “It’s part of the experience we are trying to create here, a step above the normal lounge you’d find anywhere in Las Vegas.”
“We want guests to know what we are [all about] before they get here,” Labbe adds.