Photo by Kin Lui
Restaurant manager Sam Berkley was determined to have a craft cocktail menu, even if Payard Patisserie & Bistro doesn’t serve hard alcohol. He’s up to his ears in tea, coffee, beer and wine, and with a whole kitchen at his disposal. So he did what any impassioned restaurateur would do: He made it work.
“A barman in a house with no liquor,” Berkley says of his inspiration. Caesars Palace wine director Derick Rossmiller planted the wine cocktails seed, “and I took that concept for a ride,” Berkley says.
Las Vegas born and raised, Berkley comes from a family with a long history in the food and beverage industry, especially in Las Vegas. A Caesars Palace lifeguard at the age of 16, that summer Berkley declared that someday he would “own” Caesars. He later returned to the property to apprentice under the former property mixologist, and the lessons have clearly paid off as he has taken ownership of Payard’s quirky wine cocktail program.
His method is to start with a staple cocktail, such as a margarita, and see how far he can get away from it. His eight creations begin with wine, including chardonnay, pinot noir, moscato and Champagne. Even cabernet sauvignon makes an appearance in his Mojito Rouge. Then tea, fresh fruit and herbs, sea salt, balsamic vinegar and edible flowers make up the balance, resulting in a menu that is almost as beautiful sounding as the cocktails are beautiful looking … and tasting.
The French Press
As served at Payard Bistro in Caesars Palace, $12
Steep Payard’s black currant and passion fruit teas in a French press with 6 ounces of hot water and let cool. Using a funnel, add the cooled tea to a bottle of Edna Valley pinot noir, two-thirds full. Add 3 tablespoons each of the loose-leaf fresh teas to the bottle and remove the air using a wine bottle vacuum pump (Vinovac, $10, Vinotemp.com). Allow the tea to infuse the wine for at least 12 hours. To serve, pour 5 ounces of the tea-infused pinot noir through a double strainer into a mixing glass filled with ice. Add ¼ ounce Monin raspberry syrup and a pinch of truffle salt. Stir with a bar spoon and strain into a chilled white-wine glass. Garnish with raspberries and an edible flower.