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DrinkBoy: Drinking Las Vegas

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Robert Hess Posted: 22 Mar 2009 11:20 AM

I just got back from a trip down to Las Vegas working at a conference down there (for my "day job"), and just posted a quick writeup of my experiences down there where I actually found some great places to settle in and have some great cocktails.

Drinking Las Vegas
Cocktails and mixed drinks fly fast and furious throughout this larger than life town, most however are culinary disasters. There are however a few rays of hope which stand out, with the tantalizing promise of more to come.

Specifically noteworthy on this trip were the Downtown Cocktail Room, and the lounge at the Artisan Hotel.

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It's always struck me as a great irony that it's a hundred times easier to get a decent drink in Boston, with its prudish past, than it is to get one in Las Vegas. That said, the Artisan Hotel looks really promising, both as a bar and a place to stay.

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I almost think that it might be the lack of prudishness which is causing the problem in Vegas. Drinks flow fast and free, but with quantity like that, they aren't really thinking about quality. If people had a more restrained notion about drinking, and were intentionally limiting themselves, they might be more likely to make those fewer drinks have a little more "value" to them.

Yes, the Artisan was quite cool, and lots and lots of character.

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Prior to my last trip to Las Vegas in February, your description of cocktails flowing fast and free with little or no regard to quality sums up most of my adventures with cocktails in Las Vegas.  I normally travel to Las Vegas once a year in January or February for my industry's major trade show and have been continually disappointed since I've become a cocktail enthusiast.  On our own one evening my wife and I stopped in Bouchon, Thomas Keller's bistro in the Venetian, for a pre-show cocktail and light supper.  The bar was beautifully appointed, well stocked, professionally manned, and, uncharacteristically for Las Vegas, serenely peaceful.  The bartender happily included the Van Winkle Family Reserve rye whiskey that I spotted on the shelf for my wife's Manhattan (probaly the best Manhattan we've tasted) and prepared an excellent  Martini for me.  As we were early guests, the bartender was still setting up the bar, and had little time to chat.  We discovered a list of specialty cocktails, including some classics with intriguing variations, and we plan to return to confirm our extremely positive impression of the bar.  As another draw, the bar has an tempting looking raw bar.

And thank you, Robert, for your suggestions.  Before our visit to Bouchon, I had just about given up on finding a good cocktail experience in Las Vegas.

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I haven't been to the bar at Bouchon for a couple of years. On my last trip there, I had a good, but not great, experience. I had noticed at the far end of the bar that there was a bottle of Regan's Orange Bitters #6, and asked the bartender about them... he said he didn't really know anything about them, and didn't know any drinks which used them. Later as we were talking I happened to mention Maraschino liqueur, and the bartender responded that they used to have a bottle of it, but they got rid of it since nobody knew what to do with it... sigh...

The cocktails I had there were all good, and it could have just been "that" bartender (so often the case.. both ways), but it would have been nice to have seen a little bit of the same product and recipe knowledge at the bar, as I am sure they demand in the kitchen.

I am however a big fan of their breakfasts at Bouchon!... Croque Madam with a huge pile of frites.... wonderful! :->

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