Like most things when I first started drinking, the mixed drinks were whatever was quick, cheap and easy. Later in life, I learned that different spirits can make a difference in how a drink as simple as vodka and soda could taste.
When I moved to Las Vegas I learned that there was another level of mixed drinks. Cocktails are the next step of mixed drinks. The most advanced cocktails are crafted with skill and unique ingredients that advance the experience beyond a normal adult beverage.
At first glance cocktails can seem a bit too elaborate. I’m not a fancy boy and tend to stay away from the craftiest cocktails. However, my journey cocktailing allowed me to find some fantastic classic cocktails and mixed drinks.
Along with my thoughts on each cocktail, I’ll share the recipe so you can make it in your Man Cave.
This is the drink that started my curiosity for different kinds of cocktails and mixed drinks. Unlike some cocktails, this tastes like BOOZE. It’s a strong drink but it’s delicious. A Sazerac is everything that a cocktail should be. This drink was the perfect recommendation from the bartender inside darkness of the Herbs & Rye cocktail lounge. The half-price steak that followed made this an amazing Happy Hour experience.
1 sugar cube or 1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon Peychaud’s bitters
1/8 teaspoon Angostura bitters
1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup rye whiskey
2 teaspoons absinthe
1 lemon peel twist
Vegas Bar: Herbs and Rye
This is the epitome of a classic cocktail. It’s one of the most famous cocktails for a reason. I like because it tastes like booze but is sweet enough not to taste too strong. It’s a great sipping cocktail. I find it to be a delicious complement to a cigar with friends. The drink lasts about as long as the cigar and that makes for a fun time to catch up on life.
3 dashes bitters
3 ounces Rye Whisky
1 sugar cube
1 slice orange
1 maraschino cherry
Vegas Bar: Davidoff Cigar Bar
The first time I ever had a mojito was at a rooftop bar in downtown Manhattan on a sweltering summer afternoon. It was perfect for the day and has been perfect for many beautiful and hot days in Las Vegas. Mojitos are a cool and refreshing cocktail that always take the edge from a 120 degree day. While I prefer to drink this outdoors, the Casa Fuente cigar bar inside Caesars Palace is famous for their Mojitos. This a great excuse to escape the sun for a little while.
3⁄4 ounce simple syrup
2 sprigs mint, plus more for serving
2 ounces white rum
3⁄4 ounce fresh lime juice
Vegas Bar: Casa Fuente at Caesars Palace Forum Shops
This is a very versatile drink. Sangria is good any time of the day with any food and in any location. Don’t be fooled by this fruity drink. It packs a hidden punch that can creep up if you have too many glasses. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Sangria all over the country but the best glass I’ve ever had is at Giada at The Cromwell.
2 Fuji apples, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 orange, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup orange liqueur, such as Cointreau
1/2 cup Spiced Syrup
2 750-ml bottles Lambrusco wine
2 cups club soda
Spice Syrup recipe: 1/2 cup sugar, 10 crushed cardamom pods, 8 cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks
Vegas Bar: Giada at The Cromwell
This does not sound like a fancy cocktail but I can assure you it is. Additionally, this might be the easiest to make when you want to have a fancy night in the Man Cave. I don’t remember my origin story with the Sidecar but it matches perfectly with the view out the window of the Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental after the sun goes down. It’s boozy, refreshing and a great way to get the night started.
3/4 ounce triple sec
1.5 ounces cognac or brandy
3/4 ounce lemon juice
Vegas Bar: Mandarin Oriental
There are plenty more great cocktails and drinks but these are my favorites. Here are a few more locations to visit if you’re looking for a delicious cocktail in Las Vegas. Bound at The Cromwell, Chandelier at Cosmopolitan, Oak & Ivy at Downtown Container Park, Parasol Up at Wynn, and Petrossian Bar at Bellagio.
For what its’s worth, any bar in Vegas can be the best on any given day but these specifically make some spectacular cocktails.