Sin City is home to a lot of restaurants and bars, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Las Vegans aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's food players to share their recommendations. This week, instead of the usual Dining Confidential, we're showcasing cocktail bars. Know a bartender who wants to share some top places to imbibe? The tipline is open.
It's hard to imagine Tony Abou-Ganim as a youngster, learning the bar business from his cousin in Port Huron, Mich. After all, he's credited with creating the Cable Car. Dubbed the Modern Mixologist, Abou-Ganim developed the first specialty cocktail menu at Harry Denton's Starlight Room atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, where he added the Sunsplash and Starlight, among many others, to the menu. Then he landed in Vegas in 1998, selected by Steve Wynn to develop the cocktail program at the Bellagio. Now he still resides in Vegas and dispenses his cocktailing knowledge through barware he launched last summer and another book, this one dedicated to vodka. Here he shares his favorite places to drink in Las Vegas.
Where do you enjoy drinking in Las Vegas?
Petrossian Bar at Bellagio, Vesper Bar at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Herbs & Rye
What cocktails are most memorable?
Petrossian Bar at Bellagio — What can I say? I have a soft spot for the joint, but where else offers people watching, fabulous musicians tickling the ivories and friendly, knowledgeable bartenders mixing up amazing martinis. Plus the vodka caviar pairings are always a treat. At Petrossian Bar, I know I am in for a great gin martini or Negroni, but when I'm in the mood, it's my go-to stop for a Cable Car. It's a drink I created in 1996 and it's been on their menu since opening and I have yet to find one that's made better!
Vesper Bar at the Cosmopolitan — This bar offers up properly prepared lost and forgotten classics coupled with inspired twists. The bartenders there truly embrace the craft. Each and every cocktail is made as if they were going to drink it themselves or serve it to their mother. I would most likely order a Negroni, although I do love their signature Vesper, which makes you feel a little like James Bond and in my book that is always a good thing.
Herbs & Rye — I always feel like I am stepping back in time whenever I walk into the joint. I am transported to another era, where woman are treated as ladies and gentleman should always carry themselves as one, and know how to order and enjoy a proper cocktail. Any of the great classics created or perfected during the Golden Age of Cocktails, the time just prior to Prohibition, are a safe bet here. I generally order a Holland House, as it is one of the few places that carry Bols Genever and know how to make the cocktail exquisitely. I also generously accept a shot of Fernet Branca with my gracious host Mr. Nectaly Mendoza.
It was not that long ago that finding a fresh, hand-crafted cocktail in Las Vegas was rather difficult. We were known for our frozen drinks, slushy machines and giant souvenir glasses. Faced with ordering a Negroni the response would most likely be, "We don't stock Negroni," or "I'm out of Negroni how about a Peroni?" Today Las Vegas has become a destination for a great cocktail, the craft and profession of bartending has been elevated to a new level of passion and creativity and our guests to our fine city are drinking better than ever! The bar has been raised; it's a great time to drink in Las Vegas!
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· All Coverage of Cocktail Week [~ELV~]
Tony Abou-Ganim [Photo: Courtesy]