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 beverage players to share their recommendations for a random feature dubbed Cocktail Confidential. Know a bartender who wants to share some top cocktail spots? The tipline is open.
Johnny O'Donnell [Photo: Chelsea McManus]
A native of Ireland, Johnny O'Donnell fuses his zest for good times and great drinks at the Morton Group's La Comida in Downtown Las Vegas. He calls himself a funologist and goes by his initials JOD.
O'Donnell learned the bar trade at his family's bar, O'Donnell's. He applied for his green card to leave Ireland and give the United States a whirl, holding down bartending gigs at Morton's of Chicago, The Palm inside the Forum Shops at Caesars and N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms. Now he helped create the cocktail menu at La Comida, including La Catrina with Cabrito tequila infused with strawberries, Combier, guava and lime; Siempre Caliente with Chamucos Blanco, passion fruit, fresh house sour mix and hot sauce; and El Fuego with Ambhar tequila, agave nectar, fresh sour mix and jalapeños
In his spare time, O'Donnell is a motorcade driver for politicians including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. "Driving in a motorcade is one of the only times you get to drive through stop signs and the cops are with you," he says.
Here, he shares his favorite places to imbibe when he's not behind the bar at La Comida.
Which bars and lounges do you turn to when you're not working?
When I'm not behind the bar at La Comida, I like visiting my downtown neighbors: Commonwealth, Park on Fremont and Insert Coins. When I'm beginning my night off of Fremont East District, I like checking out La Cave, Honey Salt, Vintner Grill and ending my night at Off the Strip.
Which cocktails are most memorable?
When I get off work I like to go next door to Commonwealth. I think JuYoung Kang is a genius. She's created the ideal, no frills Blood & Sand with Compass Box Hendonism Scotch Whisky, Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth, Heering Cherry Liqueur, orange and an orange twist.
Then, I like to run across the street to Insert Coins to chop it up with the owner, Chris. He's a good friend of mine and we stick to the basics with nothing fancy, but I always get a shot of Fireball.
Then I walk a little farther down the block to Park on Fremont, where I order the Funderwear. Love the name, but like the cocktail even better! The Funderwear has Damarak Gin, Aperol, orange juice and simple syrup.
La Cave, my favorite hideaway. There I get the Fiery Yazi with Yazi ginger vodka, fresh squeezed lime juice, vanilla syrup, muddled pickled jalapeños, rock candy syrup served in a rocks glass.
Honey Salt — this is usually my first stop of the night since I live in the Summerlin area. I love spending time with Elizabeth and think Honey Salt is one of the best places in town for atmosphere with awesome décor. I order the Midnight Rambler — much like I do, I am all for this cocktail. It is a great balance of sweet and tart and is made with Bullet Bourbon, honey syrup and orange zest.
Vintner Grill — I love going here. It feels like family to me. I love the hospitality and always feel like I'm at home. A classic Belvedere Martini, with a twist (shaken) — always hits the spot and fits the vibe of this hidden gem.
Off The Strip — Tommy, the owner, is a character and always treats me like family. I usually drink a nice Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet here and pair it with one of the many pastas on the menu