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.
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Mariena Mercer's first job in the bar business was as a Tequila Goddess. She lived in the town of Tequila intermittently, learning about agave, terroir and distillation practices firsthand. She came back to Las Vegas as a Tequilier and started bartending and consulting for bars. Mercer opened the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas as the property mixologist, implementing the what some say is the largest scale fresh beverage program in the world. Now she's the general manager of The Chandelier, the three-story bar at the front of the Cosmopolitan. Here she shares some of her favorite places to imbibe in Las Vegas.
Which bars and lounges do you turn to when you're not working?
The Griffin. I adore the downtown scene and Fremont East bars. Stepping inside the Griffin is what I always imagined my grandfather's Elk's Lodge looked like. Or Hogwarts. With all the rich mahogany, fireplaces, leather banquettes and Baroque architecture, I feel inspired to have a dram of whiskey in my hand at all times. The Griffin encapsulates two of my favorite things: great music and whiskey. My go to's? Detroit Cobras and Blanton's whiskey. Despite not being much of a dancer (all limbs, awkward long arms and legs), I like going in the back room when there is a DJ and dancing.
Herb's & Rye. Every part of the experience is immaculate when I go to Herb's & Rye. Nectaly Mendoza is an institution as far as I am concerned, and his love and passion for this industry is really channeled through this bar. He offers weekly spirits knowledge classes to his bartenders, always challenging them to be their best, his menu brimming with perfectly executed classic cocktails by a skilled and consummate and deft hand. I rarely go to an establishment for both my cravings together: food and drink. I find such a cognizant dissonance between many bar and restaurant programs. Sometimes quality drink programs and food can be mutually exclusive but H&R always delivers superlative results on both spectrums. And the staff is a raucous good time, never disappoints.
Vanguard Lounge. This is my favorite bar to jump behind the stick and guest bartend at. The staff is just so much fun and the room feels so intimate. Jennifer has a great staff and is always doing fun events. I definitely have a visceral attachment to this bar as it holds some of my most memorable and favorite bartending experiences at a bar I've never worked at.
Which cocktails are most memorable?
At the Griffin, I stick to Blanton's whiskey neat. Herb's and Rye has Fernet Branca on tap, so that's a no brainer. I love to go for the passport method, each visit exploring a new spirit genre of cocktails, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be The Widow's Kiss, a perfect meld of Calvados, Benedictine, Yellow Charteuse and Ango. At Vanguard, I prefer to sip a Negroni on the rocks to start my evening off. But I rarely say no to a Green Chartreuse luge.
Why do you enjoy going there?
I really enjoy all of the listed places because of one connecting element: community. Visiting each place is like visiting an old friend as the bartender enclave is tight knit.
· All Coverage of The Chandelier [~ELV~]
· All Coverage of Cocktail Confidential [~ELV~]
Mariena Mercer [Photo: Erik Kabik]