Aria landed a big get in the beverage world when Craig Schoettler came on board as the property mixologist four months ago. After all, he's the former executive chef of Chicago's laboratory the Aviary from Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. He's been dubbed a man with "an encyclopedic knowledge of classic cocktails and how to tweak them." Now he's about to unleash his monumental cocktail programs across the property at Aria. The changes are just about to take over the resort, so stay tuned for that Craig Schoettler touch to come. In the meantime, get a sneak peek at what he has planned for Aria.
What made you decide to make the move to Vegas?
If you asked me six months ago if I would ever live in Las Vegas, the answer would have been "not a chance." I heard about the property mixologist opportunity at Aria from a mutual friend of mine and our vice president of food and beverage Ari Kastrati. When I came out to meet the F&B team, saw the property and heard about the vision of Aria's F&B program, it was an easy decision. I'm fortunate to be at Aria and feel it's an extremely exciting time for our division. We have an amazing, forward thinking team and I can't wait for what's to come at the resort.
This is a huge venue for you to manage the cocktail menu. What Craig Schoettler touches can we expect to see at Aria?
Huge is an understatement. With all the lounges, restaurants and internal F&B outlets, there is a lot going on. My main focus to start is to refine the program by implementing standards of a high quality program — offering fresh juices, redesigning the back bars, bringing in hundreds of new, artisanal products, providing intense training through tastings and seminars and reconcepting existing outlets. It would be a lie to say there wasn't a tank of liquid nitrogen on property?
You have a vast international clientele. How are you catering to different regions and tastes?
We are defining the personality of our lounges to give them each a unique identity. Instead of having the same beverage program in all of our lounges, they each will focus on an integral component of the beverage industry.
What cocktails have you tweaked or added so far at Aria?
We are currently changing many of our menus for the season. Expect a lot of change in the next few weeks.
Will you be developing an ice program?
I am very fond of ice — shapes, colors, flavors. We are redesigning the bars to outfit them with freezers. The molds are here and the systems are in place.
What cocktail would you like Aria to be known for?
I want Aria to be known for its beverage program. As a property, we are overhauling our beer, wine, spirits and cocktail program. We are working with a brewery to develop a propriety beer for Aria, collaborating with distilleries for house spirits and partnering with wineries for special labels with the guidance of Aria's director of wine Kim Wood. We are taking a very progressive approach to our beverage program so we can create the best possible experience for our guests. Regardless of what beverage they choose, we want to have the highest quality product available.
In an interview with Esquire, you said you would want to drink with Ernest Hemingway because your favorite cocktail is the daiquiri. Any plans to help the daiquiri make a comeback at Aria?
The Hemingway Daiquiri is now on the menu at the Aria Café. The classic Daiquiri has been given a bad name with the introduction of blenders. It's a beautiful cocktail when made properly.
I heard a rumor that flavored vodkas are out. Are there any trends that you see on the horizon in the cocktail world?
Flavored vodkas will never go away. I feel bar programs are entering more in the culinary world with techniques, ingredients and philosophies.
How much emphasis do you put on presentation?
Presentation is an integral part of everything. People buy with their eyes. No one wants to consume something that does not look appetizing.
How about novelty?
I'm a firm believer in there being a reason for why something is done. Novelty has its place, but I don't think it shouldn't be a focus in a program.
If you're a guy in Las Vegas, what's the one drink you should be able to walk up and order to look like you belong?
A Yard?just kidding. It's Las Vegas, everyone belongs.
Have you found any cocktail lounges in Vegas that you like to frequent?
I haven't been to many but here are a few:
Craftsteak at MGM Grand — great whiskey selection
Herbs & Rye — solid cocktail program and knowledgeable bar staff.
?Laundry Room — The best example of a "speakeasy" that I've been to here. Great ambiance and great cocktails.
Frankie's Tiki Lounge — need I say more?
· All Coverage of Craig Schoettler [~ELV~]
Craig Schoettler [Photo: Aria]