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Francesco Lafranconi on Where to Drink Champagne, Sake, Wine and Cocktails

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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.

Super%20Francesco_1000%204-16-13.jpgFrancesco Lafranconi [Photo: Chelsea McManus]

UNLVino kicks off this Thursday, and with it, the first-ever mixology-focused "BAR-b-q" on Sunday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aside from fare from Scott Conant, Angelo Sosa and Gustav Mauler, Southern Wine & Spirits' master mixologist Francesco Lafranconi plans to serve up the cocktails at the Keep Memory Alive Events Center at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Lafranconi plans to prepare drinks using locally sourced ingredients from three bars,. Also on hand, Eddie Russell of Wild Turkey Bourbon, along with cocktails using Absolut, Bundaberg, Campari, Diageo, Dripping Springs, Fiji, Flight 69, Sauza and United States Beverage. Here Lafranconi shares his favorite places to sip champagne, sake, wine and cocktails, each representing the four events at UNLVino.

— When it comes to champagne, Billecart-Salmon is my weakness (when Krug and Bollinger are not around), but Gerand Bertrand-Cremant de Limoux, a sparkling wine from France, is another delicious bubbly Bouchon serves and it's an excellent value. Also, Bouchon's raw bar is one of the best in Las Vegas and I LOVE oysters. Whenever I have a guest in town, I take them here for breakfast since the quality of the ingredients and the setting are so outstanding. Bouchon is also one of the few places in the city that offers Pineau de Charente, a refreshing French aperitif made from a blend of cognac and grape juice and one of my favorite ways to begin a meal.

and Shibuya — Everything you drink or eat at Raku is an experience. They pay great attention to detail. Two of my favorite sakes on the menu are Kokuryu Black Dragon and Yamahai So Nama, which means "last ride home," and they are both Junmai Ginjo-style. Raku is also one of the only places outside Japan where Kobe Liver is served sashimi-style?I feel like Andrew Zimmern when I eat it.

I also love Shibuya — they serve some of the freshest fish in town and their seaweed tasting is very unique. Shibuya's sake program is very impressive, with a sake sommelier on staff to navigate the extensive collection and who provides you with a "business card-like" detailing each sake selected.

D.O.C.G. Enoteca and ScarpettaScott Conant's Cosmopolitan restaurants offer so many wonderful Italian wines, served both by the glass and by the bottle. I really enjoy the charcuterie and pizza at D.O.C.G., and the general manager Mario is one of the best in the city. I enjoy red wine they serve by the glass such as Chianti Classico Il Paggio from Tuscany. Of the wine list overall, Falanghina by Feudi di San Gregorio is a light and easy white from Naples area that's also a great value. Of course being partial to wines from my region, Friuli, I also like to order Jermann Pinot Noir "Red Angel," which I enjoy with veal crispy sweetbreads agnolotti. Plus, I'm always entertained by the charismatic and good friend master sommelier Paolo Barbieri!

Delmonico and Commonwealth
Delmonico is one of the best whiskey bars in town (and in the country!), offering a number of rare, Scotch single malts (which are my passion) from independent brokers, as well as American whiskeys. So it's a special opportunity to taste several of them since production is limited. I like to go to Delmonico because I can order  from the secret menu (like In-N-Out, but crafty cocktails) and to see my dear friend Max Solano, who is very talented and innovative whisky expert and mixologist. They also offer great selections of Japanese and Irish whiskeys, and it's always refreshing for me to learn about new bottlings.

For great mixology, I like the Laundry Room, the speakeasy inside Commonwealth, downtown. It's among the few places in town where I don't order specifically a Negroni (which I stick to since it's pretty easy to make) and is home to one of the best talented female mixologists, Juyoung Kang, who climbs up and down the shelves of the bar like Cat Woman, when grabbing the liquor bottles, all in the name of the perfect drink. I recommend their classic cocktails, such as the Hemingway Daiquiri or Pegu; and personally, I'll order anything with Chartreuse, like the Last Word cocktail.
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