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.
Mark Lopez [Photo: Chelsea McManus]
Mark Lopez might just have one the most unusual views of Vegas. After all, he looks out at planes landing at McCarran International Airport from Panevino, where he's the assistant general manager and mixologist. Lopez worked as a bus boy in his family's California at age 14 and by the time he was 18, he had the keys to the place. He moved to El Paso to work at Bennigan's, first as a barback and moving up. By 22, he opened a new Benigan's in New Mexico. Then the bright lights of Vegas beckoned, and he first started at Il Fornaio at New York-New York, where he met Vincenzo Granata, who later brought him on board at Panevino in 2005. "Since that time, me and the bartenders have created nearly 150 signature cocktails; changing the list each season," Lopez says. "The most fun I have is working on the Halloween list using scary themes and icky garnishes. It's the one time I can be a little silly and get a funny reaction out of the guests." Here he shares his favorite places to drink on nights off.
Which bars or lounges do you turn to when you're not working?
A great local hangout is DW Bistro. The entire ambiance makes you happy to be there and the energy from other patrons adds to that as well.
For a great cocktail I enjoy Mandarin Bar at the Mandarin Oriental. You can enjoy a drink 32 stories high overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. It's amazing.
For a great beer I like Todd English P.U.B. They have an amazing selection of beers from around the world and break them down by style or flavor profile. They also have these Draft Tables, which are perfect for small groups of friends.
What cocktails are most memorable?
At DW Bistro my favorite drink is their bloody Mary. The mix is homemade and full of flavor. The garnishes are a meal themselves; full of pickles and giant olives.
Mandarin Bar makes a great cocktail called Smoke and Mirrors. First, they wet the inside of the glass with Lagavulin Scotch, which gives it its smokiness. Then they add Basil Hayden's Bourbon, Carpano Antica Formula, black tea simple syrup and finish it with lemon zest.
At Todd English P.U.B, I recently tried Magic Hat No. 9 and it was so unique; fruity, crisp, hearty and with hints of citrus.
Why do you enjoy going there?
I like DW Bistro for the décor and ambiance. The chef/owner is passionate about what they serve and the bar ingredients are always fresh.
At Mandarin Bar it is the beautiful surroundings and the fantastic view. I haven't had the opportunity to try all their cocktails yet, but I will! This is a great place to take someone visiting the city.
At Todd English P.U.B. it's the experience of discovering a new beer. In addition to their unique selection by the bottle, they offer over 40 beers on draft and serve them in their respective glassware per style of beer. I really enjoy pubs and pub-like bars.
I go out to bars and restaurants not to critique by any means but to hopefully discover some server or bartender who is truly passionate about service or mixing a drink. They can set the tone of the experience and it's really special when you find those people in bars where you may not have expected it. I've experienced this in local hangouts like Steiner's and Village Pub where the bartender is just doing the right thing; mixing a great cocktail and expressing genuine care for their product and service. You just can't wait to go back and see them and possibly try something new. I love the entire experience and it drives me to do it every day at Panevino.
· All Coverage of Panevino [~ELV~]
· All Coverage of Cocktail Confidential [~ELV~]