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Pouring a cocktail at Liquid Diet.
Liquid Diet.
Tyler Storm

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Go for the Pico de Gallo Michelada, Stay for the Spooky Vibes at This New Vegas Bar

The Liquid Diet cocktail bar in downtown Las Vegas may be home to your favorite new cocktail

Janna Karel is the Editor for Eater Vegas.

A new bar is open in downtown Las Vegas. And while the slightly spooky decor, intriguingly large open kitchen, and unshakable obsession of its two owners have been enough to keep the bar packed even during its soft opening, it’s Liquid Diet’s rotating lineup of food-inspired cocktails that stands out.

A pico de gallo michelada with a salt rim.
Pico de gallo michelada.
Janna Karel

While owners Bret Pfister and Patrick Mannion have cocktails on deck that could likely appease any conceivable palate, the standout is the pico de gallo michelada. Mannion, who runs the bar’s kitchen, says he remembers tomato water becoming popular while he was studying at the Culinary Institute of America in the early 2000s. “We thought it was magic,” he says. “You hang up a blend of tomatoes through seven layers of cheesecloth. And the only thing that drips through is this crystal-clear liquid that tastes like the essence of a tomato.” Throughout culinary school and his time working in kitchens like Chicago’s Aviary, Mannion would return to the tomato water, trying to incorporate it into a cocktail. “And nothing worked,” he says.

Bret Pfister and Patrick Mannion outside a converted auto garage.
Bret Pfister and Patrick Mannion.
Louiie Victa

Then, in May, Pfister and Mannion previewed cocktails at a neighboring bar, the Silver Stamp — a popular beer bar without a full liquor license. So all their cocktails had to be beer-based. “That constraint was what led me to thinking beer and tomato — a michelada,” says Mannion. He recalled when he used to work an omelet station on Sunday mornings on Fifth Avenue and how, at the end of his shift, all that would remain of the pico de gallo would be the liquid and he would drink it with beer. In an a–ha moment, he landed on finally making use of that elusive tomato water by blending it with red onion and cilantro and carbonating it and pouring it with beer. The cilantro gets frozen with liquid nitrogen and smashed with salt for a bright, textured rim. “It felt like a really great moment for me, personally, because it’s always been tricky for me to figure out my path and find my way of creating things without feeling like I’m copying from some of my mentors,” says Mannion.

A tattooed hand hold a cocktail.
Liquid Diet.
Tyler Storm

The result is a delightfully refreshing cocktail that feels like taking a dram of super fresh pico de gallo liquid. While Mannion makes the tomato water the old-school way, by suspending cheesecloths from chains that loom over the bar’s expansive kitchen island, he incorporates some modern devices to achieve other flavors. Sweet dates go into a centrifuge to pull out everything except the flavor, which adds a touch of sweetness to the date-washed old-fashioned. And an ice machine in the back produces large bricks of glassy ice that he hand-carves into cubes and spheres for various cocktails.

A cocktail at Liquid Diet.
Liquid Diet.
Tyler Storm

Other drinks that appear on the menu sometimes — when either resources become available, the flavors are done developing, or Mannion and Pfister simply feel like it — include a malted mudslide that tastes elegant rather than milkshake-y, and Mannion’s answer to customers who order their martinis extra dirty. “There’s so many other things besides olives and olive juice that can provide that umami,” he says. He draws on what he likes about mignonette that comes with raw oysters and makes a play on a Gibson — infusing vodka with bay leaf, incorporating pickled shallot and black pepper. And then there’s the horseradish shot — just right for anyone who eats all their wasabi when out for sushi.

A tattooed hand pours a cocktail.
Liquid Diet.
Tyler Storm

And it may take a few visits to get your hands on all the cocktails — they won’t all be available each night. But Mannion says that that’s the appeal of being located near so many great bars in the Arts District. “We may tell someone ‘we don’t specialize in beers here, but go see the Silver Stamp, we love them.’”

The cocktails are all featured against the backdrop of a 70-year-old auto garage at 1415 South Commerce Street near Imperial Avenue, in the burgeoning Gateway District. The owners intentionally maintained as much of the interior as they could, leaning into the brick-wrapped industrial vibe with black paint and creepy abstract art on the walls. Mannion suspended roadside tree branches from the ceiling and much of the furniture was sourced for next to nothing. The bar is tricky to find, lacking signage at both the side entrance facing a courtyard on Imperial and its main patio entrance facing the alley behind Main Street. The bar opens at sunset Wednesday through Sunday and closes at 1 a.m.

A cocktail with a lemon twist at Liquid Diet.
Liquid Diet.
Tyler Storm

Liquid Diet

1415 S. Commerce Street, Las Vegas, NV 89102

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