Vesper Bar: Cosmopolitan Las Vegas
After dinner at B&B Ristorante, we were wandering around Las Vegas trying to decide where to go. Somehow we ended up at the Cosmopolitan and I remembered the Vesper Bar. Downtown Cocktail Room said to seek out George at the Vesper Bar. However, I had known about it because I read about Vesper in this article. I just hadn’t paid much attention when Tony Abou-Ganim mentioned Andrew Pollard’s great staff who were really into making cocktails. I was too fixated by his previous statement there wasn’t a pinnacle cocktail bar in Vegas.
Andrew Pollard is a brand ambassador for Domaine de Canton, is best known for his cocktails at Noir (at the Luxor) and created all the cocktails at Vesper Bar.
Looking over the list, I was immediately drawn to two cocktails; the Cynara (Old Raj Red Label gin, Cynar, Carpano Antica, orange aromatics) and the Mayan (rye, Amaro Meletti, cinnamon, fig vermouth, Angoustura bitters, Mayan spices). When a bartender approached me and I mentioned trying to decide, his eyes lit up. I suppose I had two interesting choices. I decided then this must be George after he explained a few things about the cocktails to me. Turns out my cocktailian hunch was right.
After I went with the Cynara (pronounced “sayonara” though Cynar is pronounced chee nar), I went off menu and tried a couple of bartender choices.
Going with just “bourbon,” George made me his signature, the Micky Barcelona with Makers 46.
Then I decided I wanted something with Bols Genever and mentioned a drink I had in Portland that was great. At the time I didn’t quite remember what was in it and pulled it up while he went to grab some bottles. Funny enough, he grabbed Fernet just as I figured out the Work in Progress from Central in PDX had Bols Genever and Fernet. George made me a riff on a Hanky Panky but with Bols Genever and Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur. It was garnished with a flamed rosemary sprig.
I was back the next day for a pre-dinner drink at China Poblano. I decided to get the Mayan since I didn’t try it the previous evening. I loved the little chocolate-covered cherry it came with.
After the Black Keys concert, we were going to grab a cab and head over to one of the other cocktail bars I wanted to try. Unfortunately everyone had the same idea and the line was incredibly long. So what to do? Back to the Vesper, of course.
The bar was super slammed and I decided to just have a glass of Lillet while I thought about what I wanted. My friend had the Hemingway. I’ve been fixated lately on the Greenpoint ever since I had one in San Francisco’s Beretta. It’s a variation of a Red Hook which is really just a variation of a Brooklyn –which is a variation of a Manhattan. Vesper doesn’t have Rittenhouse 100 or Punt e Mas but George made a fine cocktail nonetheless.
Next I decided to ask what rums were at the bar. I went with Zaya and George remembered I had asked if they had Benedictine. Like most of his cocktails, this one also featured citrus. I had given up taking new photos since all my cocktails were some shade of brown, up in a martini glass garnished with orange peel.
I thought I was done. Apparently George didn’t so for my final cocktail of the evening, I had his Laphroaig cocktail. I had given up trying to name the cocktails. Also, please don’t ask me what was in it other than that lovely peaty Scotch. By this time I was dealing with a lady at the bar who wanted to buy us drinks and a bartender from Wyoming who didn’t know what Chianti was (and paid $155 for a bottle).
It was a good time, times 3.
The Vesper Bar at the Cosmopolitan
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
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The Vesper is an outstanding bar and probably the best bar in Vegas. Their attention to detail and obvious expertise specially in making turn of the century cocktails was outstanding. I probably had the best Negroni I had in my life. The Old fashioned was among the top 3. Two bartenders were outstandingly good..friendly and knew their stuff. The third time there was some guy called Jason, who was rude, unfriendly and even when I asked for a dry martini threw vermouth in it AND get this made it with Vodka! I of course slung the martini back at him and asked him to make it with gin (the default setting for a martini should always be gin..unless you ask for Vodka) and watched him like a hawk. Even that experience still makes it 5 stars in my book.
I would have been offended by the default of vodka as well. I do however want to point out that the proportions of gin to vermouth have always been a hotly debated issue. First of all a Martini without vermouth is not a Martini at all. It is gin chilled and served up. For example a “dry” Martini circa 1900 meant 1oz of vermouth to 2oz of gin. A Martini in the late 1800’s would have been equal amounts of gin and vermouth. While a good bartender will ask his or her guests preference you should be prepared to ask your bartender to make yours to your specification.
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