Talk about cups runnething over. For our inaugural Drink Up! Issue, we trekked (and sometimes stumbled) across Las Vegas to find the strongest, tastiest, most exotic beverages in the valley. We’ve got champagne supernovas and bacon martinis and plenty of beer.
Don’t partake of spirits? Fret not. We cover sodas, smoothies, coffee and tea, too. Prepare to be quenched!
They have you at the teeny-weeny chocolate and vanilla malted milk balls sprinkled on a four-inch-thick cloud of whipped cream. Then, there’s the first sip of white shake with its unmistakable explosion of malt flavor, followed by sweet ribbons of black chocolate, streaming down your throat. It has to be so thick your eyes pop out trying to suck it up the straw; anything this good is meant to last a long, long time. (In Cosmopolitan, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd S., 698-7940) Heidi Kyser
World Famous Mt. Charleston Coffee
As much a ritual as a drink, the Mt. Charleston Coffee is a creamy number dosed with Drambuie and brandy, perfect for calling a fireside truce after extended snowball conflicts up the mountain. In cozy dessert mode? Hold off on the sugar packets and ask for an extra shot of Drambuie. (Mount Charleston Lodge, 5375 Kyle Canyon Road, 872-5408) Andrew Kiraly
The avocado smoothie
A diagnosed avocadoholic, I’d drink guacamole from a squeezebag if the attendant yellow-green froth-mustache weren’t so unseemly. So my heart leaped when I discovered the avocado smoothie: At last, a socially acceptable avocado-drinking vehicle! Don’t worry, though; Volcano Tea’s avocado smoothie isn’t like glorping down liquefied 'cado. This creamy, well-balanced blend is a novelty drink with populist appeal. Diplomatically sweet with notes of green tea, the avocado essence of Volcano Tea’s smoothie emerges more as an insistent hint than an eruption. (Volcano Tea, 4215 Spring Mountain Road) A.K.
At first, it’s kind of like the Kool-Aid Man has wrenched your tongue from your head wedgie-style and he’s spanking it with his big ol’ spatula-hands: Blunt, cartoonish, vaguely frightening. Give it time, though, and you’ll give this drink some credit. Monolithically sweet at first sip, the Platinum Candy goes on to reveal other treats: Lots of foreplay between tart and sweet, with raspberry, cranberry and apple; the peach schnapps and melon liqueur lend some fruity assist. As the big red man says: Oh yeah. (Platinum, 211 E. Flamingo Road, 365-5000) A.K.
Kiuchi Hitachino Nest Weizen
You might not expect to find interesting beers at a Japanese noodle house in a casino, but it’s part of the deal at Dragon Noodle Company. This ultralight hefeweizen is mad apple cidery with lots of bubbles and a crisp, slightly sour, tangy finish. Summer might be over, but you can hang on to the season with this tingly beer. (In Monte Carlo, 3770 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 730-7965) Brock Radke
Champagnes at Laguna
You would think champagne and Vegas would go together like D-list celebrities and nightclubs, but strangely, there is only one bar in town dedicated to the art of the world’s greatest fizzy wine. Whether your poison is a classic Kir Royale (made properly with Marie Brizard Crème de Cassis de Dijon), or a sip of Gosset Grand Rose, this elevated perch off the Palazzo casino lets you do it style, while you wonder what in the world the hoi polloi is sipping from those plastic guitars. (Palazzo, 3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 607-7777) John Curtas
Vanguard offers a black-tea infused version of this Prohibition-era classic, and it’s appeared in Downtown Cocktail Room’s repertoire, but I prefer the drink as it was invented — made with gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and the crème de violette that gives the drink its dreamy pale blue hue and delicate floral notes. (Herbs and Rye, 3713 W. Sahara Ave., 982-8036) Maureen Adamo
Crown & Anchor has its own version of V8 — the Pear Cider. Ideal for cooling off, it doesn’t skimp on content either, offering a nice 6 percent alcohol kick. The crisp, refreshing and slightly sweet brew satisfies without bogging you down with a typical beer bloat. Sustenance with a buzz? Sounds like a fruitful investment. (Crown & Anchor, 1350 E. Tropicana Ave., 739-8676) Alexia Gyorody
North Coast Brother Thelonious
Another boozy, dark drink, this California brew also tastes of bourbon with a sour smash of cherries and a creamy finish. It’s another pale ale made more palatable with a balance of sweetness, but this one’s more violent … like the Incredible Hulk punching pastry. It’s one of the bolder options among Yard House’s seemingly never-ending beer menu. (In Town Square, 6605 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 734-9273) B.R.
Jean Georges’ virgin sodas
Who needs Canada Dry or Dr. Pepper when fresh fruit syrups are waiting for a spritz of seltzer, like they are every night at Jean Georges, the top-flight steakhouse in Aria? Twice as refreshing and half the cost of a cocktail, there’s no beating a cherry-yuzu, calamansi (tasting like a tangerine crossed with a lime) or passion fruit-chile soda on a warm summer’s night — or after a cold day at the tables. And just think of the hangover you’ll save. (In Aria, 3734 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 877-230-2742) J.C.
The early 20th century décor of the new restaurant inside the Royal Resort, The Barrymore, provides an idyllic location for this timeless drink. The Barrymore’s is a flawless blend of Sprite, ginger ale and grenadine syrup, best sipped in one of their plush, oversized booths. (The Royal Resort, 99 Convention Center Drive, 407-5303) A.G.
“Cellos” at Sirio
Home- and house-made is all the rage these days, whether it’s salumi, sausage, cheese or liqueurs. Chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia takes infused-booze to “11” with a trio of house-made “cellos” – lemon, mixed berry and black truffle – that could make a tippler out of Carrie Nation. It’s hard to argue with the tart freshness of his limoncello, or the smoothness of the mixed berry, but the year-long maceration of truffle shavings gives it an other-worldly, chocolate cake-like nose that impels you to keep sipping. (Aria at CityCenter, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd., 877.230.2742) J.C.
2007 Nickel & Nickel Cabernet Sauvignon
I call this recipe Upscale Trail Mix. Do this: Sidle up to the bar at Sonoma Cellar, order a glass of the Nickel & Nickel ($23). That and the complimentary nuts — almonds, cashews, Brazils, peanuts — are your dinner. This big, flashy, meaty, flourishing cab is your fruit. (In Sunset Station, 1301 W. Sunset Road, 547-7982) A.K.
The black-shirted calorie-pushers at Hash House will brag about their Bloody Mary and strawberry lime margaritas, but I like the Champagne Supernova. It tastes like the sweat of an intergalactic courtesan, this alt-mojito made with mint, lemonade and rips of dry and sweet Rieslings. Much smoother and subtler than the roster of drinks and dishes designed to send your pancreas into shuddering hyperdrive, the Champagne Supernova makes for a quiet counterpoint to the edible rock concert that is the Hash House menu. (Hash House A Go Go, multiple locations) A.K.
Tarot Fruit Snow
Anybody can toss some acai berries, bananas and wheat grass into a Vitamix, but just try to recreate Boba City’s Tarot Fruit Snow. Boba City interprets “snow,” the East Asian term for cold, slushy fruit drinks, as “smoothie,” and they take it seriously. The owners chop fresh mango, honeydew melon, strawberries and other fruit and freeze it for blending with soy milk and a proprietary flavor blend to create the creamiest thing that never came from a cow. (Boba City Café, 4126 S. Rainbow Blvd., 220-5273) H.K.
The Ragin’ Cajun, Bloody Caesar, Bloody Bull
Two of the newest twists on the Bloody Mary can be found at Society in Encore, which has a dedicated Bloody Mary menu, all $12. Despite its billing, the Ragin’ Cajun will not turn the drinker into James Carville. Despite the presence of Absolut Peppar and “bayou seasoning,” it’s surprisingly mild. A lightly spiced tiger shrimp takes the place of the traditional olive.
More flavorful — and equally creative in its garnish — is the Bloody Bull, which augments Skyy vodka with beef broth and a Slim Jim, plus two very firm and tasty olives. The ensuing taste is beefy in more ways than one. The heartiness of the broth makes this a drink to savor at leisure. For those who don’t want a peppery “afterburn,” old reliable Bloody Caesar is a mellow alternative. The combination of Clamato and Absolut Peppar (plus two olives) is unexpectedly effective. Careful: You’ll knock this back right quick. (In Encore, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 248-3463) David McKee
Widmer Brothers Barrel Aged Brrbon
The Pub at Monte Carlo was once one of few local microbreweries; today it isn’t making its own stuff but it does offer a recently revamped craft beer list that ranks among the most varied in the city. This winter beer was brewed once, part of the Widmer Brothers Reserve Series, and it’s mighty strong. But for its high alcohol content, it’s a highly drinkable dark amber beer, light and crisp with — obviously — bourbon undertones.
(In Monte Carlo, 3770 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 730-7420) B.R.
Root Beer Float
Also called the Brown Cow, this libation is a real masterpiece of BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. Aside from their generous serving of ice cream, the root beer is brewed on site. You might think the root beer float contains some secret, third ingredient. But no. That’s the smooth taste of homemade root beer. (BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, multiple locations) A.G.
Neither downtown nor independent — two death-kisses in the minds of most java hipsters — Saxbys Coffee nevertheless makes micro-foam you could rest your head on. Their velvety espresso, from Central America and Indonesian beans, disappears in the froth, which baristas take their sweet time making. The smallest Cappuccino on the menu is 12 ounces, but purists can ask for the “dry cap” and get a single shot of espresso, the rest foam. (Saxbys Coffee, 72 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway #155, 558-1838) H.K.
To an unaccustomed palate, the first few sips of durian smoothie aren’t completely unpleasant. That strong smell, a mix of sugary melon and astringent onions, is reflected directly in the smoothie’s taste, but it’s suspended beautifully in a thick, cold, lemon-colored custard with its own notes of sweetness. But then you realize that the aftertaste, like onions on steroids, never fades. Indeed, with each subsequent sip, it just keeps building. Sure, each new mouthful brings a refreshing frisson of sweetness and cold, but it also feels like the onions are actually building up in the back of your throat and filling your sinuses. The mounting power of this aftertaste morphs from onions to something approaching turpentine.
And so you surrender. The result is that two-thirds of your durian smoothie ends up in the trash as you stumble out of Lee’s Sandwiches, gripped by nausea and shame. But you’ll be back. (Lee’s Sandwiches, 3989 Spring Mountain Road, 331-9999) J.J. Wylie
The Steak & Eggs shot
The shot itself is bright red and accompanied by a slice of lemon that’s been dipped in something. “Just close your eyes, down the shot, and suck on the lemon,” says Rocco Russo, the manager. “And, I swear, you’ll taste steak and eggs.”
The shot goes down easy, a nice blend of warmth and flavor. It’s whiskey and tomato juice. Then I suck the lemon slice, which delivers a clean wash of citrus mixed a bewildering array of spice.
I take a moment to let it all sink in. Then I open my eyes. “I got it,” I tell Rocco. He smiles and tells me the ingredients.
The smokiness and heft of the Jameson whiskey mixes nicely with the acidity of the tomato juice, and, when followed by the lemon slice that’s been dipped in a mix of Worcestershire and steak sauce, it creates an aftertaste that recalls the flavor of steak and eggs. And not just any steak and eggs, but the kind of steak and eggs you eat after a long, late pub-crawl that ends in a casino coffee shop. (Mango’s Beach Bar, 6650 Vegas Drive #140, 631-4711) J.W.
Frankie’s mai tais are my standard racing fuel when on a rum kick, but when I want to methodically build an overarching alcoholic superstructure from which to launch a night of near-misdemeanors, I start off with the Fink Bomb, a potent brew of coconut rum, rum and melon liqueur. Supernaturally sweet and deceptively strong, it’s like drinking suntan lotion off a feverishly horny witch. (Frankie’s Tiki Room, 1712 W. Charleston, 385-3110) A.K.
No special glass with a pig etched into it, no tossed-in handfuls of gourmet bacon bits. Rather, they stuff three or four slices of cooked bacon into the bottle of vodka and let it sit for a couple of weeks before serving. Upon sipping the bacon martini, what hits you first is the emulsified bacon fat, which coats the tongue and mouth, sending your brain into a bacon-drenched universe from which you’re unlikely to return for at least an hour. You’ll also fight the urge to constantly lick your own mouth like a dog eating peanut butter. And when you finish, resist ordering another. Or maybe not. Because only a pig would do that. (Double Down Saloon, 4640 Paradise Road, 791-5775) J.W.
Ellis Island Hefe Weiss
I’m not a big Hefe drinker, but this one is local, highly effervescent, with a little citrus and a lot of wheat flavor. Fact is, I’m a big fan of the Ellis Island Casino Brewery, a longtime locals’ hangout just off the Strip stocked with barbecue, karaoke, Metro Pizza and cheap Vegas fun. And the beer ain’t bad. If you don’t like it, try the house-brewed root beer, definitely an old-fashioned treat. (Ellis Island Brewery, 4178 Koval Lane, 733-8901) B.R.
Horchata at Los Antojos
Is there such a thing as an adult-friendly horchata? Yes, and it’s here, friends. You can tell, because it doesn’t come out of a box, and isn’t made mostly of sugar or served from a machine that churns it all day like a 7-Eleven slush. This is the real deal – homemade from a family recipe, with just the right amount of cinnamon. (Los Antojos, 2520 S. Eastern Ave. #B, 457-3505) H.K.
Amaros at Carnevino
Formerly enjoyed only by the adventuresome, or bocce ball players and the occasional euro-trash jet-setter, amaros, aperitivos and disgestivos are as hot as a Calabrian chile pepper these days. Carnevino, boasting more than 30 of these pre- and post-prandial libations (and its own green almond, green walnut and apricot liqueurs), is the perfect place to get your herbaceous alcohol education. They function as an appetite boost (aperitivos — sipped before the meal) and digestive aid (amaros — afterwards), and work splendidly as long as you lay off the grappa. (In Palazzo, 3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 789-4141) J.C.
The Quebec brewery Unibroue is a personal fave, and fortunately there are several bars around town that share my great taste in beer. But the coolest place to drink it is at Sage, known more for its gourmet grub and fancy cocktail program. This modern bordello-styled bar designates one tap for a seasonal Unibroue offering, and last time I checked, it was spewing the smokey, whiskeyish Raftman. If this is a summer beer, I hope the heat never goes away. (In Aria, 3734 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 877-230-2742) B.R.
Red Fox Russian Imperial Stout
At first sip, locally brewed stout Red Fox presents a bright flash of flavors, including notes of coffee and chocolate and even fruit. As it warms, this stout’s flavor settles into maltiness, and its alcohol content becomes more prevalent. This is strong stuff that requires a certain commitment from its drinker. No one’s pouring Red Fox into beer bongs at a frat party. If you do get a hankering for a stout, this is a homegrown alternative to the Dublin-born brew everybody already knows. (Khoury’s Fine Wine & Spirits, 9915 S. Eastern Ave. #110, 435-9463) J.W.
Fantome Saison d’Erezee Printemps
Okay, this is some serious stuff. I’m not even sure if this beer exists, and that’s after I drank it. It was an ethereal experience, a possession more than a tasting. That’s what you get when you go roaming the beer cooler’s Belgian section with owner Adam Carmer at the Freakin’ Frog. Heavenly orange like your favorite sunset, it comes on strong and sour, then blossoms into an earthy, well-spiced masterpiece. I tried it among many other beers one Saturday, and nothing was as memorable. (Freakin’ Frog, 4700 S. Maryland Parkway, 597-9702) B.R.
Deschutes The Dissident
The Dissident’s complex flavorings only begin with sourness. From there, things move quickly into a richness imparted by the pinot and cabernet barrels it’s fermented inside at Deschutes’ headquarters in Oregon. Also unlike other sour beers, there’s little sweet to offset that first taste. This one goes deep. The fact that it rotates on the taps at Aces & Ales is one of the factors that makes this Boulder Highway area bar special; The Dissident is hard enough to find by the bottle. (Aces & Ales, 3740 S. Nellis Blvd., 436-7600) B.R.