It was Dean Martin who first put the martini on the table in Las Vegas, making it the go-to drink for those who bought into the formula that Vegas + cocktails = cool. To this day, nowhere does martinis better than Sin City. Lark Ellen Gould takes us on a tour of the top sipping spots…
A mid-Strip circa ’60s bar, the Fireside Lounge at the Peppermill retains its retro chic with cushiony benches surrounding a circular Jacuzzi on fire. In candlelit corners you’ll see couples quietly conversing, if not pawing, as they work on basketball-sized cocktails of varying pastel hues, sporting straws and paper parasols.
Waitresses in tight black dresses take the orders, be it some tall blue thing with smoke or something from the lengthy martini menu. Try the Creamsicle – a creamy blend of Stoli Vanilla Vodka and Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur with ice cream.
Martinis at the Fontana Lounge at Bellagio, sipped in candlelight on the patio, are little short of orgasms with olives. On a windless, warm night, as a full moon edges past the Eiffel Tower and lights twinkle along the Champs-Elysees, it’s the whoosh that gets you. The Bellagio fountains shoot skyward in unison, arcing in strange sequences to Sinatra on the sound system.
Summon your inner mixologist at Rio’s lofty Voodoo Lounge. The Spellmaker bottle service cart is a mobile DIY bartending kit of top-shelf brands to suit any taste, and packs enough punch to mix 40 cocktails in a single “Spellmaking” session. The cart is presented with a sparkling variety of extras, including liqueurs, handcrafted chocolates, flavour sprays, candy gumdrops, fresh berries and fruits.
The catch is the cost: the Spellmaking VIP service starts at $700, whether you mix two cocktails or two dozen.
There’s something to be said for a joint in a strip mall that looks like a place to change your tires – until you find the secret entrance. Capo’s Italian Steakhouse a ’20s-style speakeasy, complete with red draped tables in dark spaces lit by dripping crystal chandeliers, is part turn-of-the-century New York brothel, part cartoon and part ‘badda bing’.
If you forget where you are then photos of notorious mobsters are there on the wall to remind you; anterooms offer plush privacy when its time to rally the family and talk business. Although the martinis here do not carry exotic ingredients or come neon shades, the pours are generous and built with name brands.
CatHouse at Luxor puts the stir into a martini. It’s a little lounge, a little restaurant, a little ultralounge and a lot of bordello. A window in the dining room lights up throughout the evening as a “kitten” appears seated in front of a vanity table delicately trying on lingerie.
The drinks list features signature martinis with names like CatHouse Key, Between the Sheets and Strawberry Blonde. It all converts into a heated club scene when the dining stops.
Old Fashioned Vegas
Looking for Old Vegas? You’ll find it right here at the Golden Steer where’s it’s been since 1958. Amid the red leatherette corner booths and faded paintings of cattlemen in action, you know that if it’s a martini you’re after then you’ve come to the right place.
A long, mirrored bar accommodates the crowd, with staff mixing traditional cocktails the way they’ve always done. The famous guests may be long past (Natalie Wood, Al Hirt, even Tony “The Ant” Spilotro – the inspiration for Nicky Santoro in Scorsese’s Casino – used to dine here) but the locals still come to remember.
Red Square at Mandalay Bay: The entrance to this little piece of 19th century Moscow is heralded by a larger-than-life sculpture of Lenin, minus his head. You can find caviar here, as well as more dubious Russian derivatives: Siberian Nachos anyone? But the real benefits of perestroika lie in the exclusive private vodka vault. Fur coats and hats are provided, as are endless shots (for around $8 each) in a closet as cold as Christmas in Kansas. For a menu of martini mélanges and vodka labels as wide as the Barents Sea, settle down at the ice bar – literally a bar made of ice.
What’s for afters?
For those who would rather drink than dine, head for Blue Martini at Town Square where martinis sound like luscious desserts. Take pours of S’mores for instance: Van Gogh Blue Vodka, Dooley’s Godiva White, a splash of cream, graham cracker on the rim and a marshmallow skewer. It’s just one of a couple of dozen martini options available in this large, multi-tiered space.”
Hungry and spent all your money on cocktails? Check out Lark’s guide to Dining on a Dime in Las Vegas.
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