Stirring up the season
Everybody loves a good cocktail. But what’s even better is having a reason to love a good cocktail, and there’s no greater excuse to imbibe than the celebration of the holidays. Cool cocktails can quickly warm you up and bring you holiday cheer. We ventured out onto the Strip and hit up lounges at various properties with some of the most inventive holiday cocktail menus, all to make your celebrations easier. We sampled. We sipped. And we each picked our favorite.
The Dorsey at The Venetian
Alex: The Sloe Sleigh Ride is properly named, because you’ll want to take your time with this cocktail–it’s so dangerously easy to drink it could quickly add some ring-ting to your tingle. Served in a Collins glass, El Dorado rum and sloe gin create a mystifying amber mixture. An egg white froth tops the cocktail and acts like a creamy funnel. You’ll first taste the sweet flavor of rum and sloe gin, but you’ll slowly recognize hints of cinnamon, which will put you in the holiday spirit. Lime juice balances out the sweetness while soda water adds some fizz.
Kiko: Out of all of The Dorsey’s handcrafted seasonal cocktail offerings, I have to say my fave from the list of the liquid deliciousness is the Juniper Myrrh. This one is sleek-looking, served in a champagne glass and fittingly topped off with champagne. It’s refreshing—reminiscent of the wintry outdoors, thanks to the lime juice and eucalyptus-rosemary gum syrup made in-house. The St. George Terroir gin gives it that earthy kick thanks to the gin’s juniper base—a piney, woodsy flavoring.
Tropicana Lounge at Tropicana
Alex: I have friends who actually celebrate Christmas in July. They exchange small gifts and maybe watch a holiday movie or two, but it’s really more of a novelty than a true affection for Christmas. (I know, Millennials are so ironic.) Tropicana Lounge does the opposite and celebrates the summer during Christmas with a festive twist on a Tom Collins, the Merry Christmas. Gin is combined with soda water, hand-squeezed lemon and cranberry juice. A lime garnish adds a hint of green to the cocktail’s cranberry hue, and a Collins glass represents a chimney, but that’s where the Christmas symbols end. Once you start drinking, you’ll feel cheery and refreshed, as if you’ve been transported to a sandy beach.
Kiko: Who loves peppermint bark? Me, I personally love the one from Costco. Well, if a Costco run isn’t in your immediate future, try stopping by Tropicana Lounge, take a comfortable seat at the bar and order the Mint Chocolate martini—it’s a sippable piece of peppermint bark. Hello, yum! The ingredients are kept to a minimum—Ketel One vodka, white crème de menthe and Godiva White Chocolate liqueur—but the flavor packs a powerful, minty-chocolatey punch. To get the pink color, a splash of grenadine is added. For even more sweet surrender, it’s sprinkled with dark chocolate shavings. The holiday menu also offers tasty pick-me-up cocktails—three delish coffee cocktails with seasonal flavors like caramel, cinnamon and cherry.
Vista Cocktail Lounge at Caesars Palace
Alex: Teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings, but I’m sure it also applies to every time you sip the Minty Fresh, because it made me feel like flying. (Disclaimer: We had a lot of cocktails that day.) As the name suggests, the cocktail heavily involves mint. But let me remind you that the drink is called Minty Fresh, not Aquafresh. So, rest assured, the mint flavor is subdued by more intriguing ingredients. Van Gogh Dutch chocolate vodka is mixed with coconut rum, crème de menthe and shaved ice. At first, it tastes less like alcohol and more like a peppermint patty (which is actually used as a garnish). But if you let it sit for a minute, the strength of the alcohol emerges, creating an icy, full-bodied flavor.
Kiko: To say I love s’mores would be an understatement. To say I’ve found a cocktail that’s like a s’more—without the campfire, cold temps and sticky, gooey muss and fuss—would be totally true. The S’More Delight at Vista Cocktail Lounge, well, definitely left me wanting s’more. The mixture of RumChata (giving it that nice hint of cinnamon), Van Gogh Dutch chocolate vodka, white crème de cacao, cream and marshmallow syrup all sits beneath a thick, decadent, house-made whipped cream and is topped off with two large toasted marshmallows and graham crackers. Halfway through drinking the cocktail and I was already turning into that little orphan Oliver ... “Please sir, I want s’more.”
107 SkyLounge at Stratosphere
Alex: I was never fond of martinis, and unless your name is James Bond, you probably don’t enjoy them either. But the Sno-Ball martini made my cold, tiny heart grow three sizes after my first sip, forever changing my attitude toward the classic libation. The cocktail is inspired by those pink, delectable finger cakes you may have found packed in your lunchbox as a kid: Hostess Sno Balls. Who knew they’d make a liquefied comeback in your adult life? Creamy marshmallow-infused vodka is mixed with white chocolate liqueur, coconut purée and simple syrup. Its distinct pinkness is achieved with a splash of grenadine, and the rim is coated with toasted coconut flakes, which look frosty and add an oddly satisfying crunch to your cocktail.
Kiko: When I saw the coupe glass coming my way with the rim coated in sugar and cinnamon, well, I knew this cocktail was going to be my favorite pick. And I was right. The Bourbon Pecan Pie cocktail got better with each sip. The fresh, French-pressed dark roast coffee added full-bodied flavor to the mix of Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur, Kahlua and simple syrup. The holiday flavoring is enhanced by the very potent pecan taste of Revel Stoke Roasted Pecan whiskey. It’s dessert in a glass. The view while sipping on this cocktail is definitely a holiday gift in itself as the SkyLounge offers stunning vistas of the valley below. And the romantic ambience makes it a great place to steal a kiss under the mistletoe.
Lobby Bar and Lift Bar at Aria
Alex: During the holidays, tradition is important. It comforts us when we’re away from our friends, our families, or even when we are with our families but they’re intolerable. And while many traditional holiday cocktails exist, you can’t get more traditional than an Old Fashioned. Aria’s Ye Olde Fashioned stays true to the simplicity and elegance of the classic cocktail, but tweaks the approach. Rather than bourbon, rye whiskey is used for a dry, robust flavor. But you wouldn’t know that immediately. You’ll first taste the thick, sweet flavor of maple and cranberry syrups, then the boldness of the rye slowly sneaks up on your tastebuds. The concoction is poured over a giant ice cube and garnished with an orange peel for class.
Kiko: It’s like snow packed inside a shiny cup; more distinctly, it’s crushed ice inside a copper cup. It’s Aria’s fun take on the Moscow Mule, and it’s called the Mule-Tide Cheer. Besides the cool part (the cocktail stays cold the whole time, thanks to the copper cup), guests also get to choose which spirit base they want to use: Belvedere vodka, Bacardi rum or Cazadores tequila. It’s like a build-your-own cocktail! Then pomegranate syrup gives it sweetness. Mixed together with the slight spice of ginger beer, this cocktail quickly becomes Christmas in a cup. The fresh lemon gives it a slight tartness, one that’ll have you lip-smacking before you certainly find that cheer and decide to order another one.