Raising the Bar: Las Vegas Cocktails

Todd Coleman

It's a dry heat in Nevada, but Vegas is a wet town. Fifty years ago, when men were required to wear jackets in casinos, you might have ordered a Manhattan. You can today, too, though now the vermouth and bitters may well be house-made. Mixology hasn't always been top priority; when I moved here in 2001, I expected little more from my bartender than a bourbon and ginger, and a smile. Yet even then, there were signs the well-made cocktail had survived the years of yard-long daiquiris and liquor guns shooting cheap booze. Tony Abou-Ganim led the charge in 1998 by using only fresh ingredients at the Bellagio. Since then, the U.S. Bartenders' Guild, headquartered here, has helped keep standards high, on and off the Strip. Tonight, I'm writing from Herbs & Rye, west of the Boulevard, where I'll have a daiquiri, but only as Hemingway would—not a slushy machine in sight.