Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” was the first network cooking show that made the food and science connection. Viewers were addicted to episodes describing the magic behind souffles and the secret to how molecules bind in the perfect hollandaise sauce. Who knew his geeky food world would evolve to molecular gastronomy in fine dining and drinks? The trend, generally defined as the application of scientific techniques and tools to cooking, is wide ranging and “a lot” mysterious to the ordinary home cooks. Molecular gastronomy has been around a while but gained momentum when renowned chefs like Grant Achatz and Ferran Adria adopted this technique to create dishes that many foodies would describe as “culinary nirvana”. This movement has now captured the interest of many mixologists, who are transforming ordinary martinis into something extraordinary!
Dallas specialty drink hot spots like Four Lounge and The Second Floor Restaurant piqued our interest but we wanted more! Our curiosity to find the perfect scientifically created and trendy sip sent us to the drink capital of the world… Viva Las Vegas! Our first, of three, stops would be the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. The venue is frosted with 2,000,000 crystals… talk about bling!
The venue was a sensory overload and a prelude to our drink experience. At the Chandelier Bar, we were introduced to Mariena Mercer, master mixologist and GM. She “pimped” out 6 drinks, two of which we taped to share with the fans, drink aficionados and foodies of You + Dallas.
Our first smokin’ thirst quencher was called the Fire Breathing Dragon, which was made with exotic syrups and freshly juiced fruits. The crème de resistance was the “dragon smoke” that was created from submersing a dehydrated freeze-dried raspberry into liquid nitrogen. You’d have to see it to believe it!
Next we were introduced to the Szechuan Button, which we’d say is a mouth-watering wonder. These little flowers were the garnish to the Verbena drink that was made with yuzu sour, kafir lime leaves, juiced ginger and blaco tequila. The Szechuan button created an unexpected sensation that activated the salivary glands and added a unique dimension to the Verbena drink. The cost of these little nuggets of goodness is approximately $45 for 30 buttons. This would be a fabulous dinner party cocktail and sure to make a memorable impression for your guest.
Elsewhere along the strip, we caught up with Patricia Richards, who presides over the whimsical beverage program at the Wynn and Encore Resort’s twenty-five bars. She is beginning to refresh her menus for the spring/summer season and we were able garner some of her insight on what’s hot now.
Winter has been all about playful experimentation. For instance, bacon infused cocktails, side cars with a fig twist and lots of sage and grapefruit. For Richards, it’s really about “twists” that make classic cocktails more fun. Rather than using club soda as a base for the mojito served at Chef David Walzog’s new Lakeside Grill, she floats lambic beers on top of her creation. This imbibes a tanic astringency and fruit flavors to her creation that is unique from offerings available elsewhere.
Like the Cosmopolitan, Wynn also maintains a dedicated beverage kitchen to prepare purees, juices, and syrups that are cross utilized throughout the property. These resources facilitate the construction of the pear margarita served at Sinatra, which includes house made sweet and sour, agave syrup, and pear puree. The end result is simply a refreshing approach to a more traditional cocktail.
Fresh ingredients, as Richards puts it, “help to make my cocktails very drinkable. They are not punching you in the face… that’s not my style. Instead you are able to keep sipping and they catch up to you as they all have hefty 2 oz. pour.”
Our final stop brought us to an exclusive after hours VIP haunt Savile Row. This speakeasy is actually hidden away behind LAX at the Luxor and boasts a private external entrance at Mandalay Place. Once inside guests will find master mixologist Ray Srp, voted top 10 bartender in America, who states, “Just like Savile Row is known as London’s street for bespoke tailoring we will tailor a cocktail for you.” One of the best cocktails we tried included the Basil Bianco – which includes grapefruit, basil, gin and a fortified vanilla Bianco. Another was the “Let it be” which was composed of cinnamon and cardamom infused tequila, Licor 43 (Spanish liquor made from citrus and fruit juices, flavored with vanilla and other aromatic herbs and spices, in total 43 different ingredients hence the name) and green apple puree. Guest may also try a variety of punch bowls finished with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. What’s most fun about this lively afterhours spot, where the party often rages till 7 AM, is a well-edited crowd. Like a tailor’s exacting attention to detail, Savile Row uses their discretion to edit the room based on who is already inside and one’s personality. No cover, no bribes, just good vibes.
Though anytime is a great time to visit Vegas, connoisseurs may find this Mother’s Day weekend a particularly attractive time as it coincides with Vegas Uncork’d. We participated last year in this celebrity chef & mixologist studded event and it’s something you don’t want to miss! Last year, Bon Appétit Wine and Spirits Consultant, Steve Olson, along with Patricia Richards, taught attendees how to shake it like a pro. For a listing of all of this year’s festivities check out vegasuncorked.com.
Co-written and experimented with David Morris