Forget “Dry January.” The month is one of the biggest for alcohol sales in Las Vegas, and, not coincidentally, it’s also when the Consumer Electronics Show, now known as CES, hits town.
CES 2020, which runs Jan. 7–10, will welcome more than 175,000 tech-focused attendees and is projected to bring in over $291 million to the city—much of it on expense accounts. Last January, sales at the Chandelier bar at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas were 47% higher than a month earlier, according to Mariena Mercer Boarini, the resort’s chef-mixologist.
“We always see an increase in Scotch sales during CES, but also very noticeably in bourbon and American rye whiskey sales,” adds Cody Fredrickson, Scotch master at the whiskey-focused Scotch 80 Prime inside the $690 million renovated Palms Casino Resort.
Las Vegas isn’t the most expensive U.S. city to drink in. It ranks 35th in the country, cheaper than San Francisco, New York, and even Indianapolis, according to travel search platform Wanderu. Still, its resorts make a lot of money from booze. The Cosmopolitan did more than $75 million in beverage sales in 2018, and Boarini says 2019 sales were “trending higher.”
While there are still plenty of ostentatiously priced bottle packages—XS nightclub and Encore Beach Club’s “Meet the DJ” package at Wynn Resorts Ltd. includes a 6-liter methuselah of Perrier-Jouët rosé and 25 bottles of house bubbly for $50,000—the city has emerged as one of the country’s top destinations for elite spirits. Tough-to-find tequila, whiskey, and rum have become much more common around the resorts, and beverage directors are seeing increased demand for it. Here’s what you should know about.
The High Roller Spaces
At MGM Resorts International, executive beverage director Craig Schoettler has made experiencing rare spirits a priority. The Aria’s High Limit Lounge has $850 margaritas, but not many people order them. “It’s like bottle service,” Schoettler says. “The $1,200 Manhattan orders come if someone just won a $50,000 hand.” The lounge does the most business in straight spirit pours from bottles such as Littlemill Scotch 1985 and 1964 de Montal Armagnac. The rarest spirit on the premises is the Hardy Thoroughbred, a cognac created in collaboration with the elite spirits house. Only 30 bottles were made; a 2-ounce serving goes for $2,500.
The Cosmopolitan’s James Bond–evoking Vesper lounge recently reopened with mirrored walls and a marble-and-brass-accented bar. Mixologist Boarini serves flights that contrast classics with a modern interpretation, including the Airmail (aged rum, lime, honey, Champagne) alongside the Penny Black (cachaça, passion fruit, pepper-spiced honey, and rosé Champagne) for $22.
There are also extravagant drinks: The Smoking Jacket mixes cinnamon-infused vermouth with the single malt Macallan M. (A 6-liter bottle of it went for a world record $628,000 at auction in 2014.) Served in a smoke-filled box, the drink goes for $1,200.
Inside the Venetian, the Rosina is an art deco–styled space that focuses on Old-Fashioneds, Manhattans, and other classics, as well as high-end whiskeys such as Pappy Van Winkle that start at $100 a pour, offered in custom Japanese glasses. The Dorsey, a hipper space with a DJ on the casino floor, has one of the resort’s big-ticket cocktails: The $2,000 Forbidden Love is an off-the-menu mix of aged Japanese Suntory Hibiki whisky with plum liqueur and manzanilla sherry, accompanied by caviar.
Power Drinking at Dinner
Inside the Palms, Scotch 80 Prime steakhouse has walls decorated with Damien Hirst paintings and tomahawk rib-eyes. Alongside, the restaurant stocks more than 550 whiskeys from around the globe, including the world’s largest collection of Macallan Fine & Rare, with 33 vintages ranging from 1937 to 1991. A 1-ounce serving of the 1970 goes for $4,000, and customers can keep the Lalique glass. At the tucked-away lounge Mr. Coco, the off-the-menu specialty is Le Papillon, made with Dom Perignon P2 and Hennessy Imperial, for $400.
High-end spirits have also become a staple at Vegas restaurants. Among the trolleys (bread, cheese) wheeling around the dining room of the MGM Grand’s Joël Robuchon is a cart filled with about 20 cognacs and Armagnacs, with bottles like Louis XIII Black Pearl magnum and Camus Cuvee 5.150 (1.5-ounce pours run $2,200 and $955, respectively). The cognacs are available at the bar for visitors who aren’t eating from the $445 tasting menu. At Carbone at Aria Resort & Casino, the focus is vintage rum, including the last consignment of Black Tot British Royal Naval Rum.
In the middle of the Bellagio Fountains, former home to Hyde nightclub, the Mayfair Supper Club has a stage with 360-degree views, a musical performance masterminded by a team that includes Beyoncé choreographer Dana Foglia, and a throwback menu with tableside Dover sole service. Theatrical drinks like the Lemon Drop ($24) are poured into a fragrant citrus bubble that pops when served. The menu offers more than 250 spirits by the glass, ranging from Yamazaki 18-year ($125) to Macallan 25-year-old Speyside ($395).
Premium Tequila Shots
The new Mama Rabbit Bar, from James Beard-winning restaurateur Bricia Lopez, stocks more than 500 tequilas and mezcals; it’s one of the world’s largest assortments. In the space, decorated with colorful wall-size murals, Lopez offers curated flights of agave spirts, including the $90 “Baller” option, featuring Clase Azul XX Aniversario. A shot of the Patrón Extra Añejo en Lalique is $383. One of the exclusive bottles at Mama Rabbit is also a bargain. Aged-tequila expert Fuenteseca made a special Centennial Blend for the bar that costs $19 an ounce.
Recently, the sedate Tower Suite Bar at Wynn Las Vegas installed a cabinet to contain its collection of 70-plus rare whiskeys, including the Double Eagle Very Rare for $625 a glass. Tower Suite also stocks one of the world’s pricier vodkas, Stoli Prenstine Waters Andean, at $650 a shot. And for XS nightclub–bound visitors, where all the drinks are bottles, the $7,000 “Jackpot” package includes a magnum of Grey Goose and five bottles of Dom Perignon; the Macallan 25 goes for $9,000. Kate Krader, Bloomberg