Where to Grab a Drink in Las Vegas Right Now
There is plenty to drink about.
It’s a new day for drinking in Las Vegas. After a long stretch of confusing, inconsistent rules about how bars can operate during the COVID-19 pandemic (basically by pretending to be a restaurant), our favorite watering holes are now properly allowed back open with social distancing guidelines in place. And let's face it — the way 2020 is going, we could all use a stiff drink right now. Fortunately, between wine, beer, and cocktails, there’s something for everyone in Vegas. Fancy lounge on the Strip? Sure! Dingy neighborhood dive bar? That works, too. Some places may have limited seating, some may require reservations, and all will likely expect you to wear a mask when not eating or drinking. So don’t waste any time in placing an order. How do you sort out the good from the great? Check out our rundown of the best bars in Las Vegas.
The team behind Bin 702 at the Downtown Container Park (which started as a wine bar, but grew into something more) has put together a new kind of neighborhood bar with 18bin in the Arts District. It’s a kitschy spot with funky decorations, including an old-school square television with a VCR. No two light fixtures are the same — but this is all part of the appeal. The large outdoor courtyard even has a set piece from the Spamalot stage production. (It’s amazing what you’ll find at second-hand shops in LA.) The drinks are an affordable mix of wine, beer, and spirits with a few surprises -- like a nice Japanese whisky selection. Much like the decor, the food is an eclectic mix that includes a delicious brisket, short rib, and chuck burger, and more than a few vegan options.
The Front Yard
The new Front Yard is a bright and shiny change of pace from the older parts of the Ellis Island casino. The two-level beer garden sits inside a glass atrium that lets in waves of natural light during the day and the glow of the Strip at night. Ellis Island is known for its on-property brewery, and the beer has only gotten better in recent years. Six core brews are complemented by six additional taps for experimental recipes and seasonal specials. Just order a customizable flight and try ’em all. The weekend brunch has plenty of fun dishes, like the brisket benedict and French toast waffle, that pair perfectly with whatever beer you happen to be drinking. Plus, a large menu of game-day specials is available during football season.
Garagiste Wine Room | Merchant
Great wine shouldn’t have to be expensive. That’s the idea behind Garagiste, a neighborhood wine bar in the Arts District by a pair of sommeliers with a long history on the Strip. The already extensive list is growing by the day, featuring a variety of styles, countries, regions, and prices. Garagiste is making a point to champion the natural or “low intervention” wine movement (which has yet to really hit Vegas) and small producers that aren't easy to track down. It’s an industrial, modern space heavy on brick and glass without a single television in sight — although the record player near the bar is a nice touch. (Ask to pick out an album.) There isn’t a kitchen, but charcuterie plates are available, and you can always bring in outside food. Flights are in the works, although with more than 20 wines by the glass, you have plenty of flexibility to keep things interesting.
The Garden Las Vegas
Inspired by the bar scene in West Hollywood and Chicago’s Boystown, The Garden is a comfortable, inclusive, bar for the LGBTQ+ community. Hang out in one of the circular booths or grab a seat on the patio where pink bistro lights match the color of the Nevada sky during sunset. The cocktails themselves are just as colorful and skew toward fresh and light flavor profiles. The fresh flowers in small water dishes are a nice touch. Debuting Memorial Day Weekend, The Garden had the bad luck of opening during a pandemic, but is quickly finding an audience — especially when two-for-one shots and margs are offered on Latin Night Thursdays.
The Laundry Room
The Laundry Room used to be a hidden speakeasy inside Commonwealth. It’s now expanded beyond its secret walls, completely taking over its sister venue through at least the end of 2020. Let’s hope the move is permanent, since the current version is one of the most rewarding bar experiences in Las Vegas. The drink list is an impressive mix of sophisticated classics and inventive creations, but things work out even better when you let the bartender come up with a custom cocktail based on moods and words — like smoky, aggressive, or Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Keep the ground rules in mind — no PDA and no cellphones (although texting is okay). The decor is all vintage and tables have been added to the rooftop patio, and drinks are accompanied with gourmet popcorn and vegan ice cream by Paradise City. Guests show their text reservation confirmation to enter through a secret side door.
Lucky Day is all about tequila and mezcal with a rotating collection of agave spirits that can total more than a hundred at any given time. Enjoy them as flights or in one of 10 house cocktails. The bar itself is almost like something you’d see on the East Coast — a long hallway with a small patio spilling out into the lights and energy of the Fremont East district. The ceiling is covered with an elaborate light installation with hours of programming, which means you can sit there for days and not see the same sequence twice. Munch on chips and house-made salsa or guac in between sips. Plans are in the works for a separate late night menu and dance floor once the pandemic is behind us.
Màs Por Favor Taqueria y Tequila
At first glance, Más Por Favor looks like a bright, open taqueria in a Chinatown strip mall, which is pretty great all by itself. But off to the side is a secret hallway, modeled after a drug tunnel (with bags of “cocaine” as decoration), leading to a dark but wonderfully vibrant speakeasy parlor. The cocktails skew towards tequila and mezcal with a dynamic variety of flavors. Some go down a little too easy and if that’s the case, switch to either red or white sangria (both exceptional and not overly sweet), which carry more volume and last a bit longer. Casamigos margaritas are on tap with house-infused jalapeño bitters and other modifications encouraged. And yes, you can order the same delicious tacos sold out front. Request a dusting of Hot Cheetos for added spice.
Oddwood is the centerpiece of AREA15, a new mixed-use art and entertainment space that's one of the best places to bring a date in Vegas right now. The bar is easy to spot — surrounding the trunk of a colorful 24-foot tall LED tree inspired by an art installation at Burning Man. The cocktail menu was created by Laundry Room mixologist Anthony Partridge, although the recipes are designed to be a little more simple and quicker to prepare. Most favor restrained, earthy flavors to match the eclectic image of the venue. A walnut and maple Old Fashioned and the crisp Sweet Leaf (made with Avuá Bálsamo, a Brazilian sugarcane spirit) are great examples. Oddwood has the feel of a lounge with ambient music in the background, although it could adapt more of a nightclub image during late night hours once social-distancing is (hopefully) a thing of the past.
The oldest free-standing bar in Las Vegas used to be a place where people would grab drinks, sit on the roof, and watch nuclear test explosions go off in the desert. (Nevada was into that kind of stuff in the ’50s.) Atomic Liquors eventually closed down but later returned as a craft cocktail destination in 2012. It’s been a huge hit ever since, and much of Nevada’s radioactive history is documented with artifacts on the walls. In the wake of at-home bartending during the pandemic, Atomic Liquors noticed a renewed interest in well-crafted libations and responded with limited-edition specials that rotate throughout the season. Signature cocktails are updated twice a year, but don't worry — the bourbon-fueled Hunter S. Mash isn't going anywhere. A sister restaurant — The Kitchen at Atomic — operates next door with a shared patio between the two.
The most eye-catching and photogenic lobby bar on the Strip passes through three floors of the Cosmopolitan, surrounded by a ridiculous amount of dangling crystals. The lounge could get by on looks alone, but has an impressive array of cocktails, including an Old Fashioned made with 12-year rum aged in bourbon barrels and the infamous Verbena — similar to a ginger-infused margarita but with an edible flower that alters the taste. The bottom level is a social meeting spot (with video poker) while the second floor is a little more quiet and better for a date. The top level has whimsical decor inspired by Alice in Wonderland.
Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse just celebrated its 20th anniversary — a lifetime for a Vegas Strip restaurant — with a full renovation that added renewed sparkle and energy to the dining room. The creole-seasoned steaks by Executive Chef Ronnie Rainwater (on staff from opening day) are as good as ever. But what about the drinks? The restaurant has one of the best whiskey and spirits lists in not only Las Vegas, but the entire country — with more than 700 options from nine countries and an impressive focus on verticals. This is the stuff that's hard to find anywhere else. If dinner’s not required, grab a seat in the lounge and pick the brain of your bartender. Not into brown spirits? Delmonico has 2,400 choices of wine as well.
Downtown Cocktail Room
Back when Las Vegas was all about sugary libations and bottle service, the Downtown Cocktail Room came along with something different — inventive, complicated cocktails inspired by other cities ahead of the curve. The team works in a mixology "lab" to create clever drinks that rotate on-and-off the menu four or five times a year. Nothing is off limits, from absinthe and mezcals to anything and everything as garnish (including on at least one occasion, house-made chips and salsa). Drinks are half-off Monday through Friday from 4-7pm. Mike Morey's Sip'n'Tip is a hidden bar-within-a-bar with a looser vibe, its own menu, and a side alley entrance.
The music playing as you walk through the front door suggests you’re either about to take a ride on the Pirates of the Caribbean or enter the most indulgent tiki bar in Las Vegas. Golden Tiki counts a dancing skeleton, conch shell chair, and overstuffed treasure chest among its kitschy decorations. It's also hard to overlook the shrunken head collection and a pair of animatronic birds who exchange dirty jokes. The cocktails go well beyond the expected rum-and-fruit-juice staples with complex, well-balanced creations heavy on carefully chosen spirits. Some even come topped with Dole Whip — a frozen pineapple treat dispensed from a machine. Like all good tiki bars, you can tell how strong the drinks are by the number of dots next to them on the menu.
Herbs & Rye
Thrillist once asked top bartenders in Vegas where they got drinks on their downtime. All of them said Herbs & Rye. The cocktail bar by which all others are judged is frequently singled out as not only one of the best bars in Vegas, but the entire country. That’s because every bartender here appreciates and understands both the art and history of classic cocktails. The menu itself is divided into different American eras, from 1776 through today (touching on prohibition, tiki, and rat pack periods for example). The back bar alone is worth your attention — with liqueurs, spirits, and mixers you won't easily find elsewhere. Feel free to challenge the staff, who are eager to make you something new and different with the resources at their disposal. The food includes pasta and steaks. Sister steakhouse Cleaver has a similar but smaller cocktail menu.
Located inside the Downtown Container Park, Oak & Ivy makes the most of a small bar with just a handful of seats — although hanging out on the rooftop at sunset isn't bad either. The whiskey selection is strong and put to good use in plenty of great cocktails, including a Whiskey Smash made with fruit-infused water that changes with the season. And while the Moscow Mule has been overdone and worn out in recent years, the ones here are exceptional. Oak & Ivy offers nine variations made with house-brewed ginger beer. New recipes for fall include the Black Mountain Latte, which combines vodka and cold-brewed coffee with the almond flavors of orgeat syrup and the creamy texture of egg whites.
The Sand Dollar Lounge
The Sand Dollar Lounge didn’t sit still during the pandemic. The historic bar, whose legacy of mixing spirits and live music dates back to 1976, renamed itself Revelré at Sand Dollar while adding more seating and expanding its food menu. The pizzas compete with the best in town — in not only taste but creativity — while the Spanish and Mediterranean-inspired tapas are perfect for those who just want a few small bites between sips of whatever they’re drinking. The cocktails are the main draw with inspired modifications on classic recipes, but the beer list is strong too. Not picky? Try your luck with the Beer Roulette machine, which dispenses random cans for $5. Sand Dollar is planning Halloween and winter holiday pop-up concepts this year, giving you yet another reason to keep coming back.
Tenaya Creek Brewery
The taproom at Tenaya Creek Brewery is just off the beaten path, in a Downtown spot that doesn’t quite feel like Las Vegas. There’s no gaming and no chaos. Just plenty of beer — by bottle, draft, or can — and an atmosphere that matches the spirit of a midwest college town pub more than a Sin City party spot. A prime example of the local craft beer explosion, Tenaya Creek has carved out its own identity and earned loyal fans with beer that's generally well-balanced and not overly hoppy. There’s usually a food truck ready to serve quick bites in the parking lot.
Opened by two sisters who just wanted a good place to hang out, Velveteen Rabbit is a social drinking spot that has mastered the art of the craft cocktail and developed an expansive beer list along the way. The collection of antique furniture doesn’t quite match, but seems to fit the spot’s quirky spirit. With local artwork hanging on the walls and a history of hosting up-and-coming musicians, it’s hard to find a bar that is so supportive of the Arts District — while making some of the most unique and creative drinks anywhere in Las Vegas. The back patio was recently expanded and renovated, adding welcome space to a bar known for its coziness.
Any good road trip to California deserves a detour to the Pioneer Saloon. The oldest bar in Southern Nevada is about a half-hour drive outside Vegas and just a few miles off Interstate 15 in Goodsprings. Originally ordered from a Sears catalog, the bar has grown in size and stature over the years, adding a steakhouse, courtyard, and private whiskey barrel program. Yet the tavern has never lost its Old West spirit and attitude. It's also an homage of sorts to actress Carol Lombard, who died when her plane crashed into a nearby mountain in 1942. As the story goes, husband Clark Gable left cigarette burns in the bartop while awaiting news on her fate.
Rosina is one of three sister bars in the Venetian Cocktail Collective. Each is great, but while The Dorsey and Electra have a high-energy atmosphere to match the inventive nature of their cocktails, Rosina is an intimate, stylish art-deco spot that focuses on classics — with ice and glassware to match. If you want a Dark 'n Stormy or an Airmail done right, this is where you want to be. A traditional Mai Tai served in a skull is especially fun. Yet the coolest thing about Rosina? The secret menus that serve numerous modified takes on your favorites — with Mint Julep, Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Champagne cocktails all featured since opening day. Ask your bartender to fill you in on what's new.