Food & Drink

Bartenders of the Year: Changing the Spirits Scene in Las Vegas

Published On 10/31/2016 Published On 10/31/2016
Libertine Social
Tony Abou-Ganim | Courtesy of Libertine Social
Aaron Garcia/Hakkasan Group
Courtesy of MGM Resorts International
Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist
Courtesy of Libertine Social
Christian Torres
Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist
Amelinda Lee
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1. Hakkasan Restaurant 3799 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

The stateside outpost of the London original, Hakkasan is a high-end Cantonese eatery from the mind of Michelin-starred Chef Ho Chee Boon. The Vegas iteration is comprised of a two story dining area and nightclub within the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, satisfying VIPs and high-rollers who want to go from indulging in a five-course dim sum feast to hanging out front stage at a Tiesto show, all under one roof.

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2. Aria 3730 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89158

With 61 stories of gleaming floor-to-ceiling windows, this chic, upscale resort is an entertainment mecca right in the heart of the Strip. Aria boasts an array of boutique fine-dining options -- ranging from Sage, helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Shawn McClain to Michael Mina's cutting-edge French eatery Bardot Brasserie -- lounges, clubs, spas, and high-end stores.

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3. Delmonico Steakhouse 3355 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

Emeril Lagasse’s 150-seater steakhouse remains a Vegas crowdpleaser since its opening in the late 90s' . The menu is a mixture of French, Italian, and Creole influences and also boasts an exquisite wine menu comprised of more than 2,300 labels, mostly from smaller, biodynamic wineries. If vino's not your thing, good thing Delmonico's also houses nearly 600 whiskey selections.

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4. Libertine Social , Las Vegas, NV 89119

Libertine Social at the Strip’s Mandalay Bay serves up New American bar food by James Beard Award-winning Chef Shawn McClain, including unpredictable small and large plates like ahi tuna cones with whipped pink peppercorn and crème fraiche and Wagyu skirt steak. Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim’s beverage program rallies around the concept of social cocktails, offering up fruity “fizzes” and rum “swizzles,” meant to serve four. The décor is best described as irreverent; eclectic artwork, like pint-sized guitars and abstract portraits, line the walls, while the words “Stay Wild” are plastered behind the bar in neon, silently condoning your Vegas behavior.

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5. The Golden Tiki 3939 Spring Mountain, Las Vegas, NV 89102

This slightly kitschy, rum-obsessed tiki bar located in the heart of Vegas's Chinatown has a modern take on the tiki tradition with new twists on old cocktails. The ridiculously strong drinks come in a variety of colors and novelty cups, but the bar is most known for it's table-side Martinique Ti service, which brings the mixology to you for an individualized rum cocktail. They also offer VIP drinks in treasure chests, barrel-aged cocktails, and freshly-infused liquors made right at the bar. Stuffed with a huge array of stuff, everything from old Vegas memorabilia to dancing skeletons and black velvet paintings, this place is as fun to explore as it is to drink at, making it a favorite of happy hour-seeking locals.

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6. Herbs & Rye 3713 W Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89102

This steak-and-cocktails focused restaurant is a sophisticated and romantic spot that attracts both liquor nerds and happy hour hounds. Cocktail lovers gravitate towards the lengthy drinks menu, which reads like a timeline of mixology's greatest hits, from the "Original Collins" of the Gothic Age (1776-1865) through the "Harvey Wallbanger" of the Rat Pack Era (1950-1968) and the bartender's choice of the modern revival (1995-present). Others love this place for their half-off steaks promotion during happy hour, which runs both in the afternoon and late night. The dark, leather-covered furniture and vintage wooden furnishings make this place an inviting throwback to the alluring atmosphere of old Vegas, so it's popularity is unsurprising—make reservations.