The New Secret Lounge at the Bellagio Has 90-Year-Old Cognac and Gin From the '50s
The Vault is a high-end experience you won't find anywhere else.
When a hot new bar opens on the Las Vegas Strip, everyone's quick to ask, "Does it live up to the hype?" The Bellagio's latest cocktail lounge prompts a different question: Does it live up to the absence of hype? The Vault is one of the most indulgent drinking experiences in Las Vegas–selling exclusivity at a premium–with no big announcement, grand opening party, advertisements or even a website.
"We haven't marketed this in a traditional way," Bellagio Vice President of Food & Beverage Josef Wagner says. "It's not on a billboard, it's not on our marquee out front. You won't see on the website that this place exists, which is part of the charm."
The Bellagio doesn't bill the Vault as a speakeasy, although its location is more hidden than other Vegas bars that fit the tag. The entrance is revealed on a need-to-know basis. As the name suggests, the area surrounding the casino cage should be your first clue. A doorman standing in an inconspicuous spot is your second.
This isn't a bar for the masses or a place you stumble into while roaming the Bellagio floor. The Vault is an intimate space of just 10 tables and 50 seats, including eight at the bar. You'd never know the place used to be an office for casino hosts. Today, it's an elaborate, but intimate jewel box that makes an immediate impression with a gold door and octagonal vestibule with mohair upholstered walls.
The main parlor keeps the lights low and music at just the right volume without overwhelming the conversation. You won't even notice the subwoofer under the table. There's art, subtle pops of color, and furniture stitching that pays homage to Italian tailoring and craftsmanship. Yet the most noticeable feature is an overhead light fixture, spanning nearly nine feet wide with 80 illuminated globes that dangle above the bartenders at work, dressed to the nines in dark suits. Each one busy with spirits, house-made syrups, fresh-pressed juices and herbs sourced from small, family-owned farms.
Browsing the drink list is like flipping through the pages of a magazine with large photos dominating full pages. Four "Vintage Cocktails" are made with older out-of-circulation spirits curated through auction houses and private collectors. Each one is listed as "MP" for market price.
At last check, the Captain's Sidecar was $145, fueled by Remy Martin from the 1930s. "We're not saying that it's necessarily better than the current Remy Martin. We're just saying it's different in your drink," according to Craig Schoettler, the visionary behind the Vault and the Executive Director of Beverage for MGM Resorts International. "We're trying to transport our guests back to a period of time, and if you were to have a Sidecar in the 1930s, this is the cognac that would've been used for it."
The Gold Rush Martinez is similar to a Manhattan, but with gin instead of whiskey–in this case, Beefeater from the 1950s. Drop Anchor is a spin on a Whiskey Sour with Four Roses from 1982 (when it was a blended whiskey, not the full bourbon it is today). The Kennedy is a classic Daiquiri with Bacardi from the 1960s. "Back then, the Bacardi distillery was based out of the Bahamas. Currently, it's in Puerto Rico," Schoettler explains. "So the sugar cane they would've gotten in the Bahamas is different… There's definitely a little more richness that makes it unique and interesting."
The menu is rounded out by a selection of "Specialty Cocktails," which range from $35 for the English Spy (a clarified milk punch with Japanese Whisky) to $90 for Rosé Romance (a shareable French 75 modified with rosé for two). The influence of the vintage spirits is evident in the Fountain–a Manhattan with Eagle Rare 10 Year bourbon and throwback options of sweet vermouth from the 30s, 60s, or 70s. Fame & Fortune is a classic martini, made with St. George Terroir Gin, chosen not for its price or scarcity, but how the California forest-inspired botanicals blend with dry vermouth, orange bitters, and lemon peel.
The martini pairs especially well with a choice of Petrossian caviars (Daurenki, Royal Siberian, or Imperial Ossetra), presented on top of a layered creme fresh with onion, chive, and eggs with a thick yuzu sauce on the side. Drag a homemade potato chip through the whole thing and you've got the most high-end party dip on the Strip. Want just a taste? Caviar tops a French-style mini-croissant wrapped with a slice of yukon gold potato.
"The thought was to have something small, but also extremely high caliber to match the modern and forward-thinking approach to cocktails," Bellagio Executive Chef Nathan Frost says about the food menu. "We also want to offer a uniqueness to favorites that people know with a little twist."
His sandos are fantastic. The Basque Bikini, already a house favorite, might be the thinnest grilled cheese in the world–and possibly the most delicious. It's a perfect bite, balancing smoked goat cheese against the sweetness of sherry gastrique, hazelnuts, and chives. You can also order a Cubano with Ibérico ham, a katsu-style steak sandwich with Japanese A5 Wagyu tenderloin, or that same cut of beef as a torched bite of nigiri with fresh-shaved truffles.
"This is a three-star Michelin restaurant in the form of a cocktail lounge," Schoettler says, noting the attention to detail in every aspect of the experience.
The Vault may not have a website, but reservations are available online or by calling the Bellagio directly at 888-987-6667. The lounge is open seven days a week, from 5 pm to 1 am.