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  • DAILY SIP: HERCULES


    Hercules stands mighty, proud, strong, noble and full of grapefruit vodka.

    It is both what the Garden of the Gods’ Hercules is, and what Greek Hercules did: Punch.

    Though your efforts to clean the Augean stables are going to be a lot more sloppy with this Hercules.

    Caesars Palace Director of Beverage Eddie Perales put together an entire punch program, complete with elaborate ice bowl service, after being challenged to put his stamp on pool service.

    “When guests see big carts rolling up to them and one’s got a giant ice bowl and all this cool stuff, it’s fun to see the reaction when you’re making it in front of them. We start off with a 3-D menu first. That was the whole premise,” Perales said.”I was kind of challenged, you’ve got a week to come up with a concept, you’ve got the cabanas, what are you going to do?”

    What he did was come up with five elaborate punches, including the Spartacus (cantaloupe-based), the Gladiator (blood orange) and Helios (cucumber). They’re all blends that put the juicer through its paces — just like the Hercules, which is fresh watermelon, citrus blend, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, fresh mint, cantaloupe, watermelon and wild berry Monin syrups and Belvedere pink grapefruit. If the fresh berries weren’t enough garnish, Perales tops it all off with edible flowers.

    Perales neatly circumvents the problems that crop up when you try to mix watermelon juice — it’s usually too thin to really work well in cocktails — by beefing it up with citrus and berries. The mint adds a subtle, cool note to the whole thing. It’s light, extremely drinkable and fits like a glove poolside (and at $40 a pitcher, very reasonable after you pour out six to eight drinks). Although we always picture Hercules as more of a wine, mead and steroids kind of guy.

    DAILY SIP: GINA Q


    Those are seriously not-messing-around levels of basil.

    Our favorite go-to summer jam? The Tom Collins. Crisp. Refreshing. Named after a 19th century hoax which, is apparently how people entertained themselves before Michael Bay was invented.

    The Gina Q at Artifice, the four-month-old Arts District spot adjacent to Bar + Bistro at the Arts Factory, takes the basics of the Tommy C — gin, lemon, sugar — and tweaks it just enough that it’s a big twist on a summer fave.

    Take Hendrick’s Gin, fresh lemon juice and simply syrup, then muddle all that up with fresh basil. Strain it into a cocktail glass, and you’re good to go.

    “I wanted something for summer. It was discussed about cucumber martinis, which are pretty overdone right now,” Bar Manager Dina Martini said.

    It’s got a big, basil nose on it with a bright lemon base. Hendrick’s plays well with fresh herbs, and in this case, the basil balances the acid for a very clean finish. Originally, Martini was pulling basil from her garden for the drink before demand made that impractical. Likewise, the cocktail’s namesake is locally sourced.

    “We named it after Gina [Quaranto] who owns Blackbird Studios who helped us with some of the design in the building. Some of the drinks are named after local artists who helped get this place up and running,” she said.

    The space itself is phenomenal — lots of room to wander the dark wood floors and lean up against the centrally placed black wood bar. A rotating collection of art covers the walls, from the front lounge around to the back dance floor. A heavy speakeasy door around the side of the building guards the entrance, and a semi-private seating area us set off in cinder blocks. It still has that new-bar smell, too — lots of wood and lacquer. Not a bad time to check it out before that gives way to stale, spilled beer and hipster moustache wax.

    DAILY SIP: BERRY SKINNY


    It’s BERRY low in calories. See what we did ther– hey, where are you going? Come back! We won’t ever do it again.

    Ah, the age-old summer conundrum: You want to get drunk and you’re tired of just drinking straight vodka, but you don’t want to look like Wilfred Brimley in a bikini.

    (Wait, let’s just consider that for a sec– no? Fair enough.)

    The MGM pool as issued a quartet of low-calorie cocktails for all your sub-100-cal drinking needs. Leading the charge is the drink that got the whole thing started for Jeffery Metcalf, general manager of Rouge and food & beverage pool operations. (more…)

    DAILY SIP: SINGAPORE SLING


    One of British colonialism’s finest creations.

    The 70-year-old is partying with a 100-year-old. It’s scandalous.

    As part of its 70th anniversary celebrations, good-time party girl septuagenarian El Cortez is featuring a dining and cocktail menu of classics, including the original Raffles Hotel Long Bar recipe of Ngiam Tong Boon for the nearly 100-year-old Singapore Sling.

    Executive Manager Alex Epstein and Food and Beverage Director John Civitello took advantage of UNLV’s completely rad Vegas menu collection to pinpoint faves from years gone by that have fallen out of fashion, like Chicken Kiev and Oysters Rockefeller.

    “We could have some items that people might not be able to have anywhere else, or they might not have had for decades,” Epstein said. “UNLV was so helpful with us. John Civitello who’s our food and beverage director, he went to UNLV. He went and made copies of hundreds of menus. From the Dunes, the Desert Inn. John and I sat in his office and just looked through these files of paper highlighting menu items that would be cool. We had a really long list of things would be great, and then we looked at obviously the recipe and what would be feasible. ”

    On the cocktail side, 15 classics range from the staid (Old Fashion, Daiquiri, Mojito) to the more forgotten (White Lady, Stone Sour). They all hew to original recipes, though. The Sling mixes Tanqueray, Benedictine, Cointreau, Luxardo (a detour from the Raffles recipe’s Cherry Heering), pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine and bitters.

    We had one in the lounge bar, but you don’t have much time to order up classics there. That space, built in 1982, will be shuttered after Saturday night to make way for the upcoming Parlour — a classic piano lounge in dark woods and red leather that will extend farther onto the casino floor. The renovation is set to be complete in the last week in August, giving it a couple months of operation before the November 70th anniversary celebration the property is planning.

    DAILY SIP: TUTTI GELATI


    But is it the gelato di tutti gelati?

    Booze-infused things make us happy. Mostly because it allows us to drink booze while eating things with booze in them. We can really free up a lot of time when we’re compressing our booze schedule like that.

    Tutti Gelati inside The Village at Lake Las Vegas trots out this raspberry champagne gelato (a limited-time run that’s available right now) that, unlike some other booze-infused desserts, doesn’t skimp on native hooch flavor.

    This surprisingly delicate and balanced desert is raspberry-driven, but those champagne notes really pop through. It’s a much better plan than our previous scheme to dump cheap, grocery store brand sherbet in a glass of box-wine Chardonnay and declare summer officially open for business.

    DAILY SIP: CHILI MARGARITA


    If cocktails could cackle like a supervillain, it would.

    When The Village at Lake Las Vegas pits mixologists on fierce Margarita-a-Margarita combat every year with its annual Margarita Festival, the winning Marg gets a place of honor on Sonrisa Grill. Last year, the Highlander of Margaritas was the Chili Marg, making a firm case that drinks don’t necessarily have to not set your mouth on fire.

    It’s a mix of Jose Cuervo Platino, cointreau, diced jalapeno and habanero and lime, all lurking menacingly underneath a chili powder rim. It’s big and smoky and earthy, especially when you catch a big mouthful of the rim. The diced peppers bring a fair share of heat, but it’s not oppressive, like you’re drinking a ghost pepper ‘rita (though we’d love to try that).

    “It makes an impact on people,” Sonrisa Grill manager Victor Perez said. “As soon as they try it, they’re blown away by it. You don’t feel the jalapeno.”

    This weekend, The Village is rocking the Tacos & Tequila festival with Mariachi bands and tequila splashing all around from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Really, when you’re shoving tequila and tacos in your mouth as fast as you can, you’re basically mixing your own Chili Margarita anyway.

    DAILY SIP: PENICILLIN


    Have yourself a spoonful.

    Ardbeg is a big, burly, briny beast and it seems the height of folly to try to subdue it in a cocktail — mad science gone hubristicaly amok. Yet Comme Ca’s Sam Ross managed to, if not tame the Islay Scotch, at least forced a bit in its mouth and set it out in the fields.

    We got our hands on a dose of his Penicillin at last night’s Taste of the Nation. He originally made the drink for Milk & Honey in New York, then migrated it to Comme Ca’s cocktail menu when he designed the program for the original L.A. outpost.

    The Penicillin uses a base of Famous Grouse, mixed with fresh ginger, lemon juice and honey. The pour is topped with a float of Ardbeg (he’s also done it with Laphroig) and garnished with candied ginger. (Ross started out with his own bar, Ginger, in his native Melbourne). (more…)

    DAILY SIP: SANGRITINI


    Four kinds of booze? Yes, please.

    Spanish Sangria done up all Italian-like? It’s all around the Mediterranean anyway — close enough.

    Except Sangria, with its reputation for sneaking up on you while it goes down so cool and refreshing in the midday sun is like a sneaky little ninja compared to the boozy bombast of Luna Rossa’s Sangritini at Lake Las Vegas.

    The brainchild of manager Chris Colby, the Sangritini takes a couple ounces of chianti, adds melon and orange vodka, orange juice and, just for that extra boozy push, limoncello.

    There’s no sneaking up on you from the Sangritini — this drink is out for blood. (See what we did there?) It’s not as sweet as some traditional Sangrias — thank the chianti for that. It also isn’t as fruity. The fruit flavor are subtle, notably with orange on the exit. The burn is anything but.

    This is more like a nighttime Sangria. It may not be the quenching pick-me-up that the traditional drink is, but the Sangritini definitely came to party.

    Chris Colby – Restaurant Manager Luna Rossa

    DAILY SIP: TRANSFUSION


    To be fair, we’ll pretty much drink anything in that shade of purple. Thanks, Kool-Aid.

    Let it never be said that whiling away one’s hours on a barstool is a frivolous pursuit. Why, if you work hard at it, stay dedicated, and bring your own grape juice, you can get your very own cocktail added to a menu.

    For the next few weeks, we’re talking a stroll through the cocktails of Lake Las Vegas, because it’s prime drinking-outside weather. In fact, we’re kind of annoyed we’re not on a patio with a pitcher of Tom Collinses right now.

    At The Village’s Sunset & Vines, it’s not all-wine all-the-time. They offer a cocktail menu of mostly classics, and one or two oddballs, like the Transfusion. (more…)

    DAILY SIP: FRRROZEN HOT MOCHA


    This is like the gooiest thing ever invented this side of a Cadbury Creme Egg.

    As Easter fades from memory, so too does that magical six months from early October to mid-April — Candy Season. It’s a delightful six-month stretch where you can gauge the season not by the change in temperature or the turning of the leaves, but by what color peanut M&Ms you’re buying that week. Brown and orange? Red and green? Red and white? Pastel? Anything but brown for VanHalenmas? Candy Season is the most wonderful time of the year. Because it includes Christmas, and there’s some kind of transitive holiday/candy law of mathematics at work here.

    So as we transition from Candy Season to Oh God It’s Too Hot to Put Anything In My Mouth But This Damp Rag season, we turn our attention to the Peanut Sin City Frrrozen Hot Mocha at Serendipity 3 to bridge the gap.

    The gap, apparently, is bridged with a mountain of whipped cream. (more…)