In Las Vegas, you can get a drink just about anywhere. It’s true: the city has around 1,500 bars, and that’s not even counting the ones that operate inside of hotels and casinos. Just because you can get a drink everywhere doesn’t mean you should just drink at any old watering hole. For those who seek not only a drink, but a true drink experience, these are some of the places you owe it to yourself to try.
There aren’t many places in the middle of a desert town where you’d want to wear a fur coat, but at Minus Five, it’s a necessity. The entire bar–from the seats to the glasses to the chandeliers–is made out of ice. The atmosphere is kept frigid, but you’ll be outfitted with woolly parkas and faux furs when you enter.
An unexpected perk of being in a bar made of ice is that it’s never too crowded. The maximum capacity is 81 people, and not because of space. Any more than that and the place would literally start to melt. When you’re drinking in a place that feels (and looks) like Siberia, what’s the drink of choice? Vodka, of course. While Minus Five had plenty of fruity concoctions, nothing beats cold Vodka sipped from a shot glass made of ice.
Moscow Mule at Herbs and Rye (3713 West Sahara Ave)
It’s worth going off the Strip to find this bar. The fact that it’s tucked away in an unexpected area just adds to its vibe as a secret speakeasy. Once you’re inside the ambiance is like something from the 1920s, and it’s easy to imagine old-school gangsters making plans in the dim light.
The cocktails are decidedly classic, many of them from the era of Prohibition, like the Sazerac or the Ramos Fizz. One of the house specialties is a Moscow Mule, made with vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer, served in an old-school copper mug that holds in the chill. Herbs and Rye has garnered a slew of best bartender/best bar awards, and you’ll soon find out why.
Nakalele Knockout at Frankie’s Tiki Room (1712 West Charleston Blvd.)
Vegas is full of kitsch, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a place kitschier than Frankie’s Tiki Room. The vibe is intentionally tacky, with more bad ’50s art and cheap Hawaiian decor than you can shake a plastic drink stirrer at. Anyone with an appreciation for campy, over-the-top fun will feel right at home among the tikis and the hula huts as clips from B-movies and vintage burlesque shows play on the TV screens.
The drinks here are stiff as they come, ultra-fruity concoctions of multiple colors and multiple spirits. A handy guide ranks each drink’s potency with a number of skulls. A classic Mai Tai rates four skulls, while a Dr. No only rates three. For the brave and the thirsty, the Nakalele Knockout is a five-skuller: the Tiki Room’s take on the Zombie, with an array of various rums, hibiscus, and lime juice. From the menu: “Drink one and count your blessings. Drink two and watch your step.”
Hefe Weizen at Hofbrauhaus (4510 Paradise Rd.)
If you don’t plan on visiting Munich, Germany anytime soon, those who have been there say that Hofbrauhaus is as close to the real thing as you’re likely to get in the States. The atmosphere is like an Old World beer hall, with all the noise and conviviality that entails. Traditional music makes the experience all the more authentic, as does the food: classic Bavarian specialties like Veal Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, and Schnitzels fried to golden perfection.
The real draw, though, is the beer. The Hofbrauhaus’ draft is brewed especially for them in Germany from original recipes that are over 400 years old. The Hefe Weizen is even more special than the other beers, a brew that in 1602 could only be brewed by ducal privilege. For almost 200 years, Hofbrauhaus had exclusive rights to it. If you’re not going to drink like a king, drink like a duke at least once.
The name of the bar is itself a nod to James Bond’s favored martini recipe, which he dubs the Vesper in tribute to the sultry Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond would feel right at home in the Cosmopolitan’s sleek, sophisticated bar with its twinkling chandeliers and glittering mirrors.
The top-notch bartenders are cool and knowledgeable, mixing up long-forgotten cocktail recipes like laboratory chemists. That makes Vesper Bar the ideal place to try a perfect martini: clear, chilled, and shaken, not stirred.