Las Vegas has the best mixologists and bartenders in the world, from the very famous Tony Abou-Ganim—the “Modern Mixologist,” who created the cocktail menu at the Bellagio—to Francesco Lafranconi, who's the Executive Director of Las Vegas’ Mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits. We even have an annual event, Tales of the Cocktail, devoted to these potable works of art. And you really can have any bar/lounge/club experience you want in Las Vegas. For people-watching, for instance, I love Parasol Down at Wynn, where you’ll see plenty of beautiful people and have a fantastic view of the eerily retro Lake of Dreams. Another don't-miss is the Chandelier Bar at The Cosmopolitan, the tri-level lounge set inside a two-million-crystal chandelier, where all the young, hip, beautiful things gather. All of Aria has an incredible cocktail program, too, presided over by Craig Schoettler, the property’s mixologist, who has not only elevated the city’s cocktailing with some wild technology, but also oversees the resort’s custom-brewed Cabaletta beer. But on the days when you feel like just kicking back in a comfortable lounge with a great drink, here are some of the best comfort bars of Vegas—popular with both tourists and locals.
For more on Vegas Bars, check out T+L's Guide: Las Vegas Bars.
Herbs and Rye
This spot off the Strip offers a throwback scene with Old Vegas dining—classic beef carpaccio, linguine and clams, the iceberg wedge of your dreams—served in black leather booths under twinkling chandeliers. They also serve some of the best classic cocktails in town, by bartenders including award-winning mixologist/owner Nectaly Mendoza. Better yet, their “alcoholic remedies” from the Gothic and Golden Ages include everything from the perfect Sazerac to a “Brandy Crusta:” brandy, maraschino, orange curacao, lemon and bitters from the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. Two happy hours—from 5 to 8 p.m. and midnight to 3 a.m., including food—make the experience even more worthwhile.
The whimsical downtown bar—where you’ll hang out on Victorian furniture, and drink cocktails concocted by sisters Pamela and Christina Dylag, which change with the seasons—has an amazing local following. Every space is imbued with a quirky little touch, like draft-beer pulls fashioned from antique mannequin hands, and a cocktail list of “elixirs” with names like The Burning Bush and Blind Willow. Look for the locally vaunted “Green Bitch:” it uses fresh celery juice as a companion for vegetal Chartreuse, plus Liquore Strega (an Italian herbal digestive), simple syrup, lemon, egg white and Bitter End Curry Bitters.
Frankie’s Tiki Room
There was the golden age of the tiki bar—but once the Stardust’s fantastic Aku Aku was gone (and its monumental tiki idols auctioned off), Vegas was sadly lacking in tiki culture until 2008. That’s when P. Moss, from the Double Down, reopened the old Frankie’s bar, on Charleston and I-15, and filled it with tiki idol glasses and an interior built by Bamboo Ben, grandson of Eli Hedley (the original “beachcomber” who created the décor at Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and Aku Aku). You’ll also find original carvings by Tiki Bosko who created art for the Tropicana in its tiki heyday. Perhaps most important, you’ll find popsicle-colored drinks like Malekula, Tiki Bandit, and Thurston Howl, along with classic tiki cocktails like the Mai Tai, Zombie and Pikake, in their collectible glasses.
Built in 1945, Atomic is the oldest freestanding bar in Las Vegas, and famous for being the place where customers went up to the roof to watch the nuclear blasts conducted at the Nevada Test Site. Although it closed in 2011, it was rehabbed in early summer 2013, its curved wraparound bar restored, and the original neon sign glowing onto East Fremont Street. Today it’s a kitschy but fun dive bar—and a refreshingly far cry from Strip prices. Plus, it has partnered with the National Atomic Testing Museum to show memorabilia, like testing-site signs and Geiger counters. Try the museum’s own official drink, the F-Bomb: a mix of Fernet and Fireball whiskey dropped into a glass of Atomic energy drink . (It doesn’t stop there:: When you pull up the shot glass, the liquor puffs out like a mushroom cloud.)
BLVD Cocktail Company
If you love downtown bars like Commonwealth and Park, on Fremont—with great mixology and quirky environments—you’ll love this higher-end space for those nights when you feel like being on the Strip, but don’t feel like walking across a crowded gaming floor to get to the booze. Located in The Linq promenade, it’s filled with modern art, and a cloud-like art installation floating above a Steinway baby grand. Order cocktails—featuring top-shelf and hard-to-find spirits—at the long marble bar, which has an old-school rolling ladder that lets bartenders access all the bottles. Notice the fun touches like the homemade Fireball shot, made by infusing a blend of whiskeys with cinnamon, star anise, allspice and clove.