With tons of annual festivals and competitions devoted to sussing out Las Vegas’s best mixologists and most impossibly sophisticated concoctions—not to mention the countless personal preferences of the locals and visitors who partake in the city’s liquid offerings—anointing a “best cocktails” list in this town that’s always looking for a buzz is a highly subjective exercise at best. While it’s easy to be dazzled by trendiness here (bring on the liquid nitrogen! The pyrotechnics! The impossibly difficult-to-source!) and just as easy to be swayed by the sheer size and strong pours of many libations, separating truly good cocktails from the merely showy isn’t actually that difficult here. The best bars tend to be those that are always changing their cocktail list to reflect what’s seasonal, or putting fresh spins on classic concoctions. Here are a few tipples that—at least as of this writing— are among the most compelling.
Visit T+L’s Guide to Las Vegas Bars for more drinking inspiration.
Spellbinder (Hyde Bellagio)
Hyde offers the absolute best views of the Bellagio fountains’ choreographed water-and-light show, especially from its front-and-center VIP table (where, for $250,000, you can actually create your own playlist and push the red button that sets the fountains in motion). One of the best cocktails for the colder months is the Spellbinder, a blend of rum, pumpkin purée, coconut milk, clove-infused simple syrup and bitters. If you’re not feeling autumnal, turn to the custom, mad scientist-like cart where an ever-changing list of specials can all be frozen with liquid nitrogen.
Negroni Svegliato (Bound by Salvatore)
Legendary London barman Salvatore Calabrese brings one of the most civilized experiences to the Strip by way of his cozy Cromwell lobby bar, Bound. The clubby seating here is private, but has just enough of a view of the action outside. If you’re gearing up for a long night, forego a pedestrian Red Bull drink and opt for his Negroni Svegliato (“svegliato” means “wake up” in Italian): a kicked-up cocktail made with Martini Gran Lusso vermouth-infused espresso, Bombay Sapphire gin and Campari.
Bells and Whistles, Culinary Dropout (Hard Rock)
This place doesn’t fool around when it comes to mixology. Culinary Dropout’s cocktail menu runs the gamut from “light & easy” libations like the Miss Margaret (with peach brandy, cranberry, orange juice and sparkling wine) to “classic dropouts,” including the Velvet Death (with Death’s Door gin, Cointreau, Velvet Falernum and absinthe). A special Vegas creation is the Bells & Whistles, which beverage manager Mat Snapp created at a barbecue festival to mirror the smokiness, sweetness and heat of barbecued meat. What it contains: housemade bell pepper-jalapeño-infused simple syrup, honey syrup, lemon juice, basil leaves and Maker’s Mark bourbon.
Barrel-Aged Negroni (Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, Palazzo)
Barrel-aged cocktails have been big in craft bars for some time, but the small-batch drinks take time, and labor-intensive cocktails can be tough to pull off in high-volume Las Vegas. But just in time for autumn, the bar at Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s luxurious steakhouse is offering a barrel-aged Negroni—equal parts Nolet’s Silver Dry gin, Aperol and sweet vermouth—that’s been aged for two months. It’s the perfect palate preparation for the beautiful large steak that you’ll inevitably order here.
Fizz Fraise (FIZZ Las Vegas, Caesars Palace)
Opened this spring, FIZZ is, naturally, dedicated to the bubbly stuff, with 40 sparkling wines and Champagnes on the menu. It’s even decorated in beige and gold—by David Furnish, otherwise known as Elton John’s husband—to elicit the feeling that you’re sitting right inside a big Champagne cocktail. Fresh, delightful and pink, the Fizz Fraise cocktail is a nice departure from straight champers, with Ford’s gin, Fragoli Wild Strawberry liqueur, fresh ripened strawberries, lemon juice and, of course, a splash of Champagne.