Las Vegas is, and always has been, a drinking town, fed by a flowing river of booze that keeps its 40-plus million annual visitors lubed for the big conference, bachelorette party or blackjack binge. But until fairly recently, the odds of finding an honest craft cocktail bar in the neon capital have been slim. Now, a new generation of bar-world bigwigs—people like Attaboy’s Sam Ross and the crew from Death & Co’s Proprietors LLC—are throwing down stakes in Sin City, making it a destination for discerning drinkers everywhere. These are the eight cocktail bars that matter most.
Even at 4,500 square feet, The Venetian’s newest cocktail lounge, The Dorsey, feels intimate. Chances are you won’t bump into former Milk & Honey bartender Sam Ross behind the stick, but his influence is reflected in the skills of the trained staff, as well as in every drink on the cocktail menu. With a wide range of delicious offerings, from Ross’ modern classic, the refreshing Penicillin, to a boozy Salted Kingston Negroni, The Dorsey is quickly becoming the Strip’s best bar to start and end the night at.
The tacky decor, the high-octane hooch, the nod to a bygone era—it’s as if Tiki was made specifically for Las Vegas. No self-respecting rum lover would leave the city without a stop at this 24-hour, off-Strip bar. Order the Scorpion cocktail for one, and go home with your own souvenir Tiki mug. Beware drinks marked with five skulls (like the Fink Bomb, made with 160-proof rum): They’re as stiff and unforgiving as the worst blackjack dealer.
Last year, Herbs & Rye owner Nectaly Mendoza won awards for bartender of the year and bar of the year. He also won a Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for best American high-volume bar. Accolades aside, it’s the drinks that keep the place packed all week long. His cocktail menu at this pre-Prohibition darling spans several eras, from the Gothic Age’s Jack Rose to the Tiki Boom’s Zombie. But perhaps it’s biggest draw? It’s one of the few bars in town with two happy hours: 5 to 8 p.m. and midnight to 3 a.m.
Tony Abou-Ganim is a Las Vegas bar-world legend. The master bartender at Libertine Social helped conceive and open 22 bars in Steve Wynn’s Bellagio back in 1998. Now at Libertine Social, he oversees a full lineup of crowd pleasers, from Swizzles and draft and barrel-aged cocktails to his modern rum classic. the Cable Car.
Proprietors LLC brings its craft game to the Vegas Strip. And that’s good news for Martini purists. The Martini Education at Skyfall Lounge offers four pitch-perfect variations—the Classic, Dirty, Gibson and Vesper—all impeccably made with either vodka or gin. Enjoy one in style as you take in the 180-degree neon views of the city.
Back in the 1970s, the Tack was a popular after-hours bar off the Strip—the kind of place where you might bump into Tom Jones or Ol’ Blue Eyes. It fell out of favor and, for all likes and purposes, off the radar. Now it has been resurrected as a Caribbean restaurant and rum bar featuring more than 200 bottles, including the rare and pricy Black Tot, and a tight list of cocktail like the Cherry Blossom, made with hibiscus rum, lime, fassionola and maraschino liqueur.
This sisters-owned bar in Vegas’ emerging Arts District is dark and moody with a cocktail list that will leave you scratching your head. If you’re intimidated by ingredients like cantaloupe-infused bourbon and salted gose reduction, don’t be. Everything on the revolving menu is perfectly balanced and fun to drink, especially on the outdoor patio that hosts up-and-coming musicians.
Where else but in Las Vegas can you find a top-notch Tiki bar that’s open 24/7? In the heart of Sin City’s Chinatown, The Golden Tiki rolls out all the stops, from the thatched roof over the bar to the pirate-inspired velvet paintings to the mystery dagger on the wall once owned by Hunter S. Thompson. The menu includes a mix of original drinks and Tiki standbys, plus the usual Vegas flourishes like tableside service and VIP up-sells. And if you’re looking to rev up your cocktail, for just 50 cents, the bartender will add a shot of Bacardi 151 and set it on fire.