As I sit here looking down on the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip from my 40th floor perch in the sky, December seems like a blur.
As anyone who works in the food & beverage industry can attest, the month of December is no short of an all-out waterboarding session. The hours, the stress, the sensation of drowning under a thin veil of muslin…it’s enough to make one long for a vacation in Guantanamo.
But as 2011 inches it’s way over the desert horizon, I’ve finally come up for air. We’re out here in Vegas for the second time in three weeks for the opening of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. My wife and her crew are handling the PR for the thirteen (!) restaurants on the premises and I’m in the fortunate position of being the lucky sap that gets to come along for the ride.
In addition to sinking my fork into some fantastic food—the Lobster Tail with Miso Butter at Blue Ribbon, the Braised Octopus at Milos and the Beef Tendon & Kumamoto Oyster Tacos at China Poblano come to mind—I’ve had my eye on the bar scene rising up throughout the hotel. And this is one serious, kick-ass, balls-to-the-wall, cocktails-as-scripture type of operation.
Helmed by three resident mixologists and featuring over 100 newly created cocktails throughout the property, this is a Mecca for spirits geeks. Mariena Mercer, Andrew Pollard and Kristen Schaefer run three diversely different, yet incredibly focused, bars: Vesper, Bond and The Chandelier (all former nicknames of mine).
While I sampled awesome drinks at all three (even cheekily asking the barkeep at Vesper to risk life and limb by making me a Ramos Gin Fizz), I feel you should know about the madness that is The Chandelier. Why, you ask? The cocktails? Yep. The snazzily smooth bartenders? Yep. But the real reason? The frickin chandelier itself. This thing is Vegas incarnate. Human excess in its purest, most adulterated, demented form.
Consisting of over 2 million crystals, the chandelier would make Liberace cry for weeks. And Kim Kardashian’s boobs have nothing on this thing. Spanning three stories, with the ability to seat over 500 guests INSIDE it’s bejeweled tentacles, The Chandelier composes three separate bars, all with a different vibe and cocktail list. Sipping on a cocktail under this thing is like being under the sea in the protective bubble of Atlantis. Do not, I repeat, do not approach this thing on LSD. You’ll fry out your eyes faster than looking into the sun during an eclipse.
I was fortunate to meet Mariena Mercer on the third floor of this thing where we got to taste two of her latest creations. And yes, when I say “creations”, I mean it. There is a frickin’ mixology kitchen devoted to the bar, stocked with a sous vide vacuum, a Pacojet to make sorbets, a Spherification center (which creates liquid-filled beads) and an index of molecular gastronomy ingredients that would make Wylie Dufresne stick his hand in liquid nitrogen out of jealousy.
The two cocktails we tried were ridiculously tasty. I found myself marveling at what was in my glass, while simultaneously being entranced by the dancing light like a child in front of Santa’s workshop. It was a night of terrifying proportions. Man has pushed the envelope with the sheer excess of this bar, but thankfully, Mariena’s cocktails have matched it’s scope.
Here’s what we drank:
- Makers Mark 46 Bourbon
- Orange marmalade
- Rosemary syrup
- Lemon juice
- Peach bitters
- Maple syrup foam
The Bed Thyme
- Courvoisier Cognac
- Lavender Syrup
- Chamomile Tea
- Stripped Thyme
- Lemon Juice
And now, fair readers, it’s time to go inside the chandelier!
Watch the video of me sipping it up in the shimmering wonderland: