Drinks: Warm Reception
From fireside snuggling to the holiday shindig, there’s a cocktail for every occasion this season
The flavors of the holidays have expanded well beyond pumpkin spice and peppermint. At Cleaver ( cleaverlasvegas.com), velvet wallpaper and crystal chandeliers offer a festive vibe, while the extensive cocktail menu offers something to please every palate. The Cable Car is a classic that has always had a bit of a holiday flavor, with rum, curaçao, and a joyous little twist of orange peel. The Stone Fence is bourbon mixed with maple syrup and apple cider — sweet yet slightly savory, served cold, but it warms you up soon enough. The Champagne Julep shakes up Champagne, Cognac, and Chartreuse with a North Pole slide of crushed ice. Served in a shining silver cup with a flourish of mint and colorful berries, it looks like a Christmas tree, but tastes like New Year’s Eve.
An unexpected twist on seasonal flavor comes in Downtown Cocktail Room’s Enlightened Pilgrim ( downtowncocktailroom.com), which blends sweet potato syrup and smoke thyme with Aquavit. Or, if only the basic will do, the Oh My Gourd! shakes up chocolate vodka, vanilla maple syrup, and pumpkin purée. Other neighborhood options include the Fig Martini at Andiamo in The D Las Vegas ( thed.com), made with Black Fig Vodka, which is infused with fresh California figs, creating a flavor that’s got a subtle, rich sweetness. Oak & Ivy in Container Park ( oakandivy.com) also offers a number of holiday-tasting selections, from blackberry-pear cider to the Apple Pie Harvest, a bourbon cocktail with apple bitters, brown sugar, and butter.
Winter nights can get chilly in the desert, so why not cuddle up with a hot beverage? The gold standard of Irish Coffee remains McMullan’s Irish Pub ( mcmullansirishpub.com), where the classic Bailey’s/Jameson’s/brew recipe is topped with a slide of fluffy cream and adorned with a cocoa powder shamrock. With its scarlet walls and sepia lighting, the Mob Museum’s Speakeasy ( themobmuseum.org) is also a nice spot to take a break from the holiday buzz by, well, catching a little holiday buzz. There are several variations on coffee drinks on the menu, including a solid Irish Coffee, while the American Coffee mixes coffee with applejack, cinnamon, and brown sugar, topped with a thick layer of ice cream-like cream that makes it go down smooth. Sip it slowly while listening to the jazz soundtrack, perusing the mini-exhibits, and admiring the workings on the in-house distillery. (If you’re behind on your holiday shopping, you can always pick up a bottle of the house-made moonshine. There’s a Cinn-City variation that packs a wallop and puts a nice spike in hot cider or tea.) A different take on the hot toddy is hot sake, which allows you to enjoy the warm, boozy sensation without having to add sugar or caffeine. Osaka Japanese Bistro ( lasvegas-sushi.com) serves a nice selection — and the late-night menu has sake deals as well as small plates.
Punching Up the Party
Of course, a lot of December drinking happens at home — and whether it’s your own or someone else’s, you want to come correct. If you’re hosting, pre-mixing cocktails or making punch will free you up to enjoy the party rather than play bartender. Try to stay away from elaborate drinks or ones that require carbonation — Margaritas, Manhattans, and Negronis are good choices that will hold in a pitcher for a few hours.
If you need to buy the drinks already made, Cutwater Spirits ( cutwaterspirits.com) offers an array of four-packs (all are solid, but the Rum and Cola or Grapefruit Vodka Soda are favorites), and Jose Cuervo Golden Margarita is a decent big-bottle option. Embrazen brand wine ( embrazen.com) celebrates “trailblazing women” with stylish labels featuring boss babes from Celia Cruz to Nellie Bly; their red blend has notes of cherry and spice, and is adorned with a Josephine Baker glamour shot. If you’d like to bring something with a little more potential proof, the vodka from Wild Roots Spirits ( wildrootsspirits.com) is infused with real fruit, including the seasonally appropriate apple cinnamon, cranberry, and pear — it comes in a corked bottle with botanical artwork that makes a pretty gift. As far as serving, you can sip it straight or mix it with soda for a quick-and-easy cocktail. For those who don’t indulge in cocktails, exotic bitters such as blood orange or plum add an elegant splash to club soda or tonic water.
Of course, sometimes after the family and the friends, the shopping and the stress, what you need is a stiff drink. Downtown’s Therapy ( therapylv.com) offers a daily shot special, as well as the Off the Wagon, a shot with whiskey, coffee liqueur, and Irish cream that will either get you going or put you down for the night, depending on your plans. NoMad Bar and Restaurant in Park MGM ( mgmresorts.com) has an extensive cocktail menu that ranges from twists on classics to intriguingly flavored originals. The Start Me Up is a mixture of whiskey, rum, ginger, and honey; the Detox-Retox is Scotch, Cachaca, two kinds of rum and coconut water — either promises to soothe any holiday headaches.
Of course, if you want to embrace the new decade — and your hosts are okay with it — you can always bring edibles. Wyld Canna gummies ( wyldcanna.com) come in a cute, origami-style package and in flavors like pomegranate and marionberry that actually taste like fruit and not weed — and they also come in CBD versions. Glacé chocolate truffles likewise come in fancy wrappings that look more boutique than dispensary, and in flavors like passionfruit and raspberry. If you prefer to keep your herbal exotica sippable, there’s always absinthe: With its opalescent emerald colors and Victorian serving paraphernalia, it brings a bit of Charles Dickens — or perhaps Oscar Wilde — to the party. Several of the city’s drinking establishments feature the full water drip/sugar cube ritual — Bouchon at the Venetian and Sage at Aria offer it before or after a meal, while Velveteen Rabbit and Downtown Cocktail Room do it at the bar. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to be rosy-cheeked with an abundance of seasonal cheer.