As a boozy destination, Las Vegas has no shortage of places to whet your whistle with good bourbon — CUT in The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino, Craftsteak in MGM Grand and Strip Steak in Mandalay Bay are among the first to come to mind for sheer volume of selection for the sipping and huge ice blocks for the chipping. But there are more. Check out these spots — some brand new, some as old as your favorite pour.
Oak & Ivy
Formerly The Boozery, Downtown Project’s remake of this shipping-container bar leans heavy on the whiskey. The standard menu will guide you to an excellently prepared New York Sour (a bourbon sour with a float of merlot) as well as some signpost bourbons — Angel’s Envy, Willett Pot Still and Lock, Stock, & Barrel, just to name a few — but go the extra mile and request the full whiskey list. You will be rewarded with an expanded selection of bourbon flights, whiskey cocktails, barrel-aged cocktails and 39 American whiskeys ranging from un-aged oat whiskey and single-barrel bourbon to unique combinations such as High West Campfire, which blends a mature rye, a ripe bourbon and peaty Scotch.
Newest to the scene, the lobby bar in the recently remodeled and renamed Delano Las Vegas (formerly THEHotel) is dark, moody and oh-so whiskey appropriate. Here, bourbon heads up a nicely rounded world whiskey list (think India, Australia, Japan), with 12 from which to choose. This includes the Delano’s own barrel of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, which can also be experienced in the barrel-aged cocktail Comfortably Numb, with Giffard Vanille de Madagascar liqueur and coffee bean-infused Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth. On the cocktail menu, the Jefferson Library is really one for the books, a beer-tail that starts with Jefferson’s Reserve bourbon, lemon juice, maple syrup and Angostura aromatic bitters, and is then topped with Innis & Gun porter.
The Bourbon Room
However irreverent the movie and show Rock of Ages that gives the lounge its name, the word “bourbon” is in it, so the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Venetian Resort Hotel Casino’s Bourbon Room simply has to come correct with the brown stuff. And it does, offering 60 varieties from the Angel Share Reserve Menu, including two single-barrel bourbons, Eagle Rare and Woodford Reserve that are selected and bottled especially for the property. Cheekier still, you can also get a stiff bottle of Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler. Because it’s Vegas.
If The Bourbon Room is Whiskey 101, the bar at Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse is the graduate course. This is mixologist Max Solano’s domain, a collection literally teetering (just check out the shelves!) on 660 selections, with roughly 130 of them being bourbon. Solano has a knack for being able to satisfy even the most picky whiskey aficionado, while preparing cocktails that have a way of growing on those who staunchly proclaim themselves whiskey averse. Special selections include bottlings of a private barrel of Eagle Rare 10-Year Solano handpicked, as well as his best-selling Maple Leaf and Bittered Bourbon Sling cocktails. And if the man himself is present, ask him for the secret menu.
The Whisky Attic
Every student, at some point, has to hit the stacks for research. Well, this is where whiskey students hit the liquor stacks. Secreted within and above the Freakin’ Frog college bar, UNLV professor and recently dubbed Belgian knight Adam Carmer maintains a collection of more than 1,800 distinctive whiskeys of the world in his Whisky Attic, 350 of them American, including all eight Pappy Van Winkle expressions. You won’t find any cocktails here — this is a place for flights, maybe a drop of water and a chip of ice. Bring your A game and get personally schooled by Sir Professor Carmer.
1923 Bourbon & Burlesque
Barrel service is the specialty at Holly Madison’s (yes, her) burlesque, whiskey and cigar hot spot in Mandalay Bay, and it’s a nice one-up to traditional nightclub bottle service. Here, $450 gets you a liter of bourbon from Woodford Reserve or Four Roses (or a liter of Templeton rye, if that’s your bent). Out comes 1923’s custom barrel for tableside service that includes diamond-shaped ice cubes. And did we mention the sultry nightly performances?
Besides the soothing atmosphere, the incredible cuisine and the able barmen and women expertly wielding everything from absinthe to Old Tom-style gin in this Four-Star ARIA Resort & Casino restaurant, there’s the coveted Pappy Flight. Get six half-ounce tastes of legendary and rare Pappy Van Winkle whiskeys for $350. Sure, you’ll find the odd bottle of Pappy here and there at other bars in Vegas, but rarely in such good company as this: Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year, Van Winkle Lot B 12 Year and Van Winkle Reserve Rye 13 Year, plus the Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year, 20 Year and the coveted 23 Year.
Herbs & Rye
Classic cocktails prepared without compromise — this is the way of things at Herbs & Rye, which is a sort of de facto clubhouse to bartenders, mixologists and beverage professionals in the know. Independence from a casino resort means that proprietor Nectaly Mendoza can let his whiskey collection wander where it may. Look for a solid lineup punctuated by Willett, James E. Pepper 1776, Masterson’s, Jefferson’s and even some throwbacks such as Old Tub. Cocktails remain faithful to their recipes, and range from spirit forward (read: strong), such as in the Old Pal (bourbon, dry vermouth, Campari liqueur, orange twist), to refreshing and familiar, such the Clermont Smash by Las Vegas’s five-star general of mixology, Tony Abou-Ganim (bourbon, velvet falernum, lemon juice, peach bitters, mint). Your bourbon game cannot help but be improved.