Downtown Las Vegas might not be the first thing that comes to mind when Sin City is concerned — Elvis Presley, George Clooney and The Hangover films have seen to that. But if craft cocktails are on the itinerary, then a visit to the 18 blocks of Downtown Las Vegas’ unique Arts District (colloquially called “The 18b”) is a must. There, amid the mid-mod décor depots and shabby-chic consignment stores, the city’s newest bar, Velveteen Rabbit, is pleasing the palates of the local cocktail cognoscenti, as well as the few tourists who are in the know.
In what was once the forlorn wreckage of a burned-down furniture store, sisters Christina (25) and Pamela (28) Dylag brought Velveteen Rabbit to life as a dark and inviting Victorian-era parlor, complete with mismatched, vintage furnishings and moody local artwork.
When seeking out the location, look for the neon rabbit sign and the attractive wooden shutters that open outward from the façade like eyelashes. Inside, hand-stenciled and shattered mirror walls beg for a second glance, as does the natural mural “painted” on the wall during the intense fire. Slide onto a stool at the wide, satiny wood bar (with purse hooks tucked underneath), or snag a velvet-covered couch.
The cocktail menu arrives affixed to a wooden plank, short and sweet. The classically inspired and original drinks here are petite, delicious and exceedingly balanced. At $8 each, you can try a few and still have the wherewithal to call a cab or catch the Deuce bus back to your hotel. Crucifix in a Deathhand (Irish whiskey, cherry Heering, Swedish punsch, absinthe, Angostura bitters and a house-brandied cherry) is so named for the Bukowski poem of the same name. Another interesting tipple is the Green Bitch, with Chartreuse, Strega, celery and curry bitters.
Thoughtful touches abound, such as the stately rabbit profile stenciled atop the Improved Whiskey Sour, the free bar snacks and the fresh flowers that dot the bar, perfuming the smoke-free air. A chalkboard menu over the mannequin-hand draft handles touts the Rabbit’s ever-changing beer selections, which run the considerable gamut from a $3 Schlitz to $20 bombers of Epic Brewing Co.’s Brainless on Peaches. Local craft brews from Las Vegas’ own Joseph James Brewing Co., Tenaya Creek Brewery and Big Dog’s Brewing Co. can barely be kept in stock.
The Dylag ladies tend bar along with a friendly cast of characters, all fresh-faced and eager to try the punch of the day on you. Let them — like the rest of the cocktail menu, it’s whimsically delicious.
Photos Courtesy of Xania Woodman