From casinos to concerts and a world-class culinary scene, there’s no better place to check out cocktail and wine trends than Las Vegas. That’s why the Liquid Insights Tour, Southern Glazer’s extensive, coast-to-coast educational initiative that explores and identifies the latest trends in mixology and wine, would not be complete without a stop in this iconic city.
I was joined on my Las Vegas tour by Livio Lauro, our very own Director of Mixology for Nevada (who based on his time in the market turned out to be somewhat of an industry celebrity). Having trained so many hospitality professionals at UNLV, or collaborated with venues to create innovative beverage programs, his insightful conversations with staff and his overall history and expertise in the market was invaluable.
One of the first trends we saw in Las Vegas was more Scotch incorporated into cocktails – like a Scotch Old Fashioned, variations on the Penicillin, and even a delicious tiki cocktail. Herbal and vegetal accents were also seen with the use of Chartreuse and Amaros, similar to other markets. At the exceptional hotel/casino bars and restaurants, in many cases, non-perishable drink ingredients were pre-batched by a sort of a commissary kitchen for bars so bartenders can focus on execution. The other apparent purpose of widespread pre-batching is to allow bartenders to invest more of their time and energy in providing exceptional service and connecting with guests or doing unique drink-finishing accents like ice stamping or topping cocktails with Flavor Blasted bubbles – it wouldn’t be Vegas without a bit of flair. Communal drinking seemed also to be on the slow return with places offering spirit bottle service, pitchers (think margaritas and swizzles), and punch bowls.
On the wine front, we saw more locations with fewer wines by the glass (BTG) with no varietal duplication, as well as a lot more sparkling wine featured BTG and cross-utilized in cocktails, as well as more by the bottle. A couple of the finer culinary locations also had sections on the wine menu devoted to half bottles and Magnums perfect for singles, two tops and large groups.
Another interesting occurrence was that arguably the “hottest” location in town didn’t allow photography – creating a very mysterious and exclusive vibe for guests. With social media, consumers have become accustomed to watching people and places from afar. Now, at some of the most exclusive venues, you literally have to visit Vegas to appreciate the lavish experience instead of trying to live vicariously through photos and videos online. Perhaps that’s why the city has refreshed its tagline to “What happens here, only happens here.”
Like we’ve seen in our previous visits to Houston and Kansas City, the vibrancy of the bar community was in full effect, with bar pros having long histories in Vegas and learning from and moving between concepts, and then running programs themselves. I’m willing to gamble and say there will be many more innovations on tap as we head to city number four – perhaps a city that doesn’t sleep? Stay tuned and straws out!
Follow us on social @sgwinespirits to stay up to date on our upcoming Liquid Insights Tour travels. (And to learn how to make expert cocktails anywhere, check out Livio’s Master Your Glass show on Youtube!)