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Specialty Cocktails: The Party Pits of Food and Beverage

By MikeE on Monday, 21st November 2011 1:12pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 13


You've seen it before. Old men and frat boys hiding boners under blackjack tables happily playing 6:5 odds because there are cage dancers behind the busty dealers. It's stupid, slightly embarrassing, but a huge revenue stream. A simple tinkering - both to the odds and the atmosphere - makes these table games even bigger moneymakers. I like to think we VegasTrippers take our gambling too seriously to fall for these gimmicks, but I dare say that another fad has risen to which we more than happily take pleasure in.

The specialty cocktail.

Want to instantly increase food and beverage revenue? Put specialty cocktail menus everywhere. Every bar in every resort at every corner needs to have a menu of specialty cocktails preferably for every day of the week. That's how much people love these things.

Mixology is big business in Vegas - perhaps the only specific revenue stream among the dozens these casinos produce that has actually increased in the last few years. Don't look that statistic up because I totally pulled it out of my ass, but you can just imagine it's true with all the TwitPics, Five Hundy drunk dialgasms, and Cosmopolitan kudos these drinks keep getting.

A recipe for revenues: Take a standard cocktail recipe but use a cheap liquor that sounds expensive because the name is too foreign to pronounce, toss in a fruit juice you've probably never heard of and/or are allergic to, then make it fizz, froth, or smoke. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with another fruit that's considered a delicacy here but is most likely a fertilizer in some regions of China. Finally, give it some kind of exotic, alliterated name like "Spicy Seduction" or "Earthy Urethra" and bill recipient $18 not including a hefty tip for the efforts.

And by the time you're on your third specialty down the menu, you stand up to pee only to realize that your buzz is more Mimosa than Wild Turkey. Inevitably, the $10 Jack and Coke at the end of the night gets the job done.

Clearly, resorts are catching on. Specialty cocktails are helping create the only impressive financial numbers out of Cosmo. They're getting full-page spreads in Wynn's in-room magazine. Even my beloved Mirage just got into the game.

That said, as a guy who feels having a delicious drink in hand at all times is just as much a must in Vegas as having a buzz, this is one fad I happily support.

Yes, I'm a sucker... a very drunk one... with a lychee in my mouth.

Tagged: booze   mirage   


Comments & Discussion:

Specialty Cocktails are CASH COWS. In the wedding catering business we ADD $5/person to our bar charges for them...$5 for every guest, even if they don't have one! And we absolutely make them up just as described, also taking into consideration what we've gotten on special from the liquor distributor...or even better, something we've special ordered for, and billed to, another client who then didn't drink it all! MOO!

Lately the specialty cocktail thing has gotten on my tits. It's gimmicky and, well, reactionary in the same way that gourmet burger places are. Take a simple product, like a hamburger, dress it up and give it a new fancy name. Whether or not, it's "organic," "fresh-squeezed," or "rocket-propelled;" it's the same as coffee at Starbucks or hamburgers at BLT.

Keep the umbrella and your flaming aromatics, just give me some nice whiskey and some not-flat soda and I'm good.

I'll probably change my mind tomorrow, but meh.

This fad is quickly wearing out its welcome. Not every bar can be 'special'; nor can every bartender be a mixologist. The Palazzo is the biggest offender by renaming their casino bars to make them seem special. I fear the latest change by Mirage will be even lamer. Even worse is the longer wait to get a drink. Even Cosmo has jumped the shark with every bar getting in on the act.

While I like the fresh juices and homemade bitters; specialty cocktails are typically too sweet to drink more than a couple. Invariably, I peruse the drink menu and then just order one of my regulars.

If I'm paying $18 and up for a drink, it better be alone in the glass with a couple cubes of ice and of legal age to do porn.

Most specialty cocktails at Cosmo are $14 if not less, by the way.

The cocktail bars at Cosmo are the best I've ever been to, I think.

I'm a big fan of the cocktail fad.

Well done, it's worth the price. Any of the me-too places all over the place lately, you'll only fool me once.

This thread makes me want a Golden Leaf from the Mandarin Bar. $18 incredibly well-spent.

Location is key when opting in on these expensive libations. Hands down Mandarin Bar knows what they are doing with excellent crafted drinks. Cosmo is doing a nice job too. Don't overlook Petrossian Bar at Bellagio where the bartenders know their shit. Their Cable Car came from mixologist pioneer Tony Abou-Ganim who was hired out of San Fran by Steve Wynn to create the cocktail program at Bellagio when it opened. From the proper glass to the correct style of ice. I'm a sucker for the renewed art of bartending.

The cocktail trend has been happening for quite a while at a much more reasonable price downtown at places like Sidebar (soon to become Mob Bar) and Downtown Cocktail Room. The bartenders at Downtown Cocktail room are very inventive and skilled cocktail makers

I'm a fan of this, and I don't necessarily consider it akin to pricing up cheap swill (although there is some of that). Rather I look at it as something like prixe fixe. Options and variety, it's pretty easy to look at the list of ingredients and know whether it's a premium quality drink or should be served at Osheas. As long as they keep prices real, I consider it a bit more refined drinking experience.

I will say though that you should never question the $500 cocktail at Bradley Ogden at the bar, or question 'mixing all those scotches together?' as my friend did to the originator of the recipe, who then gave us his best french waiter impression ever by sneering and ignoring us during service.

I've gotten sucked into the specialty cocktail fad at Cosmopolitan, particularly at their VP bars. There's an interesting psychology, making the player believe he's getting $15 high-end cocktails "for nothing" and I admittedly have fallen prey to this and played longer at Cosmo VP bars than I'd intended, essentially trying to "drink back" my losses. Well played, Cosmopolitan. Well played.

I was thinking the same thing on my last visit when I had my first Sinatra Smash -- a nice blackberry-laced bourbon concoction. It was good. However, it was only a slightly refined version of a drink we used to shoot in college a quarter of a century ago: the Coon Doggie. A Coon Doggie is half blackberry brandy, half bourbon, chilled as a big shot. As you hoist it, you shout "Coon!" Then you down it and say "Doggie." You weren't sitting in the Wynncore when you drank it but it didn't cost the same as a case of beer either.

Coon Doggie definitely doesn't have the same ring as Sinatra Smash, that's an awesome comparison though.

The one thing I like about Cosmo is that they do offer things outside of their cocktails too, at least from a 'premium' liquor option. While Rums aren't high end, they have a number that aren't available elsewhere, that they'll pour at Cosmo too, last trip, I helped polish off a bottle of Zacapa. They also have Kracken, Zaya, and some others available, which is a nice change of pace, not necessarily more expensive though.

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