Vodka Dreamin': It’s easy to get too familiar with vodka, and we don’t mean overindulging. It slips effortlessly into soda or tonic; it dwells languidly in a Moscow mule. But bartenders in Las Vegas aren’t comfortable with getting too comfortable. Perhaps inspired by Vegas institution Tony “The Modern Mixologist” Abou-Ganim, who wrote the definitive book on the spirit last year—Vodka Distilled—or just the fact that vodka remains the number-one-selling spirit in the city, innovative vodka creations now abound on Las Vegas menus. “Vodka is a greatly misunderstood spirit,” says Abou-Ganim. “And through greater knowledge comes deeper enjoyment.”
At Mandalay Bay’s Red Square (702-632-7407), beverage director Dennis Lofland specializes in fresh juices and bringing out the herbal and spice notes in a cocktail, but he doesn’t forget to bring the sweet. Here you can order the White Ruskie, an update on the classic White Russian. Stoli Vanil is paired with Bailey’s Hazelnut and Marie Brizard Chocolat Royal liqueur. The result is an indulgent interpretation even The Dude would abide.
Mariena Mercer, chief mixologist at Cosmopolitan, employs the super-silky Absolut Elyx as the base for the Absolut Elyx of the Heart cocktail, available at Bond (702-698-7000). The upscale martini includes Elyx (finished in a historic copper rectification still, adding character and depth), along with herbs de Provence–infused Dolin blanc vermouth, olive gastrique, and bleu cheese–stuffed olives. The result is simultaneously naughty and sublime.
Table Setting: The Seattle-based Sur la Table, the stylish destination for cooking, kitchen, and home goods, is bringing its culinary magic to the brand new retail destination The Shops at Summerlin (in addition to its primo location at Fashion Show). The 5,847-square-foot space isn’t just the spot to buy spatulas and fancy spices. It also offers culinary classes led by classically trained chefs, with seasonal topics like Vegetarian Holiday Dishes, Fresh Ideas for Thanksgiving, and Fall Flavors: Pies & Tarts. 1980 Festival Plaza Dr., 800-243-0852
Crave’s Surf & Turf, for when your yearnings go both ways.
Hunger Pangs: You long for sushi served on a little boat, while your friends are jonesing for pizza and steak. Head for the newest branch of the Minnesota-based mini chain Crave, where Executive Chef Bill King and his team offer sophisticated interpretations of American classics and sushi rolls featuring seafood flown in daily. With an emphasis on local and organic products whenever possible, this diverse menu won’t disappoint. Can’t decide what you’re hankering for? There’s a classic (and ultrafresh) surf and turf, of course. 10970 Rosemary Park Dr., 702-878-5505
Tell No Tales: Herbs & Rye owner and bartender Nectaly Mendoza is having a great year, picking up awards and accolades left and right for the bar’s innovative cocktails and righteous staff. This summer at tales of the Cocktail—the country’s original and largest industry cocktail week—the bar was part of a special Las Vegas Invades tales event, with 38 Vegas bartenders serving more than 1,500 thirsty guests. Herbs & Rye also won the People’s Choice award at Tales’ annual bar Fight Club, a competition presented by the 86 Co. and del Maguey and normally dominated by bars from New York and San Francisco. 3713 W. Sahara Ave., 702-982-8036