The opportunities for incredible Asian cuisine in Las Vegas have never been better, and the same holds true for cocktails employing Asian spirits, liqueurs, and other ingredients.
“Most Asian-inspired cocktails are refreshing and sweet but with a kick of spice or herbs,” says Yassine Lyoubi, executive general manager of restaurants for 9 Group, which includes the sophisticated new bar Scarlet at the newly renovated Palms Casino Resort. The bar’s Far & Away cocktail includes Bombay Sapphire East gin, lemongrass, and calamansi, a citrus fruit that’s like a cross between a lime and a tangerine. The gin—a tweak on Sapphire’s original recipe, adding lemongrass and black peppercorn to the other botanicals—was a popular choice at this fall’s Asian culture– themed festival Luckyrice, according to Rodger Gillespie, a bartender at Cosmopolitan’s Vesper Bar. His team contributed quite a few cocktails, he says, including the Come Here Lassi, featuring Bombay Sapphire East, Bols Natural Yoghurt liqueur (you read that right), puréed mango, lime juice, a ginger/lemongrass/black pepper syrup, and Thai basil leaves. “I like to use food in cocktails, and Asian ingredients are ideal,” says Gillespie. Ginger, cardamom, yuzu, shishito peppers, and even apples count, and you’ll find examples all around town, like the Wasabi martini at Luxor’s Rice & Company and the God’s Gift, featuring a jasmine green-tea simple syrup, at the trendy new Velveteen Rabbit, a craft cocktail lounge downtown.
Those seeking sipping spirits needn’t feel left out. Japanese whiskies—which boast a heritage more than a century old—are hitting the US market in a big way. Also at Cosmopolitan, Scarpetta offers the light yet rich Yamazaki 18-year. And Double Helix Wine & Whiskey Lounge, at Town Square, stocks Yamazaki 12-year single malt, Hibiki 12-year, and Hakushu 12-year, also a single malt. Co-owner Ray Nisi attests to the growing popularity of these spirits: “Only a year ago, there was only a little interest in Japanese whiskies here. Now we have a steady clientele enjoying them.” —Robert Haynes-Peterson
photography courtesy of Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace (foie gras); Palms Casino Resort (cocktail)