Rat Packer Dean Martin put the martini on the table in Las Vegas and made it the cocktail du jour for all those who bought into the formula that Vegas + cocktails = cool. In fact, he lived his famous one-liner onstage at the Sands night after night when he told audiences, "If you can lie on the floor without holding on, you're not drunk."
Las Vegas has gone far beyond its martini days.
The cocktail is no longer a cocktail. It's flaming tiki bowls of roiling red juice at the Peppermill or 30-ounce berry-infused vodka elixirs sucked from a jar at the Hard Rock pool. It's a $1,000 cocktail sipped with steak at BOA Steakhouse or 60-ounce "muddled" martinis, stirred and then shaken at Blush. Like most things in this over-the-top town, Vegas cocktails are a phenomenon that other cities would find tough to match.
Las Vegas offers plenty of ways to test Martin's premise.
If you are looking for big, bulging glasses of sensory-stunning potions, look no further than Quark's Bar. Drinks here come in strange colors and should be handled with care. Order the Warp Core Breach and heed the waiter's warning: Do not dip your fingers into the drink. The ice used to chill it is the dry kind that comes with lots of bite.
The $29.50 drink has enough punch to tank two grown men with 10 ounces of liquor from five different-flavored rums, Razzmatazz and fruit juices. The drink comes with a Red Alert! warning and options for half sizes if you think you're too human to handle it.
Seekers of dark, '60s-style secret-tryst spots where bubble-gum-colored tiki drinks are served to couples in dark corners will hit pay dirt at the Peppermill Fireside Lounge. The Strip-side classic is an Old Vegas holdout that still sports the fire pit that put it on the map. Oh yes, the drink does come in a stemmed fishbowl with a pink paper parasol. Drink your way through a seemingly bottomless libation as volcanic flames flicker madly from the cool pool.
Try the Blue Mist Martini with Island Blue Pucker and Absolut Citron. Or splurge on the Scorpion -- six shots of things that sting in this bowl, mixed with juices and made for two, for $18.
Isla at TI creates a Goddess Elixir table-side that might double as a delicious liquid to soak your feet in or a marvelous punch you would serve at a party. It's big. It can serve one or four and still get its point across. The Tequila Bar there proffers 24 styles of the fermented agave juice presented by a "tequila goddess" who mixes and matches some of these drinks to order at the table. The Goddess Elixir comes with big chunks of pineapple and citrus buoyed by Herradura Selección Suprema, Grand Marnier Centenaire (100th-year commemorative), Cointreau and fresh citrus syrup, for $99.
Blush recently opened at Wynn and is serving fruit-infused alcohol known as "fresh shots." The choices are strawberry-pineapple, cantaloupe-honeydew-watermelon and lemon-lime-orange. They are muddled with a wooden spoon and shaken in a behemoth 60-ounce martini shaker before being strained and poured into shot glasses ($35 for the whole shaker).
At the Mirage, LOVE comes in the form of a 32-ounce cocktail served in a plastic cup imprinted with shadow images of the Beatles and sipped between gasps of awe as the Cirque du Soleil show ($14.50).
Or you can go for the gold with the Ménage a Trois served nightly at Tryst for $3,000. The purveyors of the cocktail think it creates a perfect threesome using Cristal Ros, Hennessy Ellipse and Grand Marnier Cent-cinquantenaire , all mixed with 23-karat gold flakes and liquid gold syrup. It's sipped through a golden straw studded with a 9-point diamond -- yours to keep.
In the price category of extreme cocktails, BOA's King Richard's Pride deserves some attention. The $1,000 libation consists of 2 ounces of Hennessy Richard, three-quarters of an ounce of Dom Perignon Rosé 1996, half an ounce of Chambord Liqueur Royale de France blended with the juice of half a lime, one orange slice and a splash of cranberry juice, all served in a keepsake Baccarat cocktail glass. Find it, fittingly, at the Forum Shops at Caesars.
MGM Mirage properties are drenched in extreme luxury cocktails, a phenomenon that took off when Steve Wynn opened the Bellagio in 1998 and hand-picked Tony Abou-Ganim to elevate the art of bartending to the echelons of star culinary performance, using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Abou-Ganim now frequently works on the beverage side with Mario Batali to create customized $100,000-a-plate lunches for captains of industry.
The "Vegas Mixologist's" favorite spot is the Petrossian Bar at Bellagio, where he can be found sipping a Side- car (Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, Marie Brizard's Orange Curaçao and lemon sour served straight up in cinnamon-sugar-frosted glass, $12).
MGM Mirage's Fleur de Lys at Mandalay Bay offers Liquid Gold by the ounce for $175: Grand Marnier Centenaire, Louis XIII Cognac, Krug Grand Cru Champagne, Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters and raw sugar garnished with 23-karat gold leafing and a burnt orange twist.
Or you can slum it on the price and go where size counts at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville at the Flamingo Hotel. Head to the sidewalk with the hordes, carrying your 20-ounce cash-and-carry glass of License to Chill, a heady blue-hued mixture of Margaritaville Gold Tequila, Bols Blue Curaçao and the cafe's secret margarita frozen or on the rocks in a long, thin plastic glass for $7.50.