Margaritas are the unofficial drink of summer, especially in Las Vegas where you can get your souvenir three-foot cup filled up nearly 150 yards.
Las Vegas Strip resorts have filled their casino bars and pools with a number of staple drinks like the mojito, but summer gives those same watering holes a chance to get creative with the drink menu.
The Chandelier Bar inside the Cosmopolitan is known for its unique flavors no matter the time of year. Perhaps it helps that the bar has a dedicated beverage kitchen to help whip up some of these flavors but it’s most likely that the bar’s general manager and property mixologist, Mariena Mercer, is one of the biggest foodies you’ll find behind a bar.
“One of the big things is I’m a foodie so I read a lot of food blogs and I read a lot of cookbooks so I design cocktails after things that I like,” Mercer said. “I’m really big into Vietnamese and Thai food so I use a lot of flavors inspired by that. I add a lot of coconut milk, a lot of Chinese five spice. I like to couple the sweet, savory, salty balances together that I think is really present in Thai food. So a lot of them are really influenced by cuisine.”
Chandelier is known for its unique drinks, such as the Lemon Verbena. The drink won’t be found on any cocktail menus, though, because it’s a secret drink. You can find it on the 1.5 level of Chandelier and will be taken by surprise when presented by a Szechuan button before you take your first sip, which will increase your salivary glands and your sense of taste.
“It’s lemon verbena, which is this sweet herb lemon flavor, the way it perfumes your nose it’s just the most amazing,” Mercer said. “It’s my favorite herb, hands down. And it’s a margarita, essentially.”
But for those watching their figures, you won’t find calorie count taken into consideration here.
“All my cocktails, my focus is just making a great cocktail with great flavors and having a cocktail or a meal to me is just an indulgent time,” Mercer said.
If you’re steadily avoiding buffets and high-calories beverages, MGM properties have banked their entire summer cocktail program on the calorie conscious.
“Our real focus this year was to put some sort of twist on our program that would make it stand out that would make it more attractive to our guests and ultimately successful,” said Jeffery Metcalf, general manager of food and beverage at MGM. “One of the spirits vendors that I really enjoyed working with was TY KU, a soy-based, low-calorie product.
“We wanted to build one cocktail that maybe had a light theme and incorporate TY KU into it and came up with a Berry Skinny and that’s where this whole thing began. Obviously being under 100 calories we thought that would be something that would be very attractive. After we came up with one, we started tinkering around with other products to theme our whole program for the summer as a skinny-cocktail program.”
Both Mercer and Metcalf agreed that summer cocktails should have a familiar taste. Mercer’s cocktails are more based off of her experiences but Chandelier has something called “the hot 15,” which are classic cocktails made with fresh, bold flavors. At MGM, Metcalf took familiar drinks like the sugary mojito and gave it a low-calorie twist by substituting rum with Ciroc coconut vodka. The change doesn’t affect the flavor profile, but it lowers the calories to fit in with MGM’s summer menu.
“Although we wanted it to be unique and stand out we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Metcalf said. “I don’t want things on my menu that aren’t going to be attractive to our guests and aren’t going to sell. It’s a matter of taking some of those things that you know are going to move and tweaking them and giving them a unique twist.”
Whether you’re looking to indulge or watching your waistline, both Chandelier and MGM have something you’ll enjoy. Here’s a look at a few of the drinks available at both:
Made with simply syrup, Yuzu Sour, house-made curry spice, mango puree and Gran Centenario Reposado and garnished with a chili-rubbed mango.
Ingredients include fresh lime, mint leaves, house-made coconut cream, Crème De Cacao, Velvet Falernum and Bacardi Solera and garnished with a mint sprig.
Made with simple syrup, watermelon juice, fresh lime juice, Cointreau, Gran Centernario Plata and coconut ginger foam and garnished with coconut flakes.
Combines TY KU Citrus Liqueur and Ciroc Red Berry with sugar-free syrup.
Made with Ciroc Coconut, simple syrup and muddled mint leaves.
A low-calorie twist on an Arnold Palmer with Seagram’s Sweet Tea Vodka and a light lemonade.