Las Vegas is my favorite vacation destination. It's an easy jaunt, and I know I'll have a great time, no matter my budget. When I head up there, I spend an awful lot of time at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The atmosphere there is different from the blasé mass appeal of MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertanment properties. Hip music pulses through the place, casino dealers can show some personality without getting fired, and there's great contemporary art everywhere you look.
The star of the show to me is the food and beverage program, especially the beverages. On previous visits, I fell in love with ethereal vintage cocktails from Vesper, and wildly inventive mixology hiding in plain sight on the one-and-a-half floor of The Chandelier. For my most recent Vegas trip, I decided to check out the offerings at Book & Stage. By day, it's a laid-back sports bar (helmed most days by Jenny, one of my favorite bartenders in all the land); by night, it's a venue for free concerts that rock the casino.
I sampled a few of Book & Stage's offerings, but the one that caught my attention was the Stunning Man. It's the most labor-intensive cocktail I've seen. The damn thing makes mojitos look simple by comparison. You have to muddle blackberries, shake the drink extra-hard due to the inclusion of egg white, double-strain the drink to remove the muddled blackberry bits, and more. Suffice it to say, the drink is an absolute pain in the ass to make. It takes a full five minutes to make it right, but it's worth every second.
I had fun tinkering with the ingredient list from the menu to see if I could do an exact reproduction at work, but the nice folks at The Cosmopolitan were kind enough to share the recipe. Think of this as a vacation souvenir for you that you'll enjoy a hell of a lot more than those giant Mardi Gras beads. Try a Stunning Man this weekend, it's truly worth all the work. Or, if you're more in the mood to let someone else do the hard part, the Book & Stage folks will be happy to make one for you.
One hot tip before you go: If you play video poker, play on the bar-top machines at Book & Stage, and you'll be pleased to find that the house picks up your bar tab. Just remember: Play max coins (if you play video poker, you already knew that, but that's a whole other column), and the complimentary bar tab is a side benefit of playing, not the primary reason for playing.
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SHOW ME HOW
Stunning Man IKEA is the easiest source for elderflower syrup. Averna is an Italian digestif; if you can't find it, Jägermeister or a very small dash of Fernet Branca should be okay (if not very convincing) stunt doubles.
8 blackberries 1 oz lemon juice 1 oz elderflower syrup ¼ oz egg white 1 ½ oz Wild Turkey 101-proof whiskey ½ oz Averna Ginger beer
In a mixing glass, muddle blackberries, lemon juice, and elderflower syrup. Add all remaining ingredients except ginger beer, and shake very hard with ice cubes for 20 seconds. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a tall glass half-full of ice. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with a long thin strip of lemon zest curled around two speared blackberries.