While Las Vegas is known for its palatial hotels and casinos, it has another side — a more hipster, grungier alter-ego where the locals and those in the know gather out of sight to indulge their tastebuds. With Expedia Vegas Insider Xania Woodman as our guide, we took a tour of the gambling capital's lesser known watering holes.
The Lady Silvia
This downtown cocktail lounge takes its definition as a speakeasy very seriously – as in you haven't got a hope of finding it unless you know exactly where it is. But once you get through the nondescript doors on the otherwise deserted street, you're taken into an Alice in Wonderland world of strangeness. Inspired by Prague's Strahov Monastery Library, the whole room has a chessboard floor, immense bookcases with volumes artfully tumbling out and renaissance furniture that makes you feel like you're in a Stanley Kubrick film. The bar falls in an area between the entertainment and arts districts and is a favourite with hip lawyers, according to Xania. We sampled the house speciality Cherry Collins, a take on the Tom Collins but Grey Goose Cherry Noir Vodka for a round fruity flavour. Best at the weekend as it can be quiet in the week.
900 Las Vegas Boulevard
Herbs & Rye
Continuing the Kubrick theme is a roadside bar called Herbs & Rye, west of the strip. Walking in, you're greeted by bartenders decked out in full Clockwork Orange style bowler hats and black and white outfits. This, coupled with them battering ice in sacks into submission with mallets, could give the bar a threatening atmosphere, but it's anything but. The bartenders are consummately friendly and knowledgeable and guided us through a cocktail menu that our guide Xania describes as "by the book". She says: "They go for authentic, original ingredients wherever they can. It's the kind of place you'll find chefs eating as it's open till 3am and you can get great steak later than most places."
3713 West Sahara Avenue
Related: An insider's guide to Vegas restaurants
Downtown Cocktail Room
Another out of the way cocktail lounge than isn't afraid to hide away is the Downtown Cocktail Room — even when you've spotted the sign, you have to figure out that the entrance is the plain-looking metal door. A short walk from the old Vegas entertainment area, it has one of the more discerning menus. The bartenders prepare concoctions for each other and judge them on merit before they make it onto the menu. It's unpretentious and they have taken a modern slant on some classic cocktails such as the pisco sour.
111 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Frankie's Tiki Room
A definite highlight is Frankie's Tiki Room, a South Seas themed cocktail bar frequented by bikies, punk rockers and rockabilly types. Smoke pours from the mouths of Hawaiian tiki masks while bamboo and exotica cover the walls in true kitsch style. There's no joking with the drinks though. The menu grades drink strength with a scale of one to five skulls. The Zombie, as the name might suggest, is a five skuller. And at $9 a cocktail, you can't go wrong. To give you more of an idea, the other bar owned by the same people, the Double Down Saloon, has a "puke tax", where patrons can avoid having to clean up their own sick (which is the rule) by paying a $20 insurance against the eventuality. Sounds delightful doesn't it?
1712 West Charleston Boulevard
Chandelier Bar — 1.5
Chandelier Bar is a three level bar in the Cosmopolitan adjacent to the Marquee Club. A favourite with clubbers and tourists, the hard-to-find mezzanine level is where you'll see locals and clued-up out of towners. Level 1.5, the Vegas equivalent to Harry Potter's platform 9 3/4, is a glamorously decked out lounge bar with spiral staircases. For those looking for something more adventurous than the standard issue champagne is an awe-inspiring molecular cocktail menu. The chemistry-loving bar staff concoct a dizzying array of drinks that would look more at home in a lab. The pick of the bunch was the Fire Breathing Dragon (Bacardi DragonBerry, raspberry puree, lemongrass and Thai chilli syrups). With the addition of a glass of raspberries treated with liquid nitrogen, it produces a dry ice effect with smoke billowing out of the glass like a school science experiment. Even more impressive was the Verbena, a tequila concoction with Yuzu sour, ginger syrup and lemon verbena leaves. It comes with an edible flower called the Szechuan button which you chew before drinking. The liquid reacts to the flower to create an intense fizzing sensation that lasts for a full five minutes. Needs to be tasted to be believed!
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South
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