If you wandered into the bar at Carnevinothis Friday night, you would have noticed a special electricity in the air. Miki, Coop and Lucas all working the bar together. Talk about a Dream Team! This is the way you want to begin a trip to Vegas. Perched at a slick marble bar, wrapped in a cocoon of dark wood and candle light, get comfortable, and prepare yourself to be impressed and awed – these guys know how to tend bar. Lucas Swallows, Mixologist Extraordinaire, was the first gentleman to set us up. The highball glass to the left had what he called an “El Diablo”. I believe it contained a base of Mezcal, white tequila and ginger beer. The creme de casis rounded out the smokiness of the spirits and gave it that gorgeous color.
In the center wine glass, Lucas composed his version of a “Chartreuse Swizzle”. He blends both Green and Yellow Chartreuse, Velvet Falernum (what?), and some ingenious combination of fruit juices and bitters. The result was smooth, intoxicatingly aromatic, and super fresh. This was one of those cocktails that you truly have to sip to enjoy. It was so layered and complex I didn’t understand it at first- the anise flavors and the cooking spices all kind of gradually revealed themselves.
The martini glass to the far right had Lucas’ “Smoke and Mirrors”. This is a cocktail to seduce any smokey, peaty, scotch lover. The beverage was based on silver tequila (although I barely noticed this under the fog of caramelized smoke rolling off the glass). There was also some acidity from lemon (I am guessing here), and Lucas admitted to using an elderflowercomponent as well (St. Germain?). The result was truly more than you’d think the sum of its parts could be- a sweet, fruity smoke from the addition of scotch, plus the delicate aromatics of fresh white flowers. All this, and a silky mouthfeel that also managed to be chewy and substantial at the same time. This was truly interesting- mixology at its best.
Later, Miki made us his “Port of Collins”– this pretty highball was a blend of Port wine, Benedictine Liqueur, white sweet vermouth and gin. I would compare it to a very classy, much more interesting version of the Long Island Iced Tea. The Benedictine really livens things up and adds a grippy, herbal edge, while Miki balanced the whole thing with fresh lemon and a touch of simple syrup. Lovely!
At some point Lucas also crafted a Caipirinha “Con Gusto” (you have to LOVE the man’s ability to Italian-ify anything). A play off of the aromatics within a traditional Caipirihna, Lucas used my favorite Cachaca, Leblon, and then layered Nocino and Amaretto to create one of the most nutty, savory, toasty beverages ever. This cocktail smells like warm brown sugar, and tastes like a tropical vacation.
Emil’s favorite of the night (and something I am sure he is already trying to re-create at home), was Coop’s “Shepard”. This beverage is named for one of Carnevino’s favorite customers (you know who you are!) The Shepard is a simple and refreshing mix of Hendrick’s Gin, fresh lemon, cucumber water and a touch of St. Germain. I love the idea that Coop took all the aromatic elements people love about Hendrick’s (cucumber, roses, lemon peel) and amplified them by using similar components within the cocktail. Complimentary, simple, and we might be able to make it at home…
All in all, a legendary night with the crew at Carnevino. Grazie Mille!