Strange Bedfellows: Incredible spirit collections in unexpected placesEdit Post
Contributed by on Aug 17, 2016
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There’s beauty in contrast. Nowhere is this more evident than at Carbone (in Aria, 877-230-2742, Aria.com/Carbone), where, following a sumptuous meal, your captain, sommelier or a manager will wheel over a special guest: the rum cart. As to why a red-sauce Italian-American joint would offer such a service, Aria director of spirits, wine and beer Craig Schoettler explains, “Because that’s what Chef Mario likes.” Mario Carbone’s spirit of choice (itself inspired by a lifelong passion for cigars), rum in its many forms factors heavily into the after-dinner drink program at Carbone’s original location in Lower Manhattan. In keeping with Carbone’s captain service, the rum cart notion journeyed west along with the chef’s namesake restaurant.
“Rum hasn’t taken off yet,” Schoettler says. “It has this persona of being a very sweet product—it’s in fruity drinks, geeky drink—but a number of high-quality rums are on the drier side … things you’d want to sip on after dinner.” Elsewhere on property, the pocket collections are a little more in tune with their surroundings. Across the way at Bardot, you’ll find Cognac; at Jean–Georges Steakhouse, it’s whiskey; and downstairs at Javier’s, you’ll enjoy tequila, mezcal and other agave-based spirits. As the sole outlier, Carbone’s rum cart presents multiple opportunities for conversation.
When the cart comes your way, Schoettler suggests directing your attention to the El Dorado rums from Guyana. Carbone offers the 21- and 25-year-olds, as well as the 30-year-old, which is one of only a handful of bottles available in the U.S., “all incredibly affordable for what they offer,” Schoettler adds. Also look for the limited-edition Appleton Estate 50 Year Independence Reserve.
Rums such as those by Rhum Clément strike up an additional conversation. “Agricole rum isn’t something that everyone is used to, especially the general public, the American palate,” Schoettler says. “It tends to be a little funkier, richer and more vegetal because it comes from fresh sugarcane juice. It’s not the byproduct of sugar making like molasses is. The Rhum Clément line does a beautiful job of expressing that.” But don’t think you need to drop a bundle to partake in Chef Mario’s after-dinner tradition. “Rum by definition shouldn’t be expensive, unless its been sitting somewhere for a long period of time.”
There are more labels available than what you see on the cart, so if you don’t see something you like, just ask your captain for the complete rum-down. Says Schoettler, “If we could fit 90 rums on the cart we would!”
Agave Spirits at Cut
Another cart! At Cut by Wolfgang Puck (in the Palazzo, 702-607-6300, Venetian.com), Manhattans are prepared tableside with a twist as agave-based spirits—Fortaleza Blanco Tequila, Chamucos Reposado Tequila, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal and Patrón Platinum Tequila—are used in place of whiskey, along with Dolin Sweet Vermouth, house-made orange simple syrup and Angostura Orange Bitters and stirred over hand-chipped ice ($20-$55).
Mezcal at Hakkasan
With 32 unique mezcals, Hakkasan (in MGM Grand, 702-891-7888, Hakkasan.com/LasVegas) is not going for the largest collection in city (that would be found at Taco Y Taco, with more than 75 labels). The goal is for each expression to serve a purpose. “Mezcal is a very versatile spirit that can be molded in a lot of different directions,” says Constantin Alexander, Hakkasan Restaurants USA’s director of beverage. “Cantonese cuisine is strong and flavorful; mezcals have their own strong components, and you can come up with some magical pairings.” Hakkasan’s collection includes un-aged expressions, pechuga and aged. On the cocktail menu, look for the Bird’s Eye Margarita, made with bird’s eye chili-infused El Silencio Mezcal Espadin ($15).
Gin at Jaleo
Unless you’ve been to Spain, you might not be aware of the Spanish obsession with gin, specifically with gin and tonics. At Jaleo (in the Cosmopolitan, 702-698-7000, Jaleo.com), you’ll find a rotation of 10 American and English gins, as well as four takes on the classic G&T. “The Spanish have taken the gin and tonic to a high art form, and are driving the rest of the gin scene in Europe right now,” Golden Moon proprietor and distiller Stephen Gould says. Gould is the only American distiller ever to be named a Warden of the Gin Guild in London. Thanks to Spain’s gin thirst, Gould’s Colorado-made gin makes its way from Italy into Spain. At Jaleo, you’ll find all four G&Ts are served Spanish style—that is in a large wine glass with an ice sphere and lavishly garnished with fresh botanicals such as coriander, grapefruit and lemon peels along with the Oxley Gin and Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water in the Citrico ($20).
Rum at Delmonico
Delmonico Steakhouse (in the Venetian, 702-414-3737, Venetian.com) is famous for its whiskey program, which boasts more than 750 labels. But lead mixologist Juyoung Kang inherited a budding rum list and, happily, she ran with it. The now 15 expressions include vintage rums from two “ghost distilleries,” Long Pond in Jamaica and Bellevue distillery in Guadeloupe. “Whiskey is getting increasingly expensive and is either hard to obtain or broad and generic,” Kang says. “Rum becomes a category for people who don’t particularly like aged grain spirits; it’s also easier to get into because its sweeter on the palate. I love working with rum; it’s so diverse and [in rum cocktails] you don’t have to use as much sugar to bring in flavor.” There will be more rum on Kang’s next menu, set to drop after Labor Day, but for now, look for the Last Chapter, made with Atlantico Reserva Rum, lime juice, clove and ginger syrup and grapefruit bitters ($16).
Make it a boilermaker! In addition to the killer beer program at Atomic Liquors, look to Jeffrey Bennington Grindley’s budding whiskey program, which has been creeping steadily skyward and numbers 133 labels. ✪ On the flip side, recalibrate your cocktail palate by trying the ever-changing beer menu at Downtown’s Velveteen Rabbit. ✪ For reasons similar to the gin explosion in Spain, you’ll find a pocket collection of 18 labels at Estiatorio Milos, including three St. George expressions, four from Tanqueray and Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength.