With the possible exception of Manhattan, there is no city we know in this world with a closer relationship with the Martini. From the Rat Pack origins of Vegas "hipness" through the turbulent 'sixties and trendy 'seventies, Las Vegas has always been at the forefront of the Jet Set's and Hollywood Elite's image. In many ways the Martini is a fundamental part of the image of the city, and in fact plays a major role in its legendary nightlife.
I've been visiting Las Vegas regularly since my early twenties. I can recall the days -- most of them the "last" days -- of The Sands, The Silverbird, The Dunes, The Hacienda and the original Aladdin. I remember when the MGM Grand occupied what we now call Bally's, and a place called The Marina formed what is now the "front" of the current MGM Grand. I have a history with the place, and have watched it grow from the first wave of casinos to today's modern leviathans which have turned sections of The Strip into a man-made canyon of flashing lights, brilliant colors and a much broader range of activities than were enjoyed by our predecessors.
But through it all The Martini reigned supreme as the bar and lounge icon of the city.
For the last few days I've been posting shots of rinks taken from a variety of the lounges, bars and restaurants at the major hotels, ranging from The Mandalay Bay on the south end, up through the SLS which now occupies what used to be The Sahara. I've sipped martinis at the vast majority of them, and in most it's at multiple venues. And for purely arbitrary reasons I have excluded the Rio and The Palms, though both feature terrific places to sit and sip, as well as competent versions of a Martini.
Finalists included excellent drinks served up by The Tropicana, Paris, Cosmopolitan, Planet Hollywood, The Venetian and Palazzo, Wynn, Mandalay Bay and others. The research was conducted over the last year so as not to severely disable your hardworking reporter.
And, for random reasons, I only including vodka or gin martinis.
None of the flavored or fancy drinks allowed.
All this noted, this year's prize for
Bobby Flay's restaurant served up a delightfully cool and smooth martini with speed and a gentle touch. Served properly, with the drink brought to the table in a small shaker and poured gently into the glass, with a light bit of vermouth and exactly %% olives.
Having had martinis at Flay's CAFE AMERICAIN and (the now defunct) MESA Grill in New York, I had a feeling this would go well, and it did.
Now, while MESA served up the best drink, it's a restaurant. The city was designed for people-watching and music listening. So, for our second award
The "outside" lounge at the Petrossian sits just opposite the Bellagio's main desk, which affords it a spectacular view of the massive Chilhuly Glass ceiling adorning the lobby. A piano sits in the center of the carpeted patio, and the pianist plays a well-done selection of classical music, jazz standards, and gentle riffs on more popular music. The service is prompt but not intrusive, and guests are invited to simply sit and enjoy their drinks. Yes, it's a little pricey, but heck, it's the Bellagio.
Congratulations to both winners, and a strong endorsement by The Thumbnail Traveler may certainly be implied.
Have a great weekend.