Card Table Cocktail

Card Table Cocktail
Where it can be found:
N9NE at Palms
Created by: Jack “Sugar” O’Brien
• 1.5 oz. Fig and all-spice infused Ketel One
• 0.75 oz. Cherry Heering Liqueur
• 3 oz. Apple cider
• 0.5 oz. Brown sugar simple syrup
• 0.5 oz. Pomegranate molasses
• 4 dashes Orange bitters
• Squeeze fresh lemon
Method: Shake all ingredients over ice and pour into a tall glass. Garnish with three Luxardo Cherries and a twist.

When the holiday season rolls around each year, there is a flurry of people looking to bring out their inner-Martha Stewart-Rachael Ray-and-Paula Deen rolled into one. They play a game of one-upmanship as each tries to out-cook, out-decorate and out-host the others on their block or in their office.

And while the most attentive holiday hosts pay close attention to a menu chock full of items like prosciutto-wrapped dates, perfectly-whipped mashed potatoes and pecan pie with a vanilla-wafer crust, all of that hard work can unravel quickly when guests see a selection of drinks that looks as if it was pulled from your college dorm room.

Quite simply, the holidays are not the time to rely on your trusty Crown Royal and Coke recipe. Holiday cocktails are your time to shine beyond the traditional fixings of a seasonal menu. Cocktails give you a chance to wow guests with your intimate knowledge of all things alcoholic, while taking cues from holiday flavors.

Now, you may be asking, “What does this all have to do with Vegas?”  In a city full of people who do nothing but entertain thousands of people daily, mixologists are to the holiday cocktail what Paula Deen is to Southern cooking.

While most of these mixologists work at different properties and had their own drink ideas, all said the same thing when crafting a holiday cocktail: Step outside the box.

“When you’re having a party you always want to cook something crazy,” said Dave Herlong, creative mixologist for N9NE Group at the Palms. “You’re never going to cook what you cook at a party during a regular day after work, you’re going to go all out. So why not do that with the cocktails?

“People go to the normal corner bar every night and have a Jack and Coke. Why not make something fun and a little crazy? You might spend a little extra time, but it’s really going to create that wow factor.”

Another key to holiday cocktails is that you want the drinks to embrace the holiday season. That means flavors that scream festive such as, pomegranate, pumpkin and apple.

“When I was a kid, I used to like apple cider and it always came around this time of the year – October, November, December – so I wanted to make something that was similar to that,” said James Colagrande, a mixologist at Fusion inside the Palazzo when discussing his Lights-Out Apple Cider.

No doubt, most hosts put a lot of effort into their meal planning and don’t want to be bogged down by a tedious alcoholic beverage. That is why a proper plan is essential. With some planning you can pre-make several drinks or, at the very least, the garnishes that provide the eye candy to your creations.

Items like punches are always popular at parties because it usually requires only one preparation. But you can make items like champagne cocktails by adding all the ingredients ahead of time and waiting until the last moment to top it off with the champagne itself so the drinks don’t become flat.

Garnishes can be as simple as adding a swirling orange peel or even some cloves.

“If you’re going to do drinks, batch it out as much as you can,” said Jack “Sugar” O’Brien, a bartender for N9NE Group.

Mixologists are sticklers for using fresh ingredients, which for the everyday person means extra work. But, according to Patricia Richards, mixologist at Wynn/Encore who oversees the cocktail lists for both properties, the effect on the cocktail is well worth it.

“I always work parties at people’s houses and they bring in these jugs (of pre-made mixers) and I’m like, ‘I’ll buy the mixers from now on,’” Richards said. “Because they always buy the biggest and the cheapest and it has an adverse effect on your cocktails. (If) you want that bright, beautiful acidity and those beautiful flavors, you want to go as natural as possible.”

As important as it is to impress during the holidays, the mixologists interviewed in this story said it was equally important to provide guests with some bar staples. That includes whiskey, gin, wine, beer, basically the same items you would be drinking if you weren’t trying to show off in front of your friends.

And as any good bartender would remind you, don’t forget to keep an eye out for your intoxicated friends.

“It’s about serving responsibly and having designated drivers,” Richards said.

To make your holiday cocktail search easier, several of the always-friendly Vegas mixologists shared some of the recipes they will feature at their respective properties.

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