Amid all the excitement surrounding the soft opening of Fusion Mixology Bar on Palazzo’s casino floor in recent weeks, we nearly overlooked the more subtle arrival of Laguna Champagne Bar on November 14.
Located just a stone fruit’s throw from Fusion, the understated Laguna lounge sits pretty on the casino floor, fortuitously located at the crossroads between the valet/Lavo/front desk atrium, the casino floor and the Shoppes at The Palazzo. Formerly a simple mid-casino lounge, Laguna now offers a carefully edited list of Champagnes by the glass, half-bottle, and bottle as well as innovative and classic Champagne cocktails.
“I really wanted to take the bar and the lounge to another level,” Palazzo/Venetian Executive Director of Food and Beverage Sebastien Silvestri says. “To me, Champagne has always been one of the finest beverages of all time. I wanted to feature some of my favorites but also some of the people’s favorites.”
Among the five by-the-glass selections (available in 2- and 5-ounce pours), the three major Champagne grape varieties are represented: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, including the tony Dom Pérignon 2000 and Silvestri’s recommendation, a Blanc de Blancs by Ruinart. “I wanted to have a Blanc de Blancs by the glass,” Silvestri says of the Ruinart. “It’s beautiful, one of my favorites.”
Because of the high cost of making quality Champagne, price is often very indicative of quality. The most expensive bottle offered at Laguna is the Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 1998, which harkens from a small, specific plot of vineyard and can be yours for just $1,500. “If you go to Champagne and you see that parcel, it’s a really, really tiny parcel. What [Krug does] is so spectacular but the production is so little so the price goes through the roof.”
Also affecting Champagne’s price is the celeb factor. Former Palazzo tenant Jay Z, patron saint of Armand de Brignac’s Ace of Spaces has long championed that product, making it not so much a steal as a splurge at a respectable $550. What IS a steal is the Louis Roederer Cristal, available for just $600 per bottle.
“Champagne is my favorite. In the world of wine, Champagne is so spectacular. But also it’s fun to use it in mixology and do some Champagne cocktails.” A United States Bartenders Guild member who trained in London under celebrated bartender Salvatore Calabrese, Silvestri worked with his USBG colleagues Armando Rosario and Livio Lauro to develop Laguna’s mixological offerings. Classic cocktails include the Kir Royale and French 75; signature creations feature Minty Bubbles, which combines rum and Champagne, as well as Silvestri’s favorite, the Flower Eclipse, a blend of St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, fresh lemon and Moët Nectar.
But just the mention of new products like Nuvo French Liqueur can intimidate and cause guests to opt for a Coors Light. While by-the-glass programs and 2-ounce tastes makes Champagne just that much more bit more accessible to the public, Laguna’s “Boom Boom” shooters pushes the envelope even further. The ritual involves the intentional agitation of a shot glass of Champagne and liquor just prior to shooting it down. Anyone who’s ever shaken a bottle of Champs or banged a bottle of beer down too hard knows what happens next … “We’re all kind of purists in our industry. It’s something you would normally never do with Champagne but we said ‘why not?!’” Silvestri’s pick, La Poire, blends Absolut Pear vodka with pear coulis and Moët & Chandon Impérial (formerly White Star).
Silvestri is planning a December grand opening for Laguna, which is open 24/7, and features a harpist on Friday and Saturday, daily happy hour 5-7 p.m. and 10 p.m.-midnight, and a dedicated Dom Pérignon cart serving six varieties of Dom tableside, some by the glass, some by the bottle. Champagne is served in specific stemware: i.e. Dom gets a Dom glass. “I try to respect the integrity of the Champagne and serve it with the right glassware,” says Silvestri.
Though it’s been a big month for Palazzo, which has opened two new high-end watering holes, don’t expect to see any rivalry between the two new bars. “I think they’re two totally different bars for two totally different clienteles,” says Silvestri. Seeking high-energy? Try a Pisco Tango at Fusion. High elegance? Your “Boom Boom” Champagne Shooter is waiting for you at Laguna.