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Cocktail contest: A drink to dance with LuckyRice’s bold cooking

The Asian food fest needs liquid refreshment that stands up to big flavors

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Vesper mixologist Roger Gross shakes it up as part of the Cosmopolitan’s LuckyRice cocktail competition. The winning drink will be served October 5 at the LuckyRice Night Market.
Photo: Bill Hughes

The mission is simple and yet daunting: Sample 14 drinks and select a cocktail to be served at the October 5 LuckyRice Night Market at Cosmopolitan. The Market is the centerpiece of the weekend-long Asian food fest and features local and visiting chefs serving modern flavors to crowds who wander the Boulevard Pool deck like sophisticated hunter-gatherers, sniffing out dishes like lobster with melon and celery from Top Chef’s Kristen Kish and coconut-pumpkin soup with duck salad from Stripsteak’s Gerald Chin. To stand up to such bold cuisine, the liquid offerings must be equally vibrant and wholly refreshing. So the Cosmopolitan tapped property mixologists Chris Hopkins and Mariena Mercer to create two of the evening’s three signature cocktails. The third? Well, we are here to find it.

It’s noon on a recent Saturday and I’m sitting at a table on the top floor of Chandelier Bar with Mercer and Cosmo Director of Beverage Scott Barthelmes, preparing to sample and judge cocktail contest entries from 14 resort staffers. The directions are simple: Use Bombay Sapphire to channel the spirit of LuckyRice in a cocktail that will complement the culinary offerings. We stack up grading sheets with categories like appearance, aroma, creativity and taste and settle in for three hours of drinking. The cocktails are mixed downstairs and arrive anonymously—tasty libations with names like Smuggling Spice, Phra Nang Water and No More Mr. Rice Guy.

As we sniff, sip and scribble, we also chat—about travel, past jobs, athletic loyalties and the origins of the resort’s unofficial signature drink. And, of course, the cocktails. Some look odd on paper but taste marvelous, flavors like cinnamon and lychee playing nicely in the proper proportions. Others read well but arrive slightly off—the gin’s herbal notes buried beneath other liquors, too much maraschino or simple syrup. We sample beverages with basil crystals, light foams and chile salt rims, and then, 14 drinks later, it’s time for the moment of reckoning.

Cool As A ... the winning drink in the LuckyRice cocktail contest.

Cool As A ... the winning drink in the LuckyRice cocktail contest.

When the final cocktail has been quaffed and the ratings tallied, the winning drink is a refreshing elixir called Cool As A … It’s made with Amaro Meletti, lime, 5 spice syrup, celery bitters, muddled cucumber and cucumber soda—a light, herbal libation that will wash down spicy curries and Szechuan noodles with a crisp finish. Vesper bar porter and apprentice mixologist Jackie Kline looks shocked as we read his name, but by the time the applause quiets Kline’s posing for pictures, cradling a giant bottle of Bombay in his arms and beaming. And me? I’ve had enough gin—at least until this weekend.

Cool As A …

Vesper's Jackie Kline took first place for his Bombay Sapphire drink using muddled cucumber, celery bitters and Amaro Meletti.

Vesper's Jackie Kline took first place for his Bombay Sapphire drink using muddled cucumber, celery bitters and Amaro Meletti.

Recipe:

1 ½ oz. Bombay Sapphire

¾ oz. Amaro Meletti

¾ oz. lime juice

¾ oz. 5 spice syrup

2 drops celery bitters

Cucumber, for muddling and garnish

Dry cucumber soda

Muddle cucumber. Add first five ingredients and shake. Double strain into a pint glass with crushed ice, and top with cucumber soda. Garnish with a cucumber wheel.

LuckyRice Night Market October 5, 7-10 p.m., $88-$125. Boulevard Pool, luckyrice.com.

Tags: Booze, Dining
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Sarah Feldberg is the editor of Las Vegas Weekly magazine. A veteran journalist, Feldberg previously worked as the Weekly's web ...

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