When you enter the Cromwell from the rear porte cochere, one of your first views is a slice of Bound, the lobby-side cocktail bar by Salvatore Calabrese. Through a narrow entryway you catch a glimpse of black and gold, lights draped in fringed fabric, a round central bar, seating nooks for gossiping with friends over negronis. You can’t tell by looking, but Bound is also something new for Las Vegas: the city’s first celebrity mixologist cocktail bar.
While famous chefs have long populated the Boulevard, the bartenders behind the Strip’s most decadent drink spots have remained largely anonymous—no name splashed in lights, no personality branding. Few customers even know who’s responsible for the concoction they’re sipping out of a hi-ball or rocks glass.
That ends now.
Calabrese might not be a household name among the tourist crowd, but he’s long been known as one of the world’s great drink makers. He goes by the nickname “The Maestro,” and has served the likes of Stevie Wonder, Robert De Niro, Bill Clinton and the Royal Family in his homebase of London.
“At one point I was known as the royal bartender,” he laughs. “Her Majesty is a martini lady.”
When Calabrese signed on with Caesars Entertainment for this intimate, golden space just two months before the Cromwell opened, he says he started to think about what Vegas does. “Vegas never sleeps. Truly never sleeps. People start thinking about how do I stay awake. Red Bull, vodka Red Bull, coffee. What’s a better way to give them a little bit of oomph?”
He landed on a line of espresso-infused cocktails—not espresso martinis per se, but “sophisticated and elegant” drinks that use Champagne, beer, vermouth or even Red Bull in place of water to brew Lavazza coffee with various spices. The resulting infusions are used in cocktails like the Negroni Svegliato ($16), espresso-flavored Martini Gran Lusso with Tanqueray No. 10 and Campari, or the Keep Me Awake Bro ($16), which uses Peroni beer in the espresso, then adds Botran Solera Rum, Galliano liqueur, honey syrup and spices.
The rest of the menu is dedicated to Salvatore’s Signatures (all $16), like the orange marmalade-tinged Breakfast Martini; Champagne Cocktails, including the $60 Big Spender, made with Gran Patrón Platinum, Cointreau, agave nectar, cranberry juice and Dom Perignon Vintage; Timeless Classics, and Classic Revivals, twists on names you know created by Calabrese’s London team, like a barrel-aged Blood ’n’ Sand ($16) or a carbonated, bottled Corpse Reviver ($16) to be opened tableside.
“The dream of the bartender is to immortalize yourself in a great drink, and in 100 years time somebody is talking about you,” Calabrese says in an accent that skips between British and Italian. “I hope I’ve done that with my Breakfast Martini.”
The Maestro leans in as he talks about his vintage cognac collection, the concept of “liquid history” and creating what was the world’s most expensive cocktail with ingredients that lent it 733 years of history you could taste.
“The bar is by far the most beautiful theater in the world,” he says. Now Vegas has a true maestro onstage.
Bound by Salvatore Calabrese Daily, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. The Cromwell, 702-777-3777.