A Weekly exclusive: first look at Rhumbar

Rhumbar is the second hospitality and nightlife venture for Drive This! Entertainment, following T&T, the tacos and tequila mecca that opened at Luxor last summer.

If you've ever wondered what a bar would look like if it were modeled after a mojito, hold on to your barstools, Vegas—you're about to find out. On a mere 2,000 square-foot slip of real estate originally housing the gift shop for Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden, Rhumbar arrives softly—and without plans for a grand opening—March 2 at the earliest.

Guests arriving at the Mirage by way of the stairwell and walkway extending upward from the Strip will cruise first past the Rhumbar patio, with its casual deck-y furniture and twin lamp light features (8-feet in diameter; the lampshade doesn't even begin until 7-feet up) before entering the building to discover Rhumbar proper and the modern, whimsical work of Alvarez + Brock Design.

Behind a glass wall, an orderly span of scrolling white, iron latticework represents freshly-picked mint leaves. This "mint wall" is flanked by a drinks rail and runs directly opposite the white marble bar whose delicate green glow emanates from beneath. Over a sea of more white marble (like so much sugar or light rum), white barstools sport the thinnest stripes of green. Behind the bar, more marble and industrial metals set off the 40 featured rums in their various colorful bottles.

Leach Blog Photo

Rhumbar at The Mirage.

That's where charming ends and fanciful begins. Overhead and behind the bar, nine glass boxes house chrome, featherless fighting cocks. Frozen in time, talons bared, these stylized residents are also featured in silhouette on the decorated underside of the outdoor lamps. These so-called "cock boxes," I suppose, represent this modern mojito's ice. "I don't think you're gonna see another space like this in Vegas," says industry veteran Craig Gilbert who co-owns Rhumbar (as well as T&T Tacos and Tequila at the Luxor) with his Drive This! Entertainment partner Michael Frey.

If there's two things Frey knows its rum and cigars. The owner of FreyBoy Tobacco and Casa Fuente Cigars at Caesars and co-owner of Montecristo Rum, Frey has made sure to set into a slate alcove a massive cigar case/humidor for his 40 finest cigar brands. While both of Frey's products will be featured under Rhumbar's high, pitches ceiling (he co-owns FreyBoy Tobacco and Montecristo Rum), Gilbert says they have not build here an homage to Montecristo but a showcase to all fine rum, going so far as to employ the French spelling of rum, subtly indicative to aficionados as the French-speaking rum-making countries are reputedly responsible for the best rum agricole (artisanal rum made from freshly pressed sugarcane juice as opposed to rum industrial, made from molasses).

From 10 a.m. daily, Rhumbar aims to be the ideal spot for a cigar and espresso with your morning paper, shaded by palms, and looking out on either the city or on the Mirage's tangled jungle lagoon. In afternoon, refreshing drinks and even a walk-up daiquiri bar will refresh weary travelers. At night, high energy music takes over via a top of the line sound system, major sports events play on sizeable twin flat screen TVs and the patio affords a straight view to the newly renovated, iconic Mirage volcano.

Rhumba's Samba Swizzle (with candied ginger garnish).

Behind the bar, Vegas' own BarMagic, a union of beverage consultants Tobin Ellis and John Hogan, is pulling together the 12 cocktail list, which includes a Latin Manhattan, 1944 Mai Tai, Samba Swizzle (pictured) and a take on the Chilean drink, Monkey's Tail. "I think we have a pretty intelligent placement of some sophisticated rums," says Ellis who for the 1944 Mai Tai substituted (out of necessity) the 17 year-old J. Wray & Nephew rum, (no longer produced; there is only a drop left and that is in Ireland), with Appleton V/X, also produced by J. Wray & Nephew distillery. "It's not about being ultra-purist," explains Ellis. "It's important to show your respect to the original bartenders and the classics as much as can be done but every classic goes through evolution … We took a little bit of liberty to make them fit the Rhumbar lounge concept."

Staff will of course be well-versed in rum and cigars but also at handcrafting innovative or classic cocktails with market fresh ingredients and organic sweeteners. Now a staunch supporter of the mixology movement, Gilbert was once instrumental in bringing about Vegas' flair bartending craze when he brought the legendary Ken Hall and friends from Florida to Sin City to populate Voodoo Lounge at the Rio, where Gilbert was the vice president of food and beverage. Of Rhumbar's prim, white marble bar area Gilbert says, "This is the palette for the bartenders to become the artists they are."


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