Unless you’re really looking for it, it would be very easy to miss Scarlet, the tiny new cocktail bar at the Palms. It’s just outside the entrance to N9NE Steakhouse, which has always been a little hidden. There’s so much going on at the Palms these days—a casino facelift, a new central bar, Social, opening soon, and ONE Group restaurants Heraea and Xishi under construction—that it might be hard to keep track of developments.
But the closet-sized Scarlet is worth a look. Decked out in sultry shades of red, there are only six seats at the bar, and behind it, shelves of fresh ingredients and containers of booze in different stages of the infusion process. Opening at 5 p.m. nightly, Scarlet is a fun spot to begin your night, or later, to wrap it up. But it’ll likely be packed during dinner hours, when N9NE diners wander in while waiting for a table.
While mixing up a sampling of signature cocktails, 9Group’s executive general manager of restaurants Yassine Lyoubi says Scarlet has been a successful secret since opening in December. The hand-crafted cocktail menu was created by master mixologist and Southern Wine and Spirits educator Francesco Lafranconi. Among the most popular drinks are Far & Away, the slightly Asian-flavored Bombay Sapphire East with Aperol, calamansi puree, and fresh lime juice, and the Scarlet G&T, more of that gin plus Fever Tree tonic, star anise, cardamom and citrus. My favorite is Rock ‘N Rye, a twist an Old Fashioned, with Bulleit rye, roasted pecans and oranges and a bit of rock candy for a subtle sweetness. The experience of watching a bartender create these multi-ingredient concoctions makes a little more sense in these tight environs; Scarlet is your own private bar.
The infusions, which will change with the seasons, are quite delicious. I sampled two tequilas, cranberry and banana bread, that were so smooth and flavorful, they could have been martini-style additions to the cocktail menu all by themselves. Scarlet serves up some fun shots, too, like the Close Tight, a cinnamon-warm vodka creation served with Pop Rocks, and the Foreplay, a creamy vanilla shot served in an edible chocolate container with marshmallows for toasting on the side.
Time will tell how all the new stuff will re-shape the Palms experience, but Scarlet is a step in a fun direction.