Which Jay Z-inspired cocktail will you choose at Rao’s?

Rao’s Jay Z-inspired cocktails include 99 Problems and the State of Mind.
Photo: L.E. Baskow
Sabrina Chapman

Temperatures are dropping; clearly, it’s time to start thinking about brown spirits. The new fall menu at Rao’s at Caesars Palace includes two cocktails with two very different approaches to the seasonal transition. And if their titles—99 Problems and State of Mind (both $15)—remind you of Jay Z, that’s not a coincidence. The Brooklyn-born rapper and the restaurant institution have a long history, which includes Jay Z filming his “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” video at the original location in East Harlem.

As for the cocktails themselves, they’re seasoned to reflect the rapper and his rise. 99 Problems keeps it real with intense orange and a bit of woeful burn and spice. State of Mind (which drops the “Empire” from the song title) is as blissfully sophisticated as the orchestral NYC homage that inspired it, with layers of elderberry and cedar.

99 Problems


1 ½ oz. Wild Turkey Rye

¾ oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao

¾ oz. lime juice

½ oz. orgeat syrup

½ oz. pineapple juice

mint sprig (garnish)

Method: Add ingredients to shaker, then ice. k Shake and strain into ice-filled glass. k Garnish with mint sprig.

State of Mind


1 ½ oz. D’Usse VSOP Cognac

¾ oz. St-Germain

¼ oz. fresh lemon juice

ginger beer

Mr. Q. Cumber cucumber soda

cucumber (garnish)

Method: Add first three ingredients to shaker, then ice. k Shake and strain into ice-filled glass. k Top with equal parts ginger beer and cucumber soda. k Garnish with cucumber wheel.

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