[Bar Exam]

Aria’s Alibi proves a worthy candidate in the new Vegas lounge hunt

Alibi at Aria.

I wanna lounge. Drinking on the Strip these days, there’s no middle. It’s a bland casino bar or a pub styled to mimic your neighborhood tavern—which makes no sense, because we have plenty of those in our neighborhoods—or else it’s a fancy restaurant or nightclub where it’s a 50-50 shot your drink will be worth its price tag. Give me the middle: a real lounge with real drinks, solid service, maybe even a little music. I don’t want a jump-off. I want a destination. You know, lounge as a verb.

The golden corner sofas are the spot at Aria's Alibi lounge.

Alibi feels like it could be something. When the Aria resort first opened, this space was one of those bland casino bars, a spot for men to hide and catch the scores and a beer. It emerged from a complete overhaul this time last year—just in time to switch operators from Light Group to Hakkasan—as a stunning but subtle vision in chocolate, caramel and emerald. Pale vases in the corners are stuffed with neon-pink orchids. Plant it at pub-height tables with green, plush high chairs or on stubby padded stools around small circles of table and cushy couches. The golden corner sofas are the spot. Lounge. Verb.

When we enter, there’s a bald guy wearing jeans and a blazer, vaping. The staff is all female in all black, and every seat at the bar has a video poker machine. I question which of these things should be here, but it all gets comfortable real fast. Perusing the fully legit menu, we’re easily distracted by the group of men behind us with thick British accents. They sound like they’re talking business, but they’re telling drinking stories.

The upside is that unlike the years when similar cocktail-and-chill spots were popping up in casinos—the era of the ultralounge, perhaps—the actual cocktail is a much bigger deal now. Alibi reflects that. Past the listings of bottle service prices and wines by the glass lie those for signature drinks, four Champagne cocktails, a couple of seasonal offerings, a build-your-own classic section and a tight, nice craft beer selection. The downside, potentially, is the expense. But if drinking on the Strip has taught us anything, it’s that there is such a thing as a cocktail worth $20.

The bar at Aria's Alibi lounge.

I consider the French 75 (Hennessy V.S., lemon, bubbles) before remembering the English translation is “headache in a glass,” so we go with the sweet-and-sour Swedish Flower (Absolut Elyx, elderflower, pomegranate, lemon, bubbles) and the Sweet Home Alabama, the smoothest damn glass of Wild Turkey rye you’ll ever taste, balanced with aperol, bitters and a little Sanpellegrino grapefruit soda.

The British guys fade away into the night, replaced by an older vacationing couple going straight highball. We realize: We’re the only ones lounging. Everyone else is on the way somewhere—a show, a dinner, a plane to catch. It’s not Alibi’s fault, nor ours. The world could stand to spin a bit slower.

Alibi Cocktail Lounge Aria, 702-212-8804. 24/7.

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Brock is an award-winning writer who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for 20 years. He currently leads entertainment ...

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