It’s Sunday night on the Las Vegas Strip and San Diego barman Anthony Schmidt is serving some twisted tiki drinks inside an Italian-themed mega-resort known more for high convention traffic than cool drinking spots.
The libation in process, the 747, doesn’t sound very tiki—save for the fresh orange and pineapple juices—with its Wild Turkey bourbon base, aperol and grappa-ish digestif Amaro Nonino. But then it ends up in one of those ceramic statue mugs and you’d never know the difference.
This is the latest installment of the Dorsey Collective, a cocktail pop-up and industry gathering at the Dorsey—the Venetian’s hip casino bar—featuring drinks and music from another place. Tonight, DJ Nova is spinning jazz and world music while Schmidt and Eric “Shrimp Toast” Long are pouring their own creative concoctions. They’re visiting from False Idol, a “hidden” tiki bar inside Craft & Commerce in San Diego’s Little Italy.
“We’re very fortunate in San Diego to have a long history of tiki,” says Schmidt. He learned the trade from influential bartender Sam Ross, who created the menu at The Dorsey as well as the new Rosina bar at Palazzo next door. Ross is watching over the Collective party tonight, too.
“The inspiration for these drinks were to make his drinks better, so we took them and kind of tikified them,” continues Schmidt. “So this 747 is a take on the [Ross’] Paper Plane.”
The tiki approach is a nice fit for the luxurious environs at the Dorsey. Local bartenders and casino pros stop by and conversations turn to Las Vegas’ limited but strong tiki scene—the San Diego guys are well-aware of Frankie’s Tiki Room and the Golden Tiki—and abundance of great pasta places. Astounding stories are told about the guy who used to burn the costumes from Folies Bergère for tax purposes, and someone who marched over the Mississippi in freezing temperatures while wearing a kilt in a St. Patrick’s Day parade. (One of those guys may have been me.)
Only recently has the Venetian inched toward becoming one of the rare Strip destinations that can attract a local crowd. Its restaurants have always been a big draw, and Tao remains a local nightclub institution, but the addition of these two bars—plus edgier options like Latin restaurant Chica, global small-plate emporium Sugarcane and the brand-new Peruvian spot Once at Palazzo—are bringing a lot of energy. It’s an unexpected but exciting shift, no matter how many 747s you’ve sipped.