Chef Shawn McClain’s first Las Vegas restaurant, Sage at Aria, has been a stunning success since its arrival in late 2009, and even though it never needed to have one of the Strip’s finest cocktail programs, it always has. So when McClain announced his third Strip spot (his second, Five50 Pizza Bar, also lives at Aria) would be more beverage-oriented, we got excited.
Then we found out legendary barman Tony Abou-Ganim would heade up the cocktail program at Libertine Social, and excitement became a grand understatement.
The vibrant new Mandalay Bay restaurant and lounge boasts eclectic drink systems that will take many, many visits to properly explore, from bottled and draft and barrel-aged cocktails to Abou-Ganim’s playful, craft-oriented bar-within-the-bar, Arcade. But to start out on the right path, begin with a classic Caribbean swizzle, the refreshingly fruity and light rum-based libation perfect for the final weeks of summer in the desert. It’s a group drink. Get a pitcher of the Queen’s Park, 15-year-old El Dorado rum—with demerara syrup, lots of fresh lime juice, Angostura bitters and spearmint—and maybe grab a table on the patio overlooking the beach. We do have a beach here, you know. Libertine Social at Mandalay Bay, 702-632-7200; Daily 5-11 p.m.