by jason scavone
The first time hair metal left us, it was thanks to the rise of grunge and a general exhaustion with zebra-print hairbands. History, as it so often does, has found a way to repeat itself as the Mötley Crüe-, Poison- and Ratt-centric Bourbon Room at The Venetian Las Vegas has given way to The Dorsey.
Though we’ll never get sick of zebra-print hairbands, The Dorsey is, like its spiritual forbearer, a radical departure from what came before. Conceived by a couple of New York mainstays, David Rabin of Cafe Clover and modern mixology eminence Sam Ross of Milk & Honey — who made his Las Vegas debut with the cocktail menu at Comme Ça, The Dorsey is 4,500 square feet of high-end lounge just begging you to explore its eclectic spirits selection and shockingly deep collection of copper drinkware.
Ross, the native Australian who helped get the cocktail revolution rolling at Milk & Honey, is perhaps best known as the man behind the Penicillin, which is on the short list of all-time pantheon cocktails created in the modern age.
Naturally, it features prominently on The Dorsey’s extensive menu that runs some 30 drinks deep. Building off a base of Scotch, lemon, ginger and honey, it’s a Laphroaig float that makes the Penicillin everything it is. Smoke neatly balanced with citrus, it’s, in the words of bartender Juyoung Kang, “that whisky sour everyone is looking for, with a hint of spice; old-school flavors, with new-school thought.”
The Northern ’75 is borne of that same philosophy. Obviously playing around with the French 75, the Northern is a healthy dose of Plymouth gin, along with lemon and fresh melon juice, before a flute is filled with Champagne. The Plymouth gin carries a certain earthiness into the drink that adds a new dimension to a classic that traditionally serves as a staid summer cooler.
If summer is on your mind, the Jungle Bird steps in neatly. From the grand tradition of Tiki-but-dry that gave us cocktails like the Three Dots and a Dash, the Jungle Bird traces back to Kuala Lumpur in the 1970s. Cruzan Black Strap rum is met with pineapple, lime and Campari for a drink that manages to downplay the latter’s bitterness, and instead uses it to balance out the fruit, leaving the acid in the pineapple and lime to go toe-to-toe with the pitch-dark molasses of the Black Strap. Plus, it comes in a tiki mug. Every cocktail is immediately 40 percent more delicious in a Tiki mug.
The Ginger Rogers is one of four cocktails on the menu to play with coffee flavors — because coffee is quintessentially New York, and New York is very much in The Dorsey; it even sports those “Seinfeld”-staple Greek coffee cups. It’s a mountain of crushed ice that provides architectural support for rum, cream, fresh ginger and coffee liqueur with a grating of fresh nutmeg on top. Ginger, of course, is light on her feet. She doesn’t knock you down with sugar, but she’s plenty robust — and dangerous, as dessert cocktails go. It’s far too easy to toss these back.
The Harajuku officially may not be Japan’s answer to the Boulevardier, but it should be. Japanese whiskey stands in for bourbon or rye, Gran Classico steps in for Campari and Byrrh Grand Quinquina — an aperitif that uses coffee, among other things, in its maceration process — does the job of sweet vermouth. Throw in a dash of chocolate bitters, and you’ve got something that has ocean-deep complexity, an almost amarolike quality and a hint of familiar sweetness before a big, boozy kick at the end. (Add criminally underused chocolate bitters to your regular Manhattan pour and thank us later.) It’s enough to make you even not hate that Gwen Stefani song.