Vegas Bright writer Kelly Lamrock returns from his hiatus and reviews The Dorsey Cocktail Bar & Lounge at The Venetian.
Constant change is part of the charm of Vegas. But every innovation stands on the shoulders of ghosts. The allure of modern Vegas depends in no small part upon the images of classic Vegas we carry in our heads. The swinging lounges and clubby casinos in our minds provide the allure that makes the Strip more than just a bunch of Starbucks and Walgreens connected by slot machines.
That’s why I can never pass up the chance to hot a promising cocktail lounge in Vegas. I can embrace a new show or virtual blackjack dealer with the rest of the crowd, but my Vegas will always include those welcome touchstones of the past.
Which is why I was so pumped when I heard about The Dorsey, the new cocktail lounge opening up at the Venetian. Sometimes, Vegas needs a drink that isn’t served slushy in a souvenir cup. A classic cocktail; cold, bracing and showcasing the alcohol instead of masking it – is a great way to commune with the Ghost of Lounge Lizards Past. The Dorsey concept seems to measure old-school cocktail culture with modern mixology concepts like new ingredients and flavors.
After lunch one afternoon, I left my home base of the Mirage and headed across to the Venetian. After a classic hot shave at the Art of Shaving (and that’s a separate review), I was ready for a wooden bar and a stiff drink.
I won’t keep you in suspense – The Dorsey hit the spot. I spent over two hours there and look forward to returning.
The décor is wood and leather – comfortable but unremarkable. The drinks are the star here and the bar with its myriad spirits and bitters are the focus of the room. This space is built for comfort and it seeks to welcome, not to dazzle. That said, any place with over 30 homemade bitters resting on the bar is going to be kind of impressive.
I grabbed a stool at the bar and surveyed the menu. The servers here are knowledgeable and happy to chat about the menu. They will explain why the drink works and describe what the appeal of each menu selection is. They were friendly and professional at the same time, which added to the old-school feel of the place.
But, of course, all the atmosphere in the world won’t work if the pricey drink isn’t well-made. Inevitably, I ordered and put The Dorsey to the acid test.
I ordered a cocktail called the “Haitian Divorce” – a name that was, admittedly, fun to order. It was on a portion of the menu promising “stirred and boozy” drinks and promised mezcal, dark rum, sherry and some of those bitters behind the bar. It came in a highball glass with a large ice cube, and it was strong! The flavor had the brace of strong spirits with a mix of sweet and bitter flavors. Halfway through, it delivered the warm buzz that a proper cocktail promises.
Emboldened by my Haitian Divorce, I moved up the menu to where a drink called the “Tony Rocky Horror” caught my eye. “Total tiki,” promised my charming barkeep, and with two rums and falernum syrup (house-made, she assured me) how could it not be? Only this time, absinthe added the X factor instead of mezcal. The drink came shaken in an old-school brown tiki glass, chilled with smaller ice cubes this time. It was smooth with a boozy kick of an aftertaste.
Now, one cocktail is a break, and two an indulgence. A third cocktail crosses a certain line where one is silently declaring that a certain type of day is about to unfold. As I had activities planned that night, I decided discretion is the better part of valour. I climbed off my bar stool, tipped the server with thanks, and went happily back to the Mirage to check some sports bets.
I can report that the Dorsey is on my “will do again” list for Vegas. It is a comfortable place to drink and it offers some unique cocktails one cannot get at home. I believe the punch bowls, left unexplored this time, will be in my future. This would be a great stop with a few friends and I recommend it.
[Photo Cred. Kelly Lamrock & The Venetian]