No one knows a city's best drinkeries like its talented bartenders. And that goes double in a city like Las Vegas. It's the glittering casinos and all-night clubs that draw most visitors' drinking dollars. But both on the Strip and off, it's possible to find great bars that don't demand bottle service or crazy table minimums.
We asked bartenders around the city for their favorite places for beer, cocktails, or a low-key dive bar; here are their recommendations. Where do you drink in Las Vegas?
Rodger Gillespie of LAVO Las Vegas
What's the best place to drink in Vegas? Let me preface this by saying every kind of bar is worth its weight in booze. That being said, it depends on my mood. For serious cocktails, it's got to be Herbs & Rye. You feel more comfortable there than your own home. The Ford cocktail there is my favorite (gin, dry vermouth, Benedictine, orange bitters) because the owner, Nectaly Mendoza, made it for me first while he was telling me about his dream of opening Herbs & Rye while still manning the bar at Yellow Tail.
Beer? Aces and Ales has my heart. I built a great deal of knowledge, and a collection from them (they have a package license).
Dive bars? They're all fine establishments but Moon Doggies is, in one word, awesome. It's full of punk rock, High Life, Fernet, and great food provided by Naked City Pizza.
Mariena Mercer of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Where do you drink in Las Vegas? I love going downtown, especially with all the new bars opening up. My favorites are The Griffin for the whisky and the jukebox, a cocktail at Downtown Cocktail Room or Wayfarer, and Vanguard for the bartenders.
Where's the best place to go for a serious cocktail? Herbs & Rye has classic cocktails done well; the service is impeccable, the Fernet is on tap, and the Last Word makes for a great nightcap. Also Velveteen Rabbit for contemporary adventurous cocktails in a fun atmosphere.
Where do you go for beer or wine? The Freakin' Frog has one of the largest beer selections around, and the bartenders are always friendly and knowledgeable. The owner teaches a beer course at The University and is always getting exciting new beers. My favorite place for wine is off the beaten path, in Lake Las Vegas at Luna Rossa. I love having a glass of Champagne with my boyfriend on the patio overlooking the lake. It's always so peaceful and beautiful, it's like an idyllic Venetian village. I may be known to sneak my Champagne down to the hidden white sand lagoon and stare at the stars.
What about dive bars? I love a good dive bar, and a few of my favorites are: Ellis Island for karaoke, the Double Down and Beauty Bar for music, and I'm currently looking for a dive bar that has Big Buck Hunter machines—if anyone has some advice on that...
Aisling Gammill of Comme Ça
Where's the best place to go for a serious cocktail? Herbs & Rye because of the classical knowledge and fresh ingredients—they're not afraid to try new things. I enjoy the bartender's choice; at a good bar you should be able to trust that the bartenders will make you something good.
Mike Villegas of MGM Grand
What are your favorite bars in Las Vegas? One in particular I frequent is, oddly enough, called B.A.R., in the southwest area of Vegas. It offers the same atmosphere as a lounge on the Strip, just a little more relaxed. I'm pretty much just a scotch or whiskey on the rocks kind of guy, but when I want a serious cocktail, I like to keep it simple with a Manhattan. At B.A.R., I'm never disappointed.
If I have friends or family visit me and I'm hanging on the Strip, the same thing goes for Center Bar at the New York New York Hotel. Every time I've been there I always get great service and awesome drinks. Even when I'm indecisive and just ask them to throw me something together whiskey-based, they always come up with something great!
Where do you go for beer? When I'm just in the mood for beer, I'm usually at The Pub at Monte Carlo. They have an HUGE selection of tap beer and bottles. Pretty much anything you'd want for beer is there!
Any favorite dive bars? Dive bars are more my thing. They're the best places to spend very little money on drinks, beer or liquor, and a great place to party with friends when you're not in the mood to head out to the clubs. Double Down Saloon and the Blue Diamond Saloon are my top two. My friends and I have spent hours at these places shooting pool and drinking without having to spend too much money. I like Double Down because it's minutes from the Strip and a great place to unwind after a long night at work. Blue Diamond Saloon has inexpensive drinks, pool, video poker, and a jukebox with almost any song you can think of—what else could you ask for?
Lenard Peterson of Comme Ça
Where do you drink in Las Vegas? Atomic Liquors; it's an old-school spot, the first freestanding bar in Vegas, reinvented.
Where's the best place to go for a serious cocktail? Herbs & Rye. They serve great gin cocktails (and others) dating from the 1900s to the 1940s. My favorites are the Last Word and Negroni, but everything is good.
Justin Audinian from Tom Colicchio Heritage Steak
Where's the best place to go for a serious cocktail and why? Aria has a mind-blowing mixology program: creative, modern, with a focus on classic cocktails as well as fresh new perspectives. Aside from the cocktails, Aria has the best collection of restaurants in town, including Sage which has crazy-good food. I like to drink the classics, but also whatever's new and different; they change their menu quarterly with the growing season.
What about dive bars? The Griffin is an amazing dive bar, love the stone fireplaces and wood decor.
Craig Schoettler of ARIA Resort & Casino
Where do you drink in Las Vegas? Velveteen Rabbit is a small gem tucked in the Arts District in Downtown Las Vegas. It has an understated, yet comfortable atmosphere with solid cocktails and an educated staff.
Part of Monte Carlo's recent renovation is Chef Matthias Merges's Yusho, a Chicago transplant. While the restaurant's take on Japanese street food is captivating by itself, what intrigues me is their culinary approach to the bar program that is unique and done very well. It also has the largest selection of draft cocktails you can find in Las Vegas.
The Laundry Room is an intimate, semi-secret room hidden inside the downtown hotspot Commonwealth. I enjoy the speakeasy environment that is complemented with a great selection of classic cocktails.
Where do you go for wine? Jean Georges Vongerichten's original Las Vegas steakhouse, PRIME, has a great bar where you have access to Bellagio's well-known selection of wine. The fact that the restaurant is lakeside by the Bellagio Fountains doesn't hurt either.
And Vintner Grill, about 15 minutes away from The Strip, has an extensive, yet approachable wine program. They have hundreds of wines and their well-trained staff are excellent assisting guests who may not be as familiar with some of the varieties. Finally, the selection of wines coming from Ferraro's Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar is incredible. It's cellar is stocked with some of the greatest wines in the world, earning the restaurant several top-tier wine awards.
What about dive bars? Dino's is a really fun hangout for both locals and tourists. A great dive where you can do karaoke or just kick back with friends having a blast enjoying a bunch of very reasonably priced drinks. And when you see the bright pink neon sign of Frankie's Tiki Room, you immediately know are in for an interesting time. The menu has skulls listed with the drinks describing the strength of each cocktail. The perfect spot to start a wild night in Las Vegas.
Ricardo Murcia of Bellagio
Where do you go for beer or wine? The Yard House has a great beer selection of beers so you can try different things; anything you want, depending on your mood or the occasion.
What about dive bars? Frankie's Tiki Room; I love this place for several reasons. The team is awesome. They will tailor the cocktails to your liking and the environment is very relaxed. It's the real deal. They have great selection of rums and I come from Miami, so I know a good rum drink.
Favorite overall? Herbs & Rye is my favorite hands-down—I like it so much that I celebrated my wedding there last year.
Christopher Hopkins of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore
Where do you drink in Las Vegas? My favorite bars in Las Vegas are Herbs & Rye, Velveteen Rabbit, Downtown Cocktail Room, and the newly transformed Lavo Lounge. The service is always excellent and they all offer a distinct approach to their cocktail programs.
Where's the best place to go for a serious cocktail? For a "serious" cocktail, the place to go is Herbs & Rye. Their menu adheres to very classic recipes, recreated in original format and glassware. The bartenders are incredibly knowledgeable, but more than that, welcoming and gracious hosts. For that reason, local bartenders call it "The Clubhouse," and the owner, Nectary Mendoza, is one of the most beloved and passionate people I have ever met in this industry.
Where do you go for beer or wine? If I am looking for a glass of wine and relaxing atmosphere, I head to Vintner Grill. They also have a large array of charcuterie and artisan cheeses that's the perfect accompaniment to wine.
What about dive bars? My favorite dive bar is a two horse race between Frankie's Tiki Room—a 24-hour "rum centric" venue, great for a cigar and tiki cocktails served in proper tiki mugs —and a true dive called Hard Hat Lounge which features a cheap pool table, jukebox and the most amazing mural painted by Frank Bowers, reputedly done to settle a bar tab he had racked up in the '60s.