‘Most hotels in Las Vegas get through so much drink that they have their own liquor warehouses,’ Christopher Hopkins tells me. Chris is the Property Mixologist at the classy new Cosmopolitan Hotel, and I called in on him to talk Vegas, Vodka, and Vespers.
Chris tells me that while some hotels have their liquor warehouses on-site, the Cosmopolitan’s is so big they have to house their booze elsewhere.
‘Here we sell so much drink that we order by the pallet, not by the box or the bottle. Even the specialist premium drinks, where most regular bars would order one bottle, we order a pallet. One reason for that is that our Chandelier Bar is the 24th biggest in the USA in terms of the volume of sales. And that’s just one bar on the property.’
The Cosmopolitan has about 30 bars altogether, if you include the bars by the swimming pools and the restaurant bars too. Chris Hopkins is in charge of the drink served in the all of the regular bars. So what exactly is a Property Mixologist?
‘I see it as like being an Executive Chef, Chris explains. ‘A top chef like Gordon Ramsay or Guy Savoy looks after several different properties, they’re responsible for what appears on the menu, and the quality of everything. It’s like I plan the meals but expect the staff to be able to cook them. I’ve done that since February 2012, and before that I was a bartender here.’
Chris is originally from Perth in Australia, then moved to London like lots of young Aussies do. He started working in the beverage industry while there, and was lucky enough to win a Green Card in the USA’s lottery for US residency. He settled in San Francisco, and then, looking for a new challenge in the hospitality industry, came to Las Vegas in 2009.
‘If you’re in the hospitality industry, there are always opportunities and challenges in Las Vegas,’ he says.
‘Shaken not Stirred’
One of his biggest challenges has to have been recreating the cocktail that 007 James Bond invented, the legendary ‘shaken not stirred’ drink. The British spy asked for the drink in author Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale, back in 1953. It was a mix of vodka, Gordon’s gin, and the fortified French wine called Lillet. Because of changes in flavors and techniques over the years, Chris Hopkins adapted the Bond recipe slightly, to try to get a drink that tastes now what the Vesper would have tasted like then.
He uses Belvedere vodka rather than Smirnoff – the type of vodka wasn’t specified so it would probably have been the most popular one at the time, which was Smirnoff. Hopkins also uses Martin Miller’s gin rather than Gordon’s, adds two drops of Angosturo bitters, and adjusted the amounts slightly too. But he reckons the result is the taste that James Bond specified, and although he himself prefers it stirred not shaken, order a Vesper at the Vesper Bar and it will indeed be shaken not stirred.
The Vodka Scene Today
So what does a Las Vegas Property Mixologist think of the vodka scene today?
‘Vodka is such a great emerging market. It’s easy to produce. It’s my job to know the differences between the various vodkas. Is it a wheat vodka? Potato? How are they making their spirit, how do they harvest? Vodka is certainly our number one liquor category. It’s also one of the most image-conscious liquors on the market. Packaging helps but people in general are not buying on that, they’re more discerning.
There is so much choice in vodkas now that every bar at the Cosmopolitan can carry a different vodka list.
‘The Vesper is more classical, and here our flavored range of vodkas is more limited. I think there’s room for some flavored vodkas, like lemon, but definitely not the more outrageous ones. Our drinkers here are more sophisticated.
‘We probably carry about 14 brands in all at the Vesper Bar, though some of them have several flavors. We offer Belvedere, Grey Goose, Ketel One, Hangar 1, Chopin, Absolut, and Stoli Elit.’
And the mixologist’s choice?
‘Well, that’s tough… but I do like the Hangar 1 product.’
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Tel: (702) 698-7000