Viva Las Vesper: The exciting new whiskey programme at Las Vegas' Cosmopolitan

Viva Las Vesper: The exciting new whiskey programme at Las Vegas' Cosmopolitan

The newest limited-edition whiskey offering at Las Vegas’s Vesper Bar is ‘first come, first serve’

Bars | 21 Jun 2023 | By Gabrielle Nicole Pharms

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The Las Vegas strip is bedecked with flashy lights and glitzy resorts. Whether a Vegas veteran or a Sin City rookie, getting lost in the sea of venues is easy, especially since each hotel and bar is vying for a guest’s wallet and palate. The lively city is enchanting for its experiential events and stellar bars. Among the hotels hosting the hottest bars and cocktail programmes is the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas – or, as the locals have nicknamed it, the Cosmo.

While the property is filled with distinctive options such as the Ski Lodge and the Chandelier Bar, the Vesper Bar’s classic cocktails and riffs stand out to spirits enthusiasts from all backgrounds. The Vesper Bar is the boozy haunt you get when you pair swanky vintage-style aesthetics with a nod to chic modernity. The décor is instantly enticing, with its mirrored tiles, vibrant-hued accents, and fringed glistening gold fixtures – but the delicious drinks and exciting new whiskey programme make this bar even more enthralling.

Beginning this month (June), guests can enjoy a four-bottle collection of exclusive whiskeys – created in collaboration with Rare Character Whiskey – as part of Vesper’s First Come, First Serve programme. Beverage industry legend and The Cosmo’s resident mixologist, Andrew Pollard, spearheaded the series, which pays homage to tradition while expanding whiskey imbibers' and cocktail lovers' comfort zones.

The first Rare Character Whiskey collection for Vesper Bar"s First Come First Serve programme. Credit: The Cosmopolitan

Pollard has blessed the Vegas cocktail scene for more than 20 years – from overseeing operations and nightclubs, to judging at cocktail competitions and leading the curation of drink menus. Cocktail innovation is where Pollard shines, so it’s no wonder he pushed for an exclusive barrel programme at Vesper Bar. “Typically, how barrel programmes operate is you might go to a distillery and cherry-pick some of the best selections, and you might have your branding, but I knew we could do something more,” Pollard says. “So, I reached out to some industry colleagues and told them we were looking for something special and unique. Then, the opportunity came with Rare Character Whiskey. Quite frankly, it's in the name – it's rare, unique, distinctive, and different.”

Though the programme has only recently launched, the process started almost a year ago, in August 2022, with the first tasting. The single barrel series is all cask strength. The barrels were brought to The Cosmo team for a rigorous tasting session. The team landed on four bottles: Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Madeira Casks, and Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Amburana Casks. Of the four bottles, the bourbon finished in Madeira casks was the ultimate divine sipper, with toasted raisin bread on the nose, dark cherry and blackberries on the palate with a buttery mouthfeel, and a subtle hint of spice at the finish. The rye whiskey finished in Amburana casks (a type of Brazilian hardwood) was a fun and balanced pour. The striking aroma of cracked black pepper and caramel instantly grabs your attention, and it’s easy to savour thanks to rich flavour notes such as cinnamon and warm brioche, complemented by a silky mouthfeel. The finish is dry with a nibble of heat mid-palate.

The First Come, First Serve name is based on the concept that guests must experience the limited-time whiskeys while they’re available. Once the bottles are gone, the opportunity will never arise again. For example, the debut series has six cases of the bourbon finished in the Madeira casks and only 13 cases of the Amburana cask finish. Pollard adds, “They’re not necessarily designed to be in cocktails, although they could – we wanted something a whiskey drinker could really appreciate.” While the bar has solid selections such as Blanton’s, Weller, Pappy Van Winkle, and other champion brands, this series is catered to someone seeking to try something one-of-a-kind.

The Vesper Bar at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Credit: The Cosmopolitan

Everything about the Rare Character Whiskey series is intentional – from the mash bills to the bottle’s labels and design. Each piece of artwork on the bottle is specific to the Cosmo. As a highly visual company – seen in the décor of the hotel – it sought to have a label highlighting the iconic imagery that can be seen throughout the property. So, the bottles have colourful labels with graphics often seen around The Cosmo. Even the hotel’s vivid purple accents came into play as the color of choice for the bottles’ wax seals.

The programme will always have a bourbon and rye on rotation but will have two unique fine and rare finishes. For instance, the next round of bottles will consist of whiskey finished in Barbados rum casks and rare Tequila barrel finishes. Moreover, Vesper’s whiskey programme aims to create a catalogue in its library that will culminate with an extensive, fine, and rare collection exclusive to the Cosmo.

“At the Cosmopolitan, it's all about experience. Our ethos is a story worth returning to and creating something fun and memorable. Having been here for over 20 years, guests are coming for the experience,” Pollard says. “They want to have something different – and a lot of times, it's not necessarily a monetary value. It's more for the experience. People want what they can’t have. Our staff relishes the opportunity to tell the story. You can't get this whiskey anywhere, only at the Cosmo.”

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