The VICE Guide to Las Vegas: Where to Drink
Lose all your money? Don't sweat it. Let these great bars help you ease the pain.
All photos Chris Carmichael
Let's start by stating the obvious: You can drink just about everywhere in Vegas, and you can do it 24 hours a day. Bars, casinos, hotel lobbies, and the sidewalk are all fair game. There are, however, some subtleties to the drinking laws. If you want to leave a bar and take your drink with you, by all means, ask for a plastic cup and hit the streets. But buy something in a glass bottle? Nope. Can't take it with you. Glass and aluminum containers are banned from public places.
Want to drink your plastic-cup-booze near a religious building, a school, a homeless shelter, or a hospital? Well, for starters, you're a damn degenerate. What's wrong with you? Second, you can't. Not allowed.
If you choose to drink on the Strip, expect to spend some cash. If you game long enough and hard enough, you'll probably get some drinks on the house. Otherwise, do what the locals do and sneak in a flask. (You didn't hear that from us.)
So now that we've cleared that up, go forth and walk the line between being shitfaced and suffering from alcohol poisoning, just like so many visitors before you. It's your amoral duty.
A true Las Vegas landmark, Atomic was originally opened as Virginia's Café in the 1940s. Business was bumpy, so when the first atomic tests began in the 1950s, new owners Joe and Stella Sobchik decided to take advantage of incoming atomic tourism by turning the place into a bar and liquor shop. Visitors were welcome to watch tests from the roof. Joe and Stella died within a few months of each other in 2010. By 2012, the bar was reopened, the gaming removed, and the focus switched to highlighting the history of the bar. As the bartender told me on a recent afternoon, "It's part of our culture to see things implode and rebuild." The cocktails are solid, and the beer list is highly curated. Enjoy the best of both worlds with a beer cocktail (Col. Mustard, In the Study, With a Banana is the best cocktail name of all time, but it's also delicious and worth the $11). A kitchen focusing on American fare that will serve the bar is expected to open next door in April.
Despite a giant neon "cocktail" sign in front of the Griffin, there's no cocktail list at the bar. Small fireplaces are scattered throughout the western-meets-medieval space, making it a good choice on those shockingly cold Las Vegas nights. When it's busy on weekends, a secret room in the back occasionally opens up for dancing and deep house music.
The Golden Tiki
Back in the 60s, tiki bars were all the rage, especially in Las Vegas. That's why you'll find them scattered around town. Chinatown's Golden Tiki is one of those bars that can't seem to let go. If we're honest with ourselves, the Caribbean pirate theme is hella corny, and it seems wrong for adults to be drinking out of giant punch bowls while surrounded by animatronic skeletons. Still, the place somehow gives off the comfort of your favorite dive bar. The bartenders are super nice and manage to maintain all kinds of dignity while people are taking pictures in a nearby loveseat shaped like a conch shell. It's weirdly chill, and the super sweet drinks will mess you up quick.
The dark South Main Street bar has velvet upholstered furniture everywhere, but it's the adventurous cocktail list that grabs people's attention. The "No Soup for You" (gin, dry vermouth, veggie broth, sweet potato puree, lemon, celery biitters, and a tomato water ice cube) sounds more like a meal than a drink, and it admittedly tastes like cold, spiked Maruchan ramen broth. If you need some dessert to wash it down, the Colombiana (brandy, apple brandy, apple guava syrup, coconut cream, lime, absinthe spray, and powdered sugar) is the way to go. Or, you know, do what most people do. Just get a cheap beer.
Commonwealth/ The Laundry Room
Commonwealth is basically three bars in one. There's the main bar that you see when you walk in, a rooftop bar, and a cocktail-only space called the Laundry Room. They tend to refer to the Laundry Room as a speakeasy, but if it openly exists and you can make a reservation, it's not really a speakeasy, is it? Either way, Commonwealth is a good place to grab a quick drink with some friends.
The Backyard at Gold Spike
The building that currently houses the Gold Spike has been around since the 70s and was gross and rundown forever. Ownership has switched hands a few times in the last few years, but the place has been remodeled, and the backyard is a nice place to booze it up when it's not oppressively hot out, even though the giant Jenga set is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Fun Fact: The 31st cast of The Real World has been housed out of a penthouse at the Gold Spike. Because apparently The Real World is still on the air? Learn something new every day.
Located in the Container Park, the folks at Bin 702 love their wine and spirits. A lot. But they're not snobs about it. They've also got some nice beers on the menu. So go ahead and drink away your sorrows while listening to the screaming children playing on the trippy playground out front.
Oak & Ivy
It's surprising enough to find a legit American whiskey bar inside a family-friendly outdoor mall (which, to its credit, has a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse adults can play on after dark), but what's truly delightful is when your bartender sprinkles "extra cocaine" (powdered sugar) on your mint julep and then asks, "Wanna try something that really tastes like a gummy?" before sliding a sip of liqueur across the bar. He's right, and you want that.
Frankie's Tiki Room
Mind the skull ratings at this musty Polynesian paradise, where the five-skull Zombie was once limited to two per patron. Throw back a few potions, enjoy some old hula footage and leave absolutely annihilated. Touch the tiki's junk on your way out the door and something exciting might happen. And by might we mean will.
Hit up this indie dance club for dollar beers and tunes your hooves can cry to. Oddfellows excels at the themed party ('90s, anyone?), and no one cares that you've got shit for moves. Or at least you won't by that point.
Herbs & Rye
Technically, Herbs & Rye is a casual, hidden steakhouse much loved by locals for its steak happy hour. So why is this in the drink section? Because anything on its menu that isn't steak isn't worth eating. But the bar? Holy gawd. The drink menu is extensive and will take you through a historic look at the evolution of classic cocktails. We think we learned more from the drink menu than we learned in any of our college history classes. Despite the enormous cocktail list, the bartenders can execute each drink to perfection. Trust us. We've worked our way through a good chunk of the menu and have yet to encounter a shitty drink.
It's an old, haunted biker bar in the middle of fucking nowhere—with barbecue. You're welcome.