IMG 5856I’m sitting at a flashy, yet elegant bar in the Cosmopolitan Casino Hotel.  The bar is cocooned by what seems like thousands of strands of Swarovski crystals, lit in a beautiful pinkish lavender hue.  I take a sip of my cocktail, garnished with flash frozen raspberries.  I bite down on one of the berries and smoke shoots out my nose!  My drink is called the Fire Breathing Dragon and the bar is The Chandelier.  

The Chandelier is a fantastic, three-level bar located near the Strip entrances of the Cosmopolitan.  It’s unmistakable - all those shimmering ropes of glittering crystals draped down from the ceiling of the atrium, creating spaces in which you can sit, chat and enjoy unique cocktails that exemplify the word “mixology”!  On each level, you have your choice of sitting at the bars, or in various plush conversation nooks.  The lighting levels are sexy and flattering, and although the sounds from the casino filter through, they are never really intrusive.IMG 5835

Then, of course, there are the cocktails.  Ah, the cocktails!!  Created by General Manager and head Mixologist Mariena Mercer, these are not your run-of-the-mill gin and tonics or whisky sours.  These are delicious, often surprising concoctions, created by someone who truly understands the concept of balance.  Each level of the bar has it’s own specialty cocktails, featuring ingredients as varied as they are fascinating - some, like whipped egg whites, fresh lemon or lime juice, and classic bitters, harken back to the heyday of cocktail culture.  Others, like maple syrup foam, or maraschino cherry caviars, are prime examples of the molecular gastronomy movement that has become popular in modern cuisine.

I’ve now visited The Chandelier several times, and just put myself in the hands of the friendly, professional, highly knowledgeable bartenders.  I’ve simply said “Surprise me!” and boy, do they!

IMG 6453Level 1 is just off the casino and feels very open and comfortable.  The bar itself is covered with a bright canopy of crystals, which are reminiscent of a traditional chandelier.  Here, I sampled what was once one of their signature drinks, the White Cosmopolitan - a lovely pale pink take on the classic Cosmo, with a bouquet that was as intoxicating as the liquor with which it was made.  I also ordered one of the specialties: The Libertine - Maker’s Mark 46, orange marmalade, lemon juice, rosemary simple syrup, topped with maple syrup foam and garnished with a sprig of fresh rosemary.  In telling friends about this libation, many have said that it sounds sickeningly sweet.  Not so!  As I mentioned before, Mariena Mercer understands balance.  The ingredients played perfectly off each other and the one flavor that really came through, was the warm, subtle taste of the Maker’s Mark.  I’m not a bourbon lover, but I enjoyed it tremendously.  The Libertine earned Ms. Mercer First Place in the Maker’s Mark Mixology Competition.IMG 6480

Now...climb the wraparound glass staircase, lit from beneath, and ascend to Level 1.5.  On this level, you truly feel like you’re inside the chandelier.  You’ll also find some of the most fabulous, fascinating, and delicious cocktails you’re likely to encounter anywhere.  This, to me, is where Mercer’s artistry really explodes!  My first visit was with my partner, who ordered the Thai Down - tequila blanco, strawberry puree, Thai chili syrup and Thai basil leaves.  I had heard about several of their drinks, so I actually ordered two cocktails for myself; the Verbena: an Asian take on a Margarita, served with a tiny Szechuan button - the dried heart of a flower which, when eaten, pumps your salivary glands into high gear and changes the flavor profile of the ingredients from tart, to smooth, then back again.  The Verbena is not on any menu, but they’ll mix one for you if you ask, and it’s well worth it!  I also ordered the Fire Breathing Dragon - Dragonberry rum, raspberry puree, lemongrass and Thai chili syrups and a pink peppercorn rim.  The kicker, of course, is that garnish of the dehydrated raspberries, treated with liquid nitrogen.  When you eat them, that nitrogen fog comes out your nose and mouth.  Gimmicky, for sure, but also delicious and beautifully balanced between sweet and spicy.  On a separate trip with my friend Danny, we tried the Fit To Be Thai’ed - coconut vodka, Thai chili syrup, peanut butter, coconut cream and a mini coconut as a garnish.  This tastes like the best Thai peanut sauce you’ve ever had, but turned into a delicious milkshake!  We ordered the Cereal Killer, which includes Cinnamon Toast Crunch infused milk and is really yummy, and the Cherry Smoked Coke, which features a cherrywood smoked ball of ice, Mexican Coca-Cola, and leather infused bourbon!  I kid you not!IMG 5928

The top level, features cocktails with more fruity and floral ingredients.  Up here, we tried The Butterfly, made with Hangar One Mandarin Blossom, Aperol mango and strawberry puree, and yuzu sour - a gorgeous, light, fruity concoction.  I also ordered the Kaffir The Reaper - Coconut vodka, Chinese five-spice, yuzu sour, coconut-ginger tea and ginger beer, garnished with a Kaffir lime leaf.  This was a tall, refreshing drink with distinctly Asian flavors, and a lovely way to end a very pleasant night of research.

IMG 6452From my several visits to The Chandelier, I have to say, I’m rather in awe of Mariena Mercer’s talents.  Her drink menus are always changing and evolving and I look forward to sampling her newest creations.  I was actually able to meet her on my last trip there, and she told me about a new holiday themed cocktail for Level 1.5...The Immaculate Conception.  It features gold, frankincense, and myrrh!  Seriously!  So stop by The Chandelier and let their spirits shine!IMG 6538

* Here’s a fun little challenge for you: If you’re hungry after a night of partying at The Cosmopolitan’s nightclub or bars, and you want some really good New York style, thin crust pizza, try to find their hidden pizzeria.  It’s not marked by any sign, and their food is the perfect antidote to that one drink too many.  It’s a relatively small space, and there aren’t many places to sit, but they do allow you to take your pizza back out into the hotel to eat.  They’re open late - sometimes till 4 or 5 in the morning, and if you’re staying at the Cosmo, they even deliver.  So dance till ya drop, grab a drink in a giant chandelier, and top the night off with pizza.  If you can find it!