By Marika Cain
There’s something to be said for going full Vegas. We’re not talking about Champagne-room shenanigans, but about embracing Sin City’s particular brand of sensory overload. Case in point: the Chandelier bar at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and its off-the-menu (but hardly under-the-radar) Verbena cocktail. Last summer, the whole Virtuoso Life staff fell for this tequila-based roller coaster in a rocks glass – and the bar’s over-the-top glitzy surroundings.
The experience goes like this: Corral a few friends, parade into The Chandelier’s Level 1.5 bar (you can get the drink on all three of the bar’s levels now, but it originated here), and order a round of Verbenas. Chew and swallow the Szechuan button garnish (the edible bud of the herb acmella oleracea), then take a sip. Your tongue tingles, the flavors intensify, and hilarious Snapchat videos ensue. “Nature’s Pop Rocks” is one description that gets thrown around for the small yellow “buzz button” flower. A natural alkaloid, it’s packed with spilanthol, a chemical compound that reacts with the drink’s citrus and awakens taste buds to near-supertaster levels.
The cocktail began as a lemon verbena-inflected seasonal special. When the herb’s season ended, so did the Verbena’s run, much to patrons’ chagrin. “I thought people were going to come and riot at my house,” says Mariena Mercer, The Cosmopolitan’s chef mixologist and Verbena inventor. She tweaked the recipe with yuzu sour and lemon, and made the drink available year-round to anyone who knew enough to ask. “I thought over time it would kind of die off and people would forget about it,” she says. But word of mouth is a powerful marketer: Last year bartenders at The Chandelier slung well over 100,000 Verbenas, and sales are on track to double this year. So if you’re in the mood for a drink next time you’re in Vegas, put on something sparkly and head to The Cosmopolitan. They have a flower for you.
COCKTAIL RECIPE: The Verbena
1½ ounces Herradura Blanco tequila
1 ounce ginger syrup
1 ounce lemon juice
2 ounces yuzu sour (such as Perfect Purée’s version)
1 Szechuan button flower (available as a “Buzz Button” at Fresh Origins)
Shake all ingredients except the flower over ice. Strain over crushed ice into an old-fashioned glass and garnish with the Szechuan button.
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