Herbs and Rye: Classic Cocktails 101

Herbs and Rye frontHerbs and Rye at 3713 West Sahara Avenue is the kind of place that you could drive right by and never even notice it. It’s dark. It has no windows. The sign is barely lit and the building sits back a bit from the road. Entering through that dark wooden door from a shadowy parking lot could be a little intimidating on your first visit. Don’t let that stop you. If you want the best things the city of Vegas has to offer, you have to scratch beneath the surface of things. Beyond that door, it’s nothing like what you would expect.

Herbs and Rye BarInside you will find beautiful chandeliers hanging from a dark ceiling, dark woods everywhere, from the tables, to the floor and along and behind one of the best looking bars I have had the pleasure of imbibing at. Seats are wrapped in dark leather and quite comfortable – even the barstools. Deep, dark textured reds on the walls give the room some color without making it too bright. The exposed brick on the walls and the brass lanterns on the bar make the room feel almost as old as the city itself (Las Vegas was founded in 1905). It is a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Boardwalk Empire, save for the flat screen television over the bar. As inviting as this space is, please don’t come to Herbs and Rye for the decor, come for the cocktails.

Here’s what makes Herbs and Rye special: There are plenty of bars in Vegas where you can have a 25 year old “mixologist” make you their version of a hundred year old cocktail. This isn’t one of them. If you want an authentic, perfectly made classic cocktail, then this is the place to go.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against those bars making fancy variations on classic cocktails… in fact, some of my favorite bars in Las Vegas fit this description. However, I believe you should taste a dish before before seasoning. So in order to fully appreciate the drinks at places like Downtown Cocktail Room and The Lady Silvia, I recommend you come to Herbs and Rye and taste the drinks that are the inspiration for those modern twist cocktail lists that are all the rage at other bars. No other bar in Las Vegas takes their cocktails more seriously.

Herbs and Rye menuThe cocktail menu at Herbs and Rye absolutely dwarfs the food menu. And you’ll probably learn something new on every page of it. Cocktails are listed according to the period in which they were invented, and there’s plenty of back-story to inform your choice of libations. Each time period has an informative description. Below that, the listing of each drink tells you what’s in it, and gives some history of the drink – who invented it or recorded it, and where. Throughout the menu are reproductions of vintage books and advertising that further illustrate the history of the drinks and add a bit of whimsy.

Herbs and Rye CocktailThe cocktails they serve are all authentic classics – creative variations are not encouraged, in fact I could tell I made the bartender rather uncomfortable when I asked about them, and that’s a good thing! The bar is teaming with liquors, cordials, bitters (many house-made), glassware (they even have copper mugs for a proper Moscow Mule) and garnishes. They use premium ingredients and take care to build your cocktail the way it might have been done fifty years, or one hundred and fifty years ago. The drinks are strong and flavorful, and the bartenders are knowledgeable enough to help you discover your new favorite old drink. If you already have a favorite, they can probably make it – correctly.

And that’s the reason that every budding classic cocktail enthusiast should make a pilgrimage here. To taste the drinks (as close as possible to) the way they were originally intended. To get a delicious and intoxicating lesson on the origins of a truly American invention – the cocktail. Who knew learning history could be this fun?

  • Happy Hour is from 5-8pm and 12-3am, with half-off select dishes (even the steaks).
  • The music (and the crowd) gets younger and louder the later it gets, so come early for low key and relaxing, late for more of a club-like atomopshere.
  • It’s okay to bring the winos and the beer drinkers. Unlike some of Las Vegas’ more elite cocktail lounges, Herbs and Rye also happily serves beer and wine.

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