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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The Lady Silvia

Lady Silvia EntranceAs someone who has never smoked, it took a while for me to get used to casinos and bars in Las Vegas. While I am all for freedom of choice and believe that a smoker should be able to choose whether or not they want to smoke, it is honestly hard for me to breathe smoke-filled air. I tend to get an allergic reaction to smoke, complete with stuffy nose and watery eyes.

So, when I heard about a smoke-free bar in Las Vegas I had to try it. And this bar is definitely worth a try – though it is more than a little hard to find. The address of the bar, 900 Las Vegas Blvd, is actually different from the physical entrance. If you want to enter the bar then you need to go to 140 Hoover Ave. One big clue is to look for the small parking lot with the Lady Silvia sign. It’s right across from the entrance.

Lady_Silvia-roomWhen you enter you are greeted by a dark hallway with bathrooms to the left. Ahead is the door to The Lady Silvia – a large, bright modern room lined by a bar on the right and a large seating area to the left. The bar is sleek and modern, framed by two TVs that were playing a Truffaut film (The 700 Blows) last time we were there. The seating area, on the other hand, resembles an old Victorian study with a modern twist. Bookshelves line the walls and comfy Victorian style chairs and sofas make up seating areas.

Lady_Silvia-PinxtosAt Happy Hour (the only time we’ve been there) the bar tends to be filled with locals who, from what I can tell, live in the adjacent apartments or condos. It comes off as more of a local hang out – kind of like the tv show Cheers, Vegas style. While the bar is open at 4pm, Happy Hour starts at 5pm and goes until 8pm Monday through Friday. The specialty cocktails are $6 and they serve pinxtos (similar to tapas) for $2/piece. There are also beer and well drink specials but, if you are going to go out of your way to come here, you should really try the cocktails!

Lady_Silvia-Cocktail2They have a wide array of premium liquors, bitters and cordials for making interesting drinks. Some of the Signature cocktails we have tried and liked are the Surrealist, the Lady Silvia and the Impressionist. The Surrealist stands out as being one of the only drinks made with green chartreuse that we’ve actually liked. I am always impressed by a place that can make a good cocktail using Green Chartreuse, since it’s strong herbal flavor often makes it hard to blend with other liquors.

We have yet to go to The Lady Silvia at night but that is mostly because we are usually downtown enjoying the free shows later in the evening. They look like they have some interesting entertainment, though, like the house and underground techno night they have on Sundays.

Lady Silvia BarYou can check out their website here: www.theladysilvia.com. And if you are looking for something to do that’s minutes away from downtown, you should check them out.

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