12.20.16 / Las Vegas / Nevada

With The Dorsey, Sam Ross Is Changing Las Vegas’ Reputation

Getting a preview of the famed bartender’s latest concoctions.

Whether it’s fair or not, Las Vegas has a certain reputation. For some it’s where high-rollers come to play, for others it’s where seedy denizens are chained to slots machines. But for most Vegas conjures up the image of a party town, primed for bachelor or bachelorette parties with a selection of mega clubs, marquee shows, and penthouses all tailored for a ‘wild time’. David Rabin and Sam Ross see it differently, however, and their new bar The Dorsey might be the biggest shift in Vegas nightlife yet.

Rabin has been a hospitality  impresario for years with NYC hotspots like The Skylark and Cafe Clover, while Ross gained his fame behind the bar at Milk & Honey and his own Attaboy, winning numerous international awards and often cited as one of the top bartenders in the world. That experience was more than enough to notice a shift in taste. Customers are smart, and are becoming as knowledgable about drinks as the people making them. Even in a city like Las Vegas, they prioritize cocktails and atmosphere over the image of excess that’s been forced into the mainstream.

Housed in the opulent Venetian Hotel, The Dorsey marks that shift of nightlife in Vegas with tasteful design and a menu that encourages experimentation created by Ross himself. Ahead of The Dorsey’s opening—which is on December 30th—Ross gave us the details on the bar as well as insight into Las Vegas’ new era.

New York is one of the great cocktail destinations, what was your impression about the Las Vegas drinking scene before working on The Dorsey?

Las Vegas loves to drink. It used to feel like if you were drinking cocktails on the Strip, it was all about quantity over quality. This has certainly changed over the last few years with beautiful boutique cocktail bars opening up in casinos up and down the Strip. We’re hoping to add to this fast-growing culture with The Dorsey. Herbs & Rye has been killing it off the Strip for years now. It’s one of the great cocktail destinations in the country.

What aspects of New York culture did you want to inject into Las Vegas?

Whilst I love cocktails in all of their forms (read: most forms) we’d love to see the boozier, spirit-forward cocktails become more prevalent. Especially the bitter aperitif and digestif categories. I’d love to see people come by The Dorsey for a bright and bitter Negroni riff before dinner and then return afterward for that boozy and brooding Manhattan variation from the digestif category.


How did you approach the cocktail menu, coming from an intimate, dimly-lit bar in the LES to a bright and luxurious hotel?

The beauty part of a 35 seat bar with no menu (Attaboy) is we are able to guide you to a drink selection through verbal cues. The Dorsey is going to be a little larger than this, so although our staff will be very helpful in terms of recommendations, but a menu is very necessary. The Dorsey list is split up into helpful categories that will get you to your preferred drink category in a timely manner. We are really trying to cover as many tastes as possible with the menu. Whether you like the agaves, the whiskies, the rums, there are options for all. We’ll also be very well versed in all the classic stalwarts – if you need a classic Negroni, just ask.

You are bringing your famous Penicillin drink to the Dorsey. Can you tell me about any new drinks you’re excited about?

My favorite drink of the last few years is without a doubt the Jungle Bird. It is a fairly modern (1979) tiki drink out of Kuala Lumpur that was discovered and rejiggered by Giuseppe Gonzalez at the now-closed PKNY in Manhattan’s LES. He reworked the out-of-proportion ratio of juice to booze and subbed out the Jamaican rum with the delicious and distinctive Cruzan Blackstrap. This is shaken with pineapple, lime and Campari for an amazing kick of bitter at the end of what would be a big and sweet tropical drink otherwise.

Jungle Bird; Caballo Blanco

There are always trends and ‘of-the-moment’ spirits in the mixology world…mezcal was huge for a while, bourbon had a major comeback recently. What do you think people (either consumers or fellow bartenders) are interested in now? And what on your menu reflects that?

The new trend is not having new trends! Cocktails are a very simple idea. To execute them at an extremely high level and volume is the difficult part. A menu is simply a reflection of the wide variety of cocktails we can offer at The Dorsey. The real challenge is pulling off the highest level of production night in and night out, whether the bar is half full, or six deep. I’m genuinely excited about all of the offerings on the menu, that’s why they’re on there.

Now that you’re spending some time in Vegas and are acclimated with the town, what is Sam Ross’ perfect night out?

Late afternoon batting cage session to work up an appetite, a bitter aperitif (read: Negroni) somewhere with a pleasant view of the Strip. Dinner at Izakaya Go, (damn that place is good) a Manhattan riff at Herbs & Rye and maybe winning a couple of bucks on the blackjack tables. You know what they say, the more you practice, the luckier you get. All with charming company, of course.

The Dorsey opens at The Venetian Hotel on December 30th

Ginger Rogers

Green Street