We’re going to break the rules about what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, at least a little bit. Our first real visit to Las Vegas was back in 2009 and it was somewhat of a whirlwind trip, which is what every trip to Vegas should be. It was on this trip that we discovered the Carnival Court Bar outside of Harrah’s Casino, which has become a nostalgic memory for us and we try to stop there every time we’re in Vegas. The bar itself isn’t much to speak of, but it is all about the bartenders and the free live music.
Officially, we first visited Las Vegas back in 1993 when we were driving from Colorado to Disneyland. It really doesn’t count, though, because we were only there for a night and didn’t get into to town until late in the evening. Additionally, we were on our way to Disneyland with three young children, so there wasn’t anything happening in Vegas other than trying to get a good night’s sleep before heading to California. Anyways, the point is that on our first real visit to Las Vegas we found the Carnival Court Bar and have made a point of trying to stop by there on each of our subsequent visits. It is a great spot to get out of the heat without having to go inside the casinos and listen to the incessant ringing of bells from the slot machines.
The bartenders are known for doing what is called “flair bartending”, which is making a comeback after being somewhat romanticized in the 1980’s in movies such as Cocktail starring Tom Cruise. The bartenders toss bottles back and forth, twirl them around their necks, spew fire, and basically entertain the crowd. At the time of our first visit, stacking bottles and balancing on their heads while walking around the bar was apparently the rage and they claimed to have taken first prize in bartending competitions for such a skill. When a bartender feels like, which seemed pretty often, they would stand on the bar, blow a whistle, and then walk around the bar and pour shots of some unknown concoction into the mouths of those who were willing to give it a try. We wouldn’t make a habit of it, but it was worth giving it a shot (pun intended), at least once.
Craft bartending is definitely on the rise due to the shows on the various travel and cooking channels. We wouldn’t consider the Carnival Court Bar to offer craft bartending, but it is refreshing to see different bars starting to bring passion about their craft into the business. The bartenders at the Carnival Court Bar definitely had passion for what they were doing. They were closed for two weeks during our last trip to Las Vegas, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Since they were closed, we crossed the street to Caesar’s to get a drink at Gordon Ramsey’s and while we were there we saw live news reports of a car driving on the sidewalk in front of Harrah’s and running over pedestrians. We might have been on the sidewalk had the bar been open that day.
Whether you ever get a chance to go to Las Vegas and visit the Carnival Court Bar, look for bars in your area that have a genuine love of what they are doing. You will find creative drinks, bartenders who understand what things work together, how the alcohol is produced, and will bring in the freshest ingredients and ideas. They don’t have to throw bottles or balance them on their head, but a good bartender knows how to put on a little bit of a show.