by jason scavone
Now that summer is behind us we can get down to the serious business of drinking for reasons other than to try to regulate an internal core temperature that rose 30 degrees on the walk from the parking lot to the bar.
Anyone can sip mojitos on a hot day, but your true reward for sticking it out is the best stretch of seasonal cocktails of the year. Unless you’re one of those weirdos who spends the cool months pulling from a pint of Christian Brothers brandy to fend off frostbite on a ice fishing trip in Colorado. You’re on your own.
For the rest of us whose chilly-weather drinking doesn’t involve bait and a drill, there’s a bit of a limbo at the start of the run. The holiday season is spoken for and deep fall has all sorts of richly spiced, apple-packed warmers, but Halloween remains an outlier. You get your abominable attempts at fashioning boozy candy corn, and pumpkin-flavored God-knows-what, with all the appeal of vodka-and-candle wax.
Except at Panevino, where Mark Lopez has been doing the most creative Halloween cocktails in Las Vegas since 2007 — themed offerings on the menu from Oct. 1-31 that are clever, stylish and don’t taste like rejected Oreo flavors.
This year’s menu takes on five scary-flick classics: The Redrum (The Shining), Freddy’s Revenge (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2), Hannibal Nectar (The Silence of the Lambs), Beetlejuice (self-explanatory) and Jaws (turn your TV to any random channel — it’s on right now).
Jaws uses pineapple juice, lime, blue cuaracao and coconut Cîroc to build a straight-ahead tropical cooler, but that’s half the story. A shot of grenadine is poured on top for a slow-drip, blood-in-the-water effect. Robert Shaw would approve. He’d approve because booze is involved in any capacity, but the point still stands.
Other than every scene with Scatman Crothers, the showcase moment in The Shining is the fountain of blood gushing from an elevator. The Redrum commits. Cranberry ice cubes, sloe gin, bright red Aperol, Bacardi Dragonberry and muddled blackberries give you a slightly tart punchlike drink that also looks like bloody murder, forward and backward.
Naming a drink for an Anthony Hopkins character seems like a completely reasonable ploy to get Hopkins to actually show up in your restaurant. Didn’t even take that much to get him to star in Noah. Peach Ciroc and muddled raspberries are shaken with a nice Chianti for a sort of puttanesca take on sangria, dry and sharp. Yes, there are fava beans for garnish. No, they couldn’t serve it in a lotion-filled basket.
The star here is Beetlejuice, which feels appropriate for a libation named for an overly charismatic ghoul. The earthiness of the post-grave set is well-represented with muddled basil, Hendrick’s gin, green Chartreuse and a touch of fruit, added to the drink by a bartender chanting “applejuice, applejuice, applejuice.” It’s herbal, and oral, and savory, with just a little bit of sweet, and it will never muddle along for years at a time in lesser projects only to do Birdman, and remind you how great it can be and how much you missed it.
Finally, the Freddy’s Revenge serves as dessert, with Godiva liqueur, Nocello, Patron XO and a shot of espresso in a raspberry syrup-rimmed glass for a rich, balanced, nutty and lightly sweet drink that kicks with a bit of a Black Forest cake vibe, given the rim. Lopez plans to serve it with a side of NoDoz, lest Freddy Krueger appear at the end of the bar, slicing up limes one-handed.