Vanderpump Cocktail Garden
At a Glance
What is it?
A cocktail bar from Lisa Vanderpump of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills “fame.”
Where is it?
At Caesars Palace on the Center Strip.
What kind of crowd does it draw?
A broad mix of people, but mostly tourists drawn by the name.
What are the prices like?
When is the best time to go?
I’m not sure there is a best time to go.
Why should I go here?
Because all the other bars are full?
What’s the bottom line?
There are a lot of great cocktail bars in Las Vegas. Find one of those.
I don’t understand the “Real Housewives.” I don’t watch the shows so I kind of only barely recognize who any of the “stars” are. The only reason I have ever heard of Lisa Vanderpump is because a) I live in Los Angeles where several of her bars and restaurants are located and b) I haven’t been living under a rock for the last decade.
What I do understand is drinking. I’ve had a lot of practice and I’m quite good at it. Because of this, my standards are pretty high when it comes to cocktail lounge, bar, and nightclub experiences. That doesn’t mean I need to have a swanky space and fancy drinks – you can have just as much fun, and sometimes more, at a dive bar than you can have at a upscale joint. But there are a few inviolable rules I demand of the places in which I imbibe: 1) don’t be pretentious, 2) have fast and friendly service, 3) don’t overcharge.
I know… a Lisa Vanderpump cocktail lounge in Las Vegas… I was just begging for trouble, wasn’t I?
The bar – excuse me, “cocktail garden” – is in the space that used to be home to the dynamic and delightful Fizz, in between the doors to the Colosseum and the Forum Shops Mall. They have expanded the footprint of the space to include a “patio” that juts out into the casino in a weird way and is filled with plants, trees, twinkly lights, and seating. The interior has been similarly redone in a luxe garden party vibe and while it’s nice enough, it feels a little overdone – like they realized halfway through the decorating process that they were building a bar where there used to be slot machines and figured that the only way to make up for that was to throw more stuff at it. I picture someone running around screaming, “More ferns! More ferns!!”
We arrived on Friday afternoon at around 3:30pm, not long after they had opened for the day, and saw the first of my rule violations as soon as we walked up. There was a line to get in. To a casino bar. On a Friday afternoon. It would have been bad enough if the line had been there because the place was full, but it wasn’t. In fact, when we arrived, it almost empty, with plenty of seating for everyone that was waiting. This is the height of pretentious – creating a line in front of a place to make it look popular. Pretending to be popular only works in 1990s high school rom coms.
Because I spend way too much money in the Caesars casino, my group was able to skip the main line and that’s the only reason we went in. We still had to wait for awhile before being seated, which again, would have been fine if they had actually been busy but with half a dozen empty tables within five feet of the door, it was just insulting.
Once seated, we were approached by a cocktail waitress. Now, I don’t want to be mean… okay, I kind of do… but there is no other word to describe her than “odd.” It was as if she was a cartoon, greeting us with a hyperactive, overly enthusiastic, toothy smile and a loud “HI! WELCOME!” We were all a little freaked out by it. I wanted to check her hands for weapons.
The menu features several pages of signature, overly fussy cocktails with cutesy names including things like the Vanderpink Margarita (tequila, white peach, orange liqueur), the Checkmate Bitch (hot vodka, jalapeno, and a bunch of other stuff), and the Matcha Matcha Man (does it matter what’s in it with a name like that?). There are also a few cocktails designed to be shared, some dessert type drinks, a long wine and champagne list, and some upscale bar food like bacon wrapped dates, a grilled cheese tasting, mini burgers with gruyere and yuzu miso aioli (I don’t know), and charcuterie.
My friends ordered fancy drinks and I tried to get one that involved chocolate, but with a request that they leave out an ingredient to which I am allergic. I was told that wasn’t possible since they didn’t have anything to replace it with. I explained that I didn’t need a replacement, just do it without, and was refused. After a bit of back and forth she said the drink came pre-blended, which should have been a huge red flag about the quality of a cocktail that they are charging almost $20 for.
To be clear, not all of their drinks are made beforehand, I just happened to pick the one that was. Most of their drinks are mixed when you order them just like any other bar. Still.
So, fine, I ordered a madras (vodka, cranberry, orange juice). The cocktail waitress gave me a blank stare and I repeated myself. I was convinced that she had no idea what I was talking about, which is slightly less egregious than not knowing what, say, a screwdriver or a cosmopolitan is, but only slightly. Still, I knew it was going to end badly but at this point I was just curious to see where it was going to go. It was like seeing that the trestle ahead is washed out but not wanting to warn the train’s engineer just for kicks.
After a lengthy wait, the drinks came and my friends got what they ordered and I got… a glass of vodka on ice. Apparently she thought I had said “vodka on the rocks.” I took a deep breath and explained what a madras was and she went off to fetch me one.
A solid fifteen minutes went by and I finally flagged someone down (not our waitress because she was MIA), who went to investigate. Another few minutes passed before our waitress came back and told me that the bar didn’t have any orange juice. Yep… a bar with no orange juice.
At that point, I lost both the will to drink and the will to live and simply said “never mind.” To their credit, I was approached by no fewer than five different people after that who apologized and offered to give me the drink for free, but it was a way too little, way too late.
My friends’ drinks were good, so there’s that, but the bill for two with tax and tip (yes, I still tipped) was over $60. For that kind of money the experience should be exceptional, but what we got was exceptionally infuriating.
If the drinks were cheaper, if there was no fake line (which persisted during our entire ordeal even though there were empty tables), and/or if the staff had fessed up to their errors and issues right away and done everything they could to correct it immediately, I would have forgiven most of what happened. Since they aren’t, there was, and they didn’t, I won’t.
There are lots of fantastic cocktail bars in Las Vegas. Go drink at one of those.