Post-pandemic growth, new cafés, and more in Sin City’s emerging specialty-coffee scene.
BY EDDIE GOMEZ
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos by Eddie Gomez
With a reputation built on adventure, gambling, and world-class food, Las Vegas is undoubtedly one of the world’s top entertainment capitals. There are a million things to do in Sin City, and checking out the area’s specialty-coffee scene is one of them. A post-pandemic rebirth and a host of new players add a buzz of excitement to this community that is currently growing in a positive direction.
Las Vegans are used to mind-boggling summer temperatures that last well into fall. While other parts of the country are rolling out pumpkin-spiced seasonal drinks, parts of the Western US continue to bask in above-average temperatures even in the first days of October. Because this time of year proves difficult for those who want summer to last forever, we’ll pause and give summer 2022 one last farewell by looking at five amazing coffee drinks recently on offer in Las Vegas.
The Rim of Fire
PublicUs Coffee, 1126 Fremont St.
One look at the café’s menu lets visitors know that PublicUs understands craft food. An emphasis on quality is also what makes PublicUs a prime specialty-coffee destination. The coffee bar is tended to by two baristas who are singularly focused on visitors’ coffee needs, which makes for a good opportunity to chat about the expansive selection of roasted coffees on sale at the shop.
On my most recent visit, I explained to the barista my search for great summer drinks. He nodded his head in approval and straightaway suggested an espresso and orange juice tonic with a spicy twist. A few minutes later, he pushed the Rim of Fire across the counter, which looked like one of the prettiest coffee drinks ever made in Nevada.
More importantly, the Rim of Fire lands at the top of this list because it is simply lip-smackingly delicious. The refreshing balance of unusual flavors results in a candy-like spiciness that lingers on the palate. The list of ingredients is simple—espresso, orange juice, ice, habanero bitters, cardamon, and fresh mint, garnished with watermelon radish—but the results leave a lasting impression that is anything but simple.
Somewhere in Kentucky
Take It Easy Coffee Roasters, 3540 S. Wynn Road
Somewhere in Kentucky, an espresso-based mocktail on offer at Take It Easy Coffee Roasters, sweeps you away to a quiet brook deep in a Kentucky forest, which is a nice escape from the suffocating heat of Las Vegas, even if it is an imaginary one. The shop, recently opened in Chinatown’s center at Spring Mountain, is the brainchild of Josh Molina, who also operates Makers & Finders, another popular Las Vegas coffee and food destination in the Arts District.
Making a Somewhere in Kentucky definitely takes a full effort by the barista, but it’s worth the trouble. Sugar cubes, wedges of lime, and fresh mint are crushed at the bottom of a glass. Vanilla drops are added along with ice and soda water. Then two shots of espresso are added, topped with tonic water, and garnished with lime and fresh mint.
What makes this drink special is its palate-bending smoothness. The ingredients are in perfect balance, driven forward by the omnipresence of its lime flavor, with mint and vanilla notes that hang subtly in the background. The Somewhere in Kentucky, a not-too-sweet espresso limeade, lives at the ever-expanding intersection of coffee mocktails, a great example of the craft’s forward leaps in progress.
Honey I’m Home!
SerenDripity, 7795 W. Sahara Ave. #101
Sometimes when you drive all night, pull into town, and unwittingly waste precious hours of your life talking to an Elvis Presley impersonator at the famous Las Vegas sign, all in an effort to get one good picture, it might be OK to relax your” zero tolerance for lattes” rule.
That is exactly what happened when I visited SerenDripity Coffeehouse. My unusual preference for a latte also had something to do with the fact that I’d never had a coffee drink with rose petals in it, and curiosity got the better of me.
SerenDripity has the art vibe on full blast, with Andy Warhol-inspired prints of famous pop decorating figures from Mighty Mouse to Snoop Dogg the walls. The shop offers an array of drinks, many of them coffee-based, and plenty of food options. The serene yet trendy atmosphere features comfy sofas and tables for relaxing and doing work.
What rocketed the Honey I’m Home! to drink greatness was its unique aromatics and the sweet taste of honey with each sip. The dried rose petals float on top of the ice and combine with other ingredients—organic espresso, honey, milk, cardamom, and cinnamon—to create a unique sensory experience that delivers satisfaction. It’s reminiscent of a good breakfast followed by a stroll through a wonderfully pungent rose garden.
An Impromptu Espresso Tonic
Mothership Coffee, various locations
Mothership Coffee on Fremont Street in Las Vegas proves a chillable spot when exploring downtown, where visitors can count on friendly baristas and top-notch coffee. The shop is also a great place to meet people and get some work done.
I ducked into Mothership Coffee in search of a remarkable cold coffee drink on a blazing Monday afternoon. Nothing on the menu caught my interest, so the barista recommended something simple. She put together an espresso tonic that included only two ingredients: Liquid Death’s Berry It Alive sparkling water and Mothership Coffee’s Mexico Union Majomut, a washed medium-roast espresso with notes of milk chocolate and toasted nuts.
At first, I wasn’t entirely convinced that something so simple could produce a noteworthy drink. However, the espresso-forward first sip held the berry tang in check, and it proved the drink’s defining characteristic. The ice-cold effervescence was instantly satisfying, going down smooth with the espresso notes remaining in full effect despite sharing space with sparkling water. The espresso tonic proved such a pleasant surprise that I had one again the following day.
Vesta Coffee Roasters, 1114 S. Casino Center Blvd. #1
Vesta Coffee Roasters is one of those community spots that pulses with the vibes of the neighborhood that surrounds it. Located in the Arts District, the shop is a hive of activity in a part of town that features art studios, great food, one-of-a-kind thrift stores, and a good break from the hectic Las Vegas Strip. Students, locals, and visitors fill the shop or make use of the tables out front to engage in conversation or sample the great food and drink options.
The barista suggested adding the Espresso Caribeño to my list. Kaden helped to design the island-themed signature drink, so it came with high expectations. If the goal was to create a drink that manifests a laid-back atmosphere and tasty Caribbean flavor, the team at Vesta hit the mark. The Espresso Caribeño is not a complicated drink, containing only coconut water, orange aromatic bitters, toasted simple syrup, a dehydrated orange, and Goose Bumps Blend espresso. The drink delivers what the name inspires: coconut sweetness and coffee brought to a crescendo by tasty orange notes, which proved a great way to wash down a croissant and watch the coffee roasting crew do its morning work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eddie P. Gomez (he/him) is a freelance writer based in Modesto, Calif. When he is not substitute kindergarten teaching classes, he wanders from city to city, perfecting the art of the food and coffee adventure.