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MGM Casino’s Cocktail Lounges Take Some Tips From Las Vegas

The beverage directors tell Eater what to expect on the booze front — and don’t expect free drinks when gambling

Blossom is the nucleus of the casino, with a tagline of “be at the center of attention.”
R. Lopez
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Along with its three celebrity chef-driven concepts, MGM National Harbor is about to debut two main cocktail lounges that will deliver some of the same recipes and bars found in Sin City.

Both Felt Bar & Lounge and Blossom Cocktail Lounge sit in the center of the 125,000-square-foot casino floor, and are set to open with the rest of the resort on Dec. 8 at 11 p.m.

The goal at MGM was to integrate “Southern traditions” and seasonal ingredients in its craft cocktails, Las Vegas-based Clique Hospitality’s lead bartender Antony Sazerac tells Eater. Clique also runs lounges at The Cosmopolitan and Mandalay Bay, and MGM National Harbor marks the brand’s first major expansion. Unlike the “wackiness” found in Las Vegas cocktail programs, as he put it, Felt and Blossom’s goals were to not be “too aggressive with crazy house-made everything,” says Sazerac. “There’s a balance of pushing the envelope and drinks being executed well after [our team is] gone.”

Blossom is themed around D.C.’s cherry blossoms, with pink lighting fixtures that look like trees and waitresses running around in burgundy sequin backless dresses. Each cocktail’s attire is also elaborate, with 18 types of glassware.

The featured cocktail is the Nellie blossom (Grey Goose vodka, pomegranate juice, lemon juice, rose syrup, champagne). It’s also got cherry blossom tea—a popular cocktail accompaniment in D.C. as of late—and an edible orchid and lemon peel garnish. The Colonel Rickey has Navy Strength Plymouth gin, lime, Thai basil leaves, seltzer, cardamom honey, and a splash of club soda.

The dark-wooded Felt lounge, located a short walk away, will offer guests a beverage cart with cocktails made tableside and details like sparklers and smoke infusion. The 140-seat indoor and outdoor lounge overlooks the Potomac River, and doors will fold out to a patio when weather warms up. The 100-seat Blossom lounge is open 24 hours a day and Felt is open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Some of the same sips are also found at Clique’s Las Vegas lounges. The One Night Stand, for instance, includes Casamigos Blanco tequila, aperol, fresh lemon juice, agave syrup, grapefruit juice and soda water, with a smoked rosemary sprig and lime wheel garnish. Cocktails run around $16 at the bar and $20 for tableside service. Prices here are about 15 percent lower than Las Vegas ones, but they could “move to a more aggressive price point by year’s end,” he said.

Those who are used to drinking for free while gambling on casino floors in Las Vegas will be served a big buzz kill: Maryland laws prohibit free drinks from making the rounds at tables. “We are mindful of that, so that means the service and products we are offering have to makes guests feel like they are getting the value for what they are buying,” said Alison Bybee, vice president of food and beverage operations at the resort.

That means servers will have to have cat-like reflexes when a slot machine or Black Jack player is running low. High roller tables have access to Hardy’s exclusive Cognac series, she notes. “We have a $26,000 bottle, if you like,” she says. Total food and beverage revenue in the first year is projected to be $115 million, she said.