Nevada – Casino

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Today, we try our luck in the entertainment capital of the country, Nevada. Mrs. Sip and I have travelled to the Silver State many times, even enjoying attractions off the Las Vegas Strip. Time to roll the dice and see what comes up:

Motto: “All for Our Country” – Such selflessness!

Food: While today, casino buffets offer a culinary delight of worldwide dishes, the early days of these all-you-can-eat feasts were a little different. Las Vegas revolutionized the concept, with the first ever offered at the El Rancho Vegas (also the first casino on the Strip). Dubbed the Buckaroo Buffet, it offered a mix of hot and cold dishes, 24 hours a day, for a whopping $1.

Drink: One of the most unique cocktails I’ve ever had was the Verbena, created by head mixologist, Mariena Mercer, of The Cosmopolitan, in Las Vegas. You begin by chewing a Sichuan flower and then move onto the margarita-like cocktail. With each sip, as the flower takes effect, you become a super taster, thanks to your taste buds being altered.

Buffet

Site to See: Outside of Las Vegas, top attractions include tourist towns such as Reno (‘The Biggest Little City in the World’) and Lake Tahoe, as well as sites such as the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Great Basin National Park, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and Valley of Fire State Park. However, what happens there, doesn’t stay there.

Street: One can basically travel the world while walking the Las Vegas Strip (aka Las Vegas Boulevard), with hotels themed after destinations such as Paris, Monaco, Egypt, New York, Venice, and Brazil. Other highlights include the Stratosphere, the tallest structure in the western U.S., and a multitude of dining, drinking and entertainment options. There’s also the Fremont Street Experience, for a taste of old Vegas.

TV Show: I have to go with CSI: Las Vegas in this category for creating the police forensic procedural genre. The show ran for 15 seasons and 337 episodes and was so popular, it spawned spinoffs set in Miami and New York City, as well as a Cyber Crimes series. Honourable mentions go to Reno 911! and Mike Tyson Mysteries for their characters and comedy.

Movie: A tough choice here, as I love The Hangover for its wild and hilarious story. I also enjoy a good heist film, with Ocean’s 11 (the Rat Pack original and the George Clooney remake) ranking among my favourites. Lastly, I can’t leave out Vegas Vacation, for the many lines that have become part of the Sip Family’s vernacular.

CSI

Book/Author: A few other notable Las Vegas films were adapted from books, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson), Leaving Las Vegas (a semi-autobiographical novel by John O’Brien), and Casino (based on the non-fiction Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi).

Fictional Character: I’m surprised at how few options were available for this category. I’ll go with Balrog from the Street Fighter video game franchise. A former boxer, the character was based on Mike Tyson, even being named M. Bison in the Japanese version of the games. Due to legal concerns, some characters were rotated for the North American ports.

Fictional City: The movie Tremors, starring Kevin Bacon, takes place in the fictional town of Perfection. Things are far from perfect, though, as giant sandworm-type creatures are attacking the town in a hunt for human flesh. The movie spawned a franchise of five direct-to-video sequels, one prequel and a TV series, which lasted one season and 13 episodes.

Actor/Actress: Jena Malone was born in Sparks, with her most notable role being Johanna Mason from The Hunger Games franchise. Other stars from Nevada include Dawn Wells (Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island), Rutina Wesley (Tara on True Blood), Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia on Buffy/Angel), and Thomas Ian Nicholas from the American Pie series.

Tremors

Song: Most songs about Nevada focus on Las Vegas and nothing can get you into the Sin City mood more than Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas. Presley was practically an honourary citizen of the state, performing 636 straight sold out shows (two shows a night, seven days a week), as one of the original residency acts. Viva Las Vegas was recorded for Presley’s 1964 film of the same name.

Band/Musician: Rock band, The Killers, were formed in Las Vegas, in 2001. The quartet has sold more than 28 million records and are still going strong today. The group is known for songs like Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me. Special shout out to fellow rockers, Imagine Dragons (also formed in Las Vegas), for their song Radioactive being the longest Billboard Hot 100 chart topper ever.

People: Betty Willis may not be a household name, but the artist born in Overton, created one of the most recognizable pieces in Nevada, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. Willis did not trademark her design, instead gifting it to the city. She passed away, in 2015, at the age of 91.

Animal: Nevada has a long history of animal performers. Most famous among them were the tigers and lions part of the Siegfried & Roy act at the Mirage. Sadly, one of those tigers, named Montecore, attacked Roy during one show in 2003, ending the duo’s successful 13-year run at the hotel. There was also Bertha the Elephant, who performed at the Nugget, in Sparks, for over 30 years.

Las Vegas

Invention: While operating a tailor shop in Reno, Jacob Davis invented blue jeans, while making a stronger pair of working pants for a customer’s husband. Davis later partnered with Levi Strauss, who was providing the fabric for the jeans, to apply for a patent on the creation. As a frequent wearer of blue jeans, I thank both gentlemen.

Crime: In 2017, the world was shocked by a mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. Nevadan Stephen Paddock fired more than 1,000 rounds from the Mandalay Bay resort onto the nearby Route 91 Harvest music festival. He killed 58 people and wounded 438 others, with injuries totalling 869 in the panicked aftermath. Paddock committed suicide following the massacre.

Law: Nevada is my kind of state. They have a law that makes sure public intoxication can’t be made illegal and another law that allows the sale of booze to occur 24 hours a day from bars, restaurants and stores.

Sports Team: Nevada was devoid of professional teams until 2017, when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL as an expansion franchise. Similarly, should an NFL season be played this year, the Oakland Raiders will officially relocate to Las Vegas. The city is also the epicenter of boxing and mixed martial arts cards, host to numerous memorable fights.

Jeans

Athlete: Tennis star, Andre Agassi, was born in Las Vegas and lives there to this day. Agassi became a pop culture icon in the early 90’s, thanks to his success on the court, good looks, and high-profile relationships with Barbra Streisand and Brooke Shields. Agassi won a total of eight majors, as well as a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, in Atlanta.

Famous Home: The Underground House, in Las Vegas, looks like a normal residence, until you realize it is constructed 26 feet below the surface and doubles as a bomb shelter. The property includes a home, yard, pool, spa, trees, guest accommodation, BBQ, and fountain, as well as outdoorsy murals. In 2019, it was listed to sell for $18 million, although it sold in 2015 for only $1.15 million.

Urban Legend: Area 51’s existence wasn’t confirmed by government until 1990, inspiring a number of conspiracy theories. These include the housing of UFOs and alien lifeforms, as well as experiments involving weather control, time travel and teleportation. Route 375, leading up to the facility, was renamed the Extraterrestrial Highway, in 1996.

Museum: Mrs. Sip and I have visited and fully recommend both the Neon Museum and Mob Museum. The Neon Museum has a “boneyard” of signs from the history of Las Vegas, while the Mob Museum documents the city’s affiliation with organized crime. Another museum we would like to check out in the future is the Pinball Hall of Fame.

Underground House

Firsts: Nevada was the first state to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment, which barred the government and states from denying people the right to vote, based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Nevada is also the only state to legalize prostitution, although it is technically still illegal in area like Las Vegas and Reno, due to their larger populations.

Company: The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the leader in mixed martial arts action, is headquartered in Las Vegas. Since its inception in 1993, the promotion has seen its fair share of ups and downs, but has grown from a one-night tough man tournament to a global phenomenon. UFC President, Dana White, is now among the most recognizable people in sports.

Events: When Nevada Governor, Fred Balzar, signed Assembly Bill 98, legalizing gambling in the state, in 1931, he paved the way for Nevada to become the place it is today. The same year, the Pair-O-Dice Club became the first casino to open in Nevada, with the resort being renamed The Frontier later, which is how most remember it. It closed in 2007, with the property now being owned by Wynn Resorts.

Miscellaneous: I couldn’t wrap this article without mentioning the September 1996 murder of Tupac Shakur, which occurred in Las Vegas. Shakur succumbed to his injuries six days after the drive-by shooting, at the age of 25. The murder has remained unsolved, despite speculation of gang and rap feud ties, drawing much intrigue from fans and filmmakers alike.

Casino

Casino

  • 1.5 oz Gin
  • 0.5 oz Maraschino Liqueur
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Orange Bitters
  • Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

This International Bartenders Association official cocktail is perfect for Nevada. It dates back to at least 1917, when it first appeared in a recipe guide. It’s funny how many drinks for this project use a combination of Gin, Maraschino Liqueur and Lemon or Lime Juice. I will say, this was a tasty blend of that formula.

Ukraine – Fireball Martini

Brotherly Brawlers

It’s not often that a country can lay claim to one heavyweight title fighter, but a pair of brothers that are equally adept in the ring is a truly rare feat. Ukraine’s Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko are both champions and give the Ukraine an image to be feared. Let’s take a look at the brothers and their rise to international stardom:

Vitali (born July 19, 1971) is nearly five years older than his brother Wladimir (born March 25, 1976). Both men made their debut on the same night (November, 6, 1996) in Hamburg, Germany. Not surprisingly, each brother was victorious, with Vitali KO’ing Tony Bradham at 1:14 of the second round. He was bested by Wladimir, who beat Fabian Meza by knockout at 1:35 of the first round.

Klitschko Jab

Prior to entering the professional ranks, Wladimir competed at the 1996 Olympics, winning gold in the Super Heavyweight division. Vitali was a member of the same team, but was booted off for testing positive for a banned substance. This opened the door for Wladimir, who was intended to compete in the Heavyweight Division and was struggling to make the weight limit, thus bumping up to Super Heavyweight, taking Vitali’s spot.

Vitali was also quite successful before his pro boxing career began, but in the discipline of kickboxing, where he was a six-time World Champion (twice as an amateur and four times professionally) with a record of 34-1, including 22 knockouts.

Vitali took four years off from the sport from 2004 to 2008. When he returned, he defeated Samuel Peter to win back the WBC World Heavyweight Championship. At the same time, Wladimir was in possession of the WBO, IBF, and IBO heavyweight titles (the longest reigning champion for each of those belts), marking the first time two brothers held world championships at the same time.

Klitschko Belts

When Wladimir added the WBA World Heavyweight Championship to his collection in 2011, the broskis held every world title (and continued to do so for the next 2 years, 5 months, and 13 days). Vitali forfeited his title in 2013, in order to enter the political realm in the Ukraine.

Vitali is extremely well-educated, having earned a master’s degree in social development and a doctorate in sport science, which netted him the nickname Dr. Ironfist. He was chosen as the leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Allice for Reform Party and has twice sought to be elected as the mayor of Kiev. Vitali has been awarded Germany’s highest civilian honour, the Federal Cross of Merit for his achievements. Not to be unmatched, Wladimir also garnered a doctorate in sport science, changing his nickname from The Steel Hammer to Dr. Steel Hammer.

Outside of the ring, the Klitschko’s operate K2 Promotions and K2 East Promotions. They are also active in the philanthropy world with their Klitschko Brothers Fund, which works to help children around the world. The brothers have agreed to work with UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), as of 2002.

Klitschko Fight Mode

Wladimir auctioned off his 1996 gold medal at an event in 2012, hoping to raise money to help Ukrainian children. The winning bid came in at $1 million, with the buyer immediately returning the medal to the boxer, not out of fear, but because he believed the treasure should remain with Wladimir and his family. Really gives you the warm fuzzies!

Wladimir appeared in the movie Ocean’s 11, fighting Lennox Lewis during the great heist and starred in the music video for ‘Part of Me,’ by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame. Regardless of all the bragging rights that come with being a boxing champion, Wladimir can also claim to be engaged to actress Hayden Penettiere from the TV shows Heroes and Nashville. The couple announced in 2014 that they are expecting their first child.

Combined, the sibling’s all-time record is 107 wins and 5 losses, with 93 knockouts. Vitali is 45-2-0 with 41 KOs, while Wladimir is 62-3-0 with 52 KOs. Vitali may not have as many knockouts as his little brother, but his KO percentage of 87% is the highest ever in the history of heavyweight champions. Despite his two losses, Vitali rarely lost a round and was never knocked down or out in competition. When he hasn’t come out as the winner, it’s because injuries suffered during a bout have caused him to concede defeat.

Ukraine: Fireball Martini

Fireball Martini

Although an encounter between the two siblings would be highly marketable, Vitali and Wladimir have both insisted that they would never fight each other. The Sip Advisor and his broski didn’t follow this mantra and faced off on pay-per-view in what has been viewed as the least watched sporting exhibition in history!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
When I first heard of this Vodka, I knew it would be a perfect addition to the Sip Advisor collection. I’m a fan of drinks that offer a little burn and this was no different. I could have used a little more heat, but that’s just me. I dared Mrs. Sip to take a bite of the Hot Pepper garnish and when she turned it back on me, I was game… I took my bite and let the flames fly for the next few minutes!

June 21 – Pearl Necklace

Grand Theft

There’s a lot of different ways this shot could be approached, but we here at the Sip Advisor always take the high road… BOOBIES!!! Okay, now that I have that out of my systems, here are the top five greatest heist movies (I bet you didn’t see that coming!):

#5: The Ladykillers

To clarify, I’m talking about the 1955 British black comedy and not the 2004 remake starring Tom Hanks. Sadly, that film has been looked upon with some contempt, but I don’t remember it being that bad. Anyhoo, this rendition stars some of Britain’s finest actors – Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, etc. – as thieves who take advantage of a lonely, elderly woman to pull of an armoured car heist. As many real-life heists unravel, the thieves turn on one another and in the end, the one you’d least expect to walk away with the loot ends up holding the entire fortune.

#4: A Fish Called Wanda

Filled with numerous twists, double crosses, and a horde of oddball characters, this comedy shows just how greedy folks get when potential riches are at stake. The film was a success both critically and commercially, with Kevin Kline winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. John Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis are also memorable in their roles. Unfortunately, when the stars reunited for a sequel to the surprise hit, they really dropped the ball. Fierce Creatures featured the same main cast, but playing different characters with some tie-ins to A Fish Called Wanda.

#3: Gone in 60 Seconds

I’m the furthest thing from a car guy and even I loved this movie. I have not seen the original, but the remake starring Nicholas Cage, Giovanni Ribisi, and some never-heard-from-again woman, is a high-octane thriller that you don’t have to know the make and model of each vehicle to enjoy. Cage plays Memphis Raines, a former car thief who has gone legit, but is dragged back into the seedy underbelly of Long Beach, California in order to save his brother Kip (Ribisi), who has botched a recent heist. To make amends, Memphis and team have to locate and steal 50 specific vehicles in a 72-hour period.

#2: Inception

Here’s a twist on the heist genre… breaking into someone’s psyche and planting an idea that will change their way of thinking going forward. Every scene of the film will keep you guessing as to what the results will be as they explore the human mind. You can’t go wrong with a cast that features Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, and other notable actors. The cliffhanger ending is also appropriate, leaving audiences wondering whether the mission was a success or if the mind thieves failed to make it out safely.

#1: Ocean’s 11

Whether we’re talking about the Rat Pack original or the George Clooney-Brad Pitt remake, both films are cinematic gems and while they share the same name, their stories vary greatly. The basic plot sees Danny Ocean gather a group of fellow thieves to pull off a Las Vegas casino heist. The results are different in each film and thanks to the 41-year span between movies, the technology is so vastly different and changes the difficulty, particularly for the remake. Being a member of either of these casts would be an honour, so long as you dropped out before the remake’s sequels.

Super Saturday Shot Day: Pearl Necklace

Pearl Necklace Shot

  • 0.5 oz Raspberry Crème Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Amarula Cream
  • 0.5 oz Tequila
  • Garnish with a Raspberry

I love me a good heist movie… the suspense, the scheming, the action. What’s your favourite? I need to go watch some of these films again and plan out my own multi-million dollar windfall!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
There are a couple variations of this recipe, but I went with what seems to be the most widely accepted version. Even then, I altered the shooter based on the ingredients I had on hand and wanted to play with… kind of like a real pearl necklace! I used Raspberry Crème Liqueur instead of Tequila Rose and Amarula Cream over Bailey’s Irish Crème. To keep the shot boozy, I added some straight Tequila. The results were good and as expected, this was a tasty dessert-style shooter.

April 3 – Leaving Las Vegas

Strip Cinema

The title of today’s post may be misleading… we’ll actually be discussing some of the many great movies filmed in Las Vegas. So, if you readers want a taste of what Mrs. Sip and I enjoyed last weekend, why not try one of these movies (or today’s cocktail!). Note: While some films can feature a quick jaunt to Vegas, I’ve chosen to concentrate on the ones that are largely based in Sin City.

The Hangover (2009)

The surprise hit (although anyone could have told you this movie was going to be gold, just by the premise) highlighted everything a trip to Vegas has to offer: wild nights out, poor marital choices, getting knocked the eff out by Mike Tyson… you know, all the usual stuff. I’m willing to bet that people go to Vegas now and try to recreate the experience of Alan, Stu, Phil and Doug (poor guy never gets to be part of the fun, though). While I’m all for tripping the light fantastic on the strip, I hope anybody who tries to recreate the debauchery gets eaten by the MGM lions.

the_hangover

Ocean’s 11 (Original (1960) and Remake (2001))

I’m quite fond of both versions of this movie. The first features the Rat Pack (Frankie, Dean-O, Sammy, and the rest of the crew), while the remake sees George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and too many others to list light up the screen for a fun romp of a heist movie. The ending in each movie is different, which makes watching both totally worth it, and because of the gap between film releases (none of this 10 years later reboot crap), technology had changed so much that the movies have vastly different schemes.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Nicholas Cage won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ben, a longtime alcoholic looking to end his life in one last epic binge. Along the way, he meets prostitute Sera and they form a relationship of sorts, as Ben drinks himself to death and Sera tries to make her life better. You gotta admire Ben’s drive and passion for the bottle. He shows all us boozehounds how to go out honourably.

Vegas Vacation (1997)

Clark Griswold and family are back at it, this time tackling Sin City. One of the highlights of the movie is underage Rusty, who ends up becoming a high roller thanks to a hilarious fake I.D. His lucky streak, as Nick Papagiorgio, saves the family from ruin, as only Chevy Chase can cause. Cousin Eddie is also back in this romp and I wish the casino he takes Clark to actually existed. Rock, Paper, Scissors… Pick-A-Number… I might actually have a chance at these games!

Vegas Vacation

Showgirls (1995)

Let’s be honest… this cinematic gem is pretty awful, but you knew fans would flock to any movie that featured a Saved by the Bell actress in the buff. I personally would have preferred it to star Tiffany Amber Thiessen, but whatevs. Sometimes you just have to make peace with the breasts you are given.

Drink #93: Leaving Las Vegas

April 3

  • 1 oz Vodka
  • 1 oz Rum
  • 1 oz Gin
  • 1 oz Triple Sec
  • 2 tbsp Sugar
  • Splash of Lemonade
  • Splash of Lemon-Lime Soda
  • Garnish with Lemon Wedge and Strawberry Slice

I used our coloured ice-cubes for a bit of extra something (since it is supposed to be a Vegas themed drink after all). This drink looks awfully familiar to a Long Island Iced Tea, just minus the cola and with lemonade and lemon-lime soda in its place. I personally love this family of drinks because they are so highly booze-fueled. The Beverly Hills Iced Tea will also be featured on this site in the future!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I love using the pink and white ice cubes. I think they add another layer to a clear cocktail like this. This is basically similar to a Long Island Iced Tea with a few altered ingredients. I love LIIT’s, so this one went down just as easy as all the others!