It took only two trips to the city to make Hunter S. Thompson a Las Vegas legend, but after only one sip of the drink named after him, the Hunter S.Mash ($9), at Atomic Liquors I began to question which was the real legend, the author or his booze. Thompson was known for his excess, for his ridiculous blend of colors, narcotics, words, slurs and booze, lots of booze, but 45 years have passed since Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was published and that was enough time to refine the dead author’s taste. Atomic keeps his style of blending, but not with drugs, with flavor: bitter aperol, lime and ginger give this cocktail a balanced sweetness perfect for starting a summer night, while muddled mint elevates the refreshment factor. But what about Thompson’s favorite part, the Wild Turkey? The booze is there, but it’s Old Crow instead. Why? Maybe it’s a tribute to the case of nearly thirty-year-old Old Crow bottles found during the bar’s renovation. Or maybe it’s because, like Hunter, they would rather nail a good drink than nail a fact.
Ahi Tuna Tacos
When I saw Ahi Tuna Tacos ($16) on the menu I had to chuckle a bit. Ahi, the word for a large tuna, gives this dish’s name a redundancy not at all representative of its kaleidoscopic range of flavor, color and texture. The four tacos arrived at my table arranged high and low on their serving stand almost like church gables, with their crispy, pointy, fried wonton-like shells, which purse in ruby red tuna and plumes of green and gold frisee. I had to pick up each one with caution, not out of fear of spilling, but out of appreciation for their architecture and hope to not let even the slightest ingredient, say the shining ring of a pickled Fresno pepper, fall out. But as I bit greedily into the tacos, I realized the best part was hiding so modestly: yuzu guacamole, smooth, citrus-heavy and seamlessly bringing all the flavor and sensation of this gorgeous hand-food together.