In ranking order of buzziest streets in Vegas, following the Strip is Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas (DTLV).
Home to the oldest hotels and casinos in Sin City, Fremont Street is famous for the giant LED canopy that stretches almost 1,500 feet over the blocked off boulevard. Groups of street performers, painters, and vendors fill the walkway nightly, adding an eccentricity greater than the Strip. Open container laws allow boozers to bop from one bar to the next, filling up on drink culture.
Below is a “crafted” timeline of Fremont Street’s booming bar scene – from existing to recent drinking establishments – displaying the drink movement through American time.
Here we have the city’s oldest free-standing bar, originally built in 1945 (as Virginia’s Cafe). Reopened in 1952, Atomic Liquors was named for the time when customers watched hydrogen bomb testings from the roof – that is before the U.S. government urged citizens to prepare to survive an atomic bomb throughout the ever-escalating arms race with the Soviet Union. Anyway, the crowd included the Smothers Brothers after their nightly shows and Barbra Streisand who had her very own seat at the bar.
Sour beers are a specialty, but consider this one of the best bars to go when a beer is needed. General Manager and Certified Cicerone® Rose Signor is responsible for the rotating taps, pouring more than 500 independent craft brews since doors opened decades ago.
The burgeoning craft beer scene in Las Vegas led the team to launch Atomic City Brews in 2016 – a festival program with a mission “to expose Las Vegans to a variety of great beer not readily available in the city,” by showcasing nation brewers on Fremont Street.
Hard to find in the heart of Downtown Las Vegas, Hugo’s Cellar occupies the underneath of the 55-year-old Four Queens Hotel and Casino with its brick-lined walls and deep, comfortable booths. Boasting romanticism, ladies are greeted with a long-stemmed rose before guided through exceptional menu options, including a lengthy list of over 400 wines. On-site sommeliers even use a “tastevin” (a small saucer) to taste test each bottle of wine before serving.
Hugo’s Cellar is a throwback to a time in Las Vegas when table-side service was par for the course (i.e. mobile salad cart prepared to toss). Let’s just say that is more rare than a flatiron steak. Best part is, the menu has not changed much since its 1973 opening as Hugo’s Rotisserie.
Downtown Cocktail Room
Along “Art Alley” (off Fremont Street) hides Downtown Cocktail Room (DCR), a stylish, speakeasy-esque lounge pouring inventive cocktails while pumping eclectic DJ-spun sounds – e.g. this is a place where drinks are not just poured, but perfectly crafted.
A colonizer of the cocktail scene, DCR still remains the ruling cocktail bar – since 2007 – with 55 (and counting) seasonal menus of hand-crafted creations. Sure, the drinks list is comprehensive and it can be damn hard to decide… Just know that the worst thing that could happen is passing on one of the witty and mouth watering “Originals,” such as Third Eye Spy, a charming coupe filled with pea flower-infused pisco, bittersweet vermouth, Salers Gentiane Aperitif Liqueur, and EVOO, for a vodka soda.
In 2012, Commonwealth happened. Ryan Doherty, founder of Corner Bar Management (CBM) combined compelling art, edgy entertainment, progressive design, imaginative cocktails and innovative cuisine within a 6,000-square-foot space on Fremont Street.
The pre-Prohibition-inspired cocktail bar evokes a worn, antiquated ambiance with central crystal chandeliers to illuminate the encircling art and modern industrial architecture. A rooftop bar provides a DJ booth and dance floor framed by tables for lounging and absorbing 360-degree views of DTLV, in addition to boozy libations.
The cocktails are made with classic and progressive methods and ingredients. This season’s menu of signatures highlights Willy Wonka’s Hangover with apple brandy, mezcal, fresh lemon juice, ginger, habanero, and egg white.
Commonwealth is also home to The Laundry Room, an internationally acclaimed cocktail den. Doherty crafted every detail of the bar – from curating the art (of cocktails) to shaping a lineup of DJs and live music.
It was Repeal Day (December 5) 2013 when Golden Gate Hotel & Casino fittingly renamed the original casino bar, Bar Prohibition! to celebrate 80 years since Prohibition. For 115 years, the hotel casino has seen every era of Las Vegas come and go.
Throughout its time, this original Golden Gate bar has operated under many guises: a Wild West watering hole on the last frontier, a place for the women of the roaring 20s to let loose, and a hangout frequented by Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin during the early 60s Rat Pack era.
Folks can feel what it was like to rub shoulders with the stars when sipping one of the bar’s well-balanced cocktails like Vegas Vickie, built with Casa Noble Reposado, Cointreau, Domaine de Canton, grapefruit and lime juices.
Whiskey Licker Up Saloon
First, look up then, “liquor up.” Above the Fremont Street Experience sits Whiskey Licker Up Saloon at the southwest corner of Binion’s, one of Downtown’s iconic casinos established in 1951. The saloon showcases an open-air, rotating bar within floor-to-ceiling retractable windows, bringing the excitement of the Experience straight to you. Only 25 guests can wrap the bar – stragglers can straddle the mechanical bull. There is nothing ordinary about the drinks here (but you can expect a lot of sour mix).
Legacy Club at Circa
DTLV has been partying since 1906, and so, Legacy Club continues the legacy (60 floors up) that spans more than a century, even surviving a pandemic.
The swanky lounge atop Circa, the city’s first adults-only casino, houses a row of custom metal busts of prominent pioneers and legends – Benny Binion, Barron Hilton, Howard Hughes… who made Las Vegas the entertainment destination it is today.
Striking pano-views of Las Vegas are perfectly paired with skillful cocktails like Desert Sunset, dressed in The Botanist Gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, white peach puree, and Prosecco; and namesake Legacy Club, combining Absolut Elyx, Ramazzotti Rosato, fresh lemon juice, prickly pear syrup, and frothy egg white. Lounging options range from plush couches, gas fire pits and banquettes on the stunning terrace, to soft stools at the centerpiece bar backed by a near display of 1,000 ounces in gold, but really.
Regardless of the seat, a peerless cityscape is promised per sip and beat of the “electro-swing” music at show-stopping Legacy Club.