The Sister Duo That Brought Us One of the Most Beloved Bars in Vegas.
If you ask a Las Vegas local, or just about anyone who frequents the Arts District area what some of their favorite bars may be, just about everyone will list Velveteen Rabbit within the first few seconds. After much planning and deliberation, sisters Pam and Christina Dylag were able to embody their dream and bring this classy spot to life almost four years ago. Discreetly situated on one of the fastest growing streets in the downtown area is a mellow wonderland donning rows of beautiful velvet couches, a cozy patio that hosts live music when the weather permits, and an ever-changing cocktail menu to lift your sights and tastebuds up where they belong.
We sauntered in on a Monday afternoon about an hour before these lovely ladies opened their doors to the public for the evening. We took a look around the place and immediately felt at home. We pulled up a seat at the bar with this badass sister duo and talked about life downtown, liquor we love, and of course, tried some tasty cocktails.
How many years have you been bartending?
Christina: Since opening in 2013, almost 4 years.
Pam: 5 1/2 years now.
Spirit of choice?
Christina: “MezcalI mean, I appreciate all spirits, but it’s the one thats really just grown on me. I don't know for what reason, I think there’s a lot of complexity and a lot of variation within the spirit itself because you can utilize so many different types of agave, and it doesn't have to be aged for you to pick up on the nuances of each individual agave. So I think that’s really special. And I think it mixes really well. I don’t know, I just love it.”
Pam: “I’m going to go with Chartreuse because it’s really special I think, as well. It’s a really old elixir. It started in the sixteenth century and it was made by French monks in the alps, and the whole mystique behind it is that only like two monks know the recipe. It was originally for medicinal purposes which all spirits kind of come from that. I just really love that you don't know exactly whats in it. It has such a really unique flavor. I love using it as a modifier or just drinking it. I just find it really unique and magical. There’s really no spirit like it, you can’t replicate it.”
Cocktail of choice?
Christina: “Usually when I go somewhere I’ll just change the base to mezcal, so it’s usually anything with mezcal. I especially like a Blinker with mezcal. A Blinker’s a really good, classic cocktail. It’s really simple, it’s one of the three-ingredient cocktails. It’s traditionally with rye, it was made in the prohibition era to sort of mask rye that wasn’t so great. It’s rye, grapefruit juice, and raspberry syrup.“
Pam: “A Negroni is a drink I love. First of all, I can’t have Negronis as often as I used to. I’m such a lightweight right now, I don’t know what happened to me. I think after I turned 30, I’m 32 going on 33, and I don’t know, I definitely can’t drink as much as I used to. But I love gin, I love vermouth, I love Compari. Each of those ingredients I could just enjoy on their own, so having them together is just a great combination. It’s really well-balanced. It has bitterness to it, it has the herbal component of vermouth, it has the nice, fresh feeling of gin. Depending on the gin you use, depending on the vermouth you use, you could really change that drink.”
When did you open Velveteen Rabbit?
Pam: “We opened in May of 2013, so we’re coming up on four years.”
What caused you to open a bar together?
Pam: “Well I had always kind of had it in the back of my mind, I just never thought that it would materialize this quickly. But I was traveling outside of the US and came up with the idea. So I pitched the idea to Pam and in the introductory email that I sent to her, it was all the things that actually came to fruition, like velvet, victorian furniture, dimly lit. You know, just a really relaxing atmosphere, very intimate. Have cocktails and music, art. She was totally on board and we just sort of started planning from there. And it took us two and a half years from that point because we kind of didn’t have any idea what we were doing.”
Where’d you get the name velveteen rabbit?
Christina: “It more or less came to me, but I liked the idea of being comfortable and something that feels like home, a community driven space. It paired nicely with the name “velveteen”. And it’s Pam’s favorite childhood book, so it immediately had that connection. We didn’t want it to be mimicking the book at all, but there are similarities. We just thought it would be a really cool name, and it’s a memorable name too.”
What’s one cocktail that you would banish from the face of the Earth?
Christina: “I think it’s anything that’s ordered for the sake of the color. Like, please don’t. For instance, an AMF. I remember I made one once with that blue flower tincture, and somebody got mad because it ended up purple and not blue. There’s this blue flower tincture and it’s from Australia. It’s really cool. I think the flower is indigenous to Thailand or somewhere in that area. It’s a great modifier. But when you mix a citrus with the blue it turns almost purple. I was trying to be fancy, we might have also been out of blue curaçao.”
Pam: “I would say a Long Island iced tea, I don’t like drinks where you’re just trying to get drunk immediately. Well the reason that drink was even made in the first place was a bartender during a competition, and they just picked up the first two things in the well, poured, picked up the next two things in the well, topped it with coke and sour mix. I mean, it’s weird. *laughs* I’ll definitely ID someone right away if they order one.
Do you ladies often find a lot of adversity as female bartenders in the industry?
Pam: “Yeah, we do, I’m not going to lie. I guess I try not to let it affect me as much, but it still does because people always assume, well not always, but a lot of the time assume that the bartender on duty is the manager or the owner. I’m always assumed to be a cocktail server when I’m walking through.”
Christina: “Oh, I remember when we first opened too, a customer wanted to do a round of shots and I was going to do one with them. He’s like, “Is your boss going to care if you did that?” And I’m like, “Uh, I am the boss.” I don’t know, I think it happens less often now because a lot of people know that were the owners. I think also being situated in Las Vegas is unique because so many women make a good living on the strip often showcasing their bodies, the model bartenders and that sort of thing. So a lot of women tend to go to the strip to work because there’s a ton of money there, so there aren’t as many craft cocktail women as there are men so they're maybe not taken as seriously. But there are some really kickass female bartenders and property mixologists that are taken very seriously.”
What are some of your favorite bars in town?
Christina: “We like Atomic a lot, they have a really great beer program. Um, also Golden Tiki is really fun. I like really unique ambiance like the Peppermill.”
Pam: “I like quiet bars also, like the Mandarin Oriental bar. They make really good drinks and it has a great view and great selection.”
The ladies of Velveteen also mixed up some tasty cocktails for us to share with you, so here goes nothing!
Christina immediately had a cocktail in mind when we asked her what she’d like to make for us. This one’s called The Fireside. A sweet treat that packs a punch of flavor, The Fireside is made with in-house roast marshmallow infused bourbon, a touch of citrus, heavy cream, and Orgeat, which is a sweet, nut based syrup. It also features peppermint, Aztec chocolate bitters, and a rinse of High West Campfire. Shaken, double-strained, and garnished with truly toasted marshmallows, one sip and immediately craved the comfort of a warm fire. Well-balanced and leaving a great smoky feeling behind on your tastebuds, you’ll wont be able to stop at just one.
Pam, on the other hand, decided to showcase her love for a good Negroni. Her Holiday Negroni had us feeling at ease with the winter chill outside. Made with St George Terroir Gin, which has a very aromatic pine-forward taste, Punt e Mes, which Pam tells us is a more robust version of Carpano Antica, and Contratto vermouth. It’s finished with orange zest, orange oil, and garnished with a rosemary sprig. Fresh and flavorful, with half of our duo being quite the fan of gin, we give this one a ten out of ten based on flavor and the use of modifications to make a truly unique take on a classic.