I looked at the Manhattan cocktail that was served in a round glass. There was this deep red cherry immersed in the drink, with the long stem sticking out of the glass. “Don’t they serve these in Martini glasses?”, I asked. The server explained that they serve in both types of glasses and offered to take my drink and serve it back in a Martini glass. “No thanks”, I said quickly, not wanting to let go of my drink. Deliberately picking the Maraschino cherry from the drink, I tapped it lightly on the side of the glass and gobbled it in one fell swoop, biting it slowly, while its liqueur sweet taste enveloped my taste buds.
Hmmm…good old rye I said to myself, as I sipped the cocktail. I was at the Wolfgang Puck Postrio restaurant at the St. Mark’s square, an open air style restaurant that was actually indoors under a painted blue sky at the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, in Las Vegas. The imitation was too good, I thought, as I admired the black cobble stone like tiles on the floor.
There was a musical performance being staged as many people strolled by, while others sat in the restaurants facing the little stage, enjoying the free performance and the lively atmosphere. An open air market square scene. A woman painted in white stood still like a Roman statue. She would nod ever so slightly only when someone came and dropped a dollar bill in front of her! Stilt walkers chased fancy dressed clowns. Costumed musicians played, singers serenaded and from the gondolas on the canal next to this scene, wafted the full throated singing of passionate sounding fancy dressed gondola operators!
The Canaletto restaurant that was facing the mini stage was sold out. The Wolfgang Puck restaurant was on the corner of the square and got only a side view of the stage so it was not yet sold out, although the food and service here is arguably better. I had just ordered a salmon linguine with Alfredo sauce as the main course.
This place is an inspired imitation of Venice, with architectural replicas of the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Campanile, Palazzo Ducale, Rialto Bridge etc. Well, this luxurious hotel is only 15 years old but it brings back memories of the places that are more than a thousand years old. There are no old paintings inside the Doge’s Palace look alike. There is no old bell inside the St. Mark’s Campanile. The sky is a painted blue sky. You feel it is an evening in Venice sitting next to the canal. The sky stays the same all day and all year round. This is a beautiful mirage of sorts. While the real Venice is sinking under its own weight, Las Vegas brings to life great memories with stunning views and carefully assembled experiences. This is the essence of Las Vegas - an oasis in the middle of a desert. Attracting millions of guests each year, employing thousands of people, making revenues of billions of dollars.
A place that entertains the world, by imitating the old world, and by creating a new world of its own, in a myriad number of ways.
I sipped the Manhattan. This cocktail tastes best with rye whisky in my opinion, although it can also be prepared with bourbon as the base, adding to it Vermouth and a dash of bitter. The Maraschino cherry is used to garnish it. Its name derived from how it is manufactured - first immersed in sugar then preserved in a liqueur for a month, giving it the unique sweet treat taste.
The process of making this cherry gives it a new life.
The Maraschino cherry tastes more like candy than cherry. It no longer tastes like the original cherry. It has been transformed into something completely different. It may have the looks of a cherry but it is a totally different treat. In its own right. Perhaps like the Venetian itself – with its painted ceilings, Leonardo da Vinci museum, and themed restaurants, it is an entirely new world that is inspired by the old one, but has a novel and unique taste just like the Maraschino cherry.