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April 21, 2014

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Heidi Hinkle puts a twist on the classics

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Steve Marcus

Heidi Hinkle, Aria’s director of beverage

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One of Aria's Signature Sips, this take on the pisco sour gets a desert update with the addition of prickly pear puree, which also lends it that vibrant magenta color. The rest of the cocktail consists of the usual suspects (Bar Sol pisco, fresh lime juice), with one special touch: a few drops of rhubarb bitters. Smelling the drink prior to adding the bitters, then again a few drops later - the difference is everything.

Ever since the Bellagio opened in 1998, its cocktail program has served as the gold standard for what can be accomplished behind a bar in Las Vegas. When MGM Resorts unveiled CityCenter in December, it tapped one of its own, Heidi Hinkle, then Bellagio's director of beverage, to take over that position at Aria.

"It was an opportunity to create a program that's my own," Hinkle said. "Obviously, I inherited a very successful program at the Bellagio, so to be able to put my name behind something was very special and unique for me."

Hinkle oversees 500 employees and 33 "manned" bars, including all casino bars, service bars and restaurant bars throughout the resort. Using high-end spirits and fresh juices with an eye toward the classic cocktails of the pre-Prohibition era, she has helped Aria become a worthy competitor to the neighboring Bellagio.

"My philosophy was every bartender should know the top 25 classic cocktails," Hinkle said, and with that in mind, she created Signature Sips, a list of seven cocktails, such as the Raspberry Aviation or Cucumber Collins, that honor the classics while adding an Aria touch.

"These guys all know what's behind the bar and how to use it," she said of her staff. "I wanted to have that creative force behind each bar and empower the bartenders to make the best drinks possible."

— Originally published in Las Vegas Magazine

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