How To Have A Religious Experience In Las Vegas

Life & Culture Editor

Here’s what I expect when I spend a weekend in Vegas: Several nights of debauchery (some of those buffets stay open late, yo), a visit to the spa, at least an hour spent trying to turn $20 into a minor fortune via the magic of blackjack and the Britney Spears slot machine, and at least one meal at a restaurant that’s so expensive I’ll start off all anecdotes about what I ate with a sincere apology for my excess and a reminder that “I don’t usually splurge like this but…”

I expect a drunken stroll through a casino, a conversation with an aesthetician that starts with how much better my skin could look if I just washed my face more vigorously and ends with a discussion of all the celebrities they’ve worked on — this trip: Kelly Ripa, Lady Gaga — and, as a grand finale, the sighting of at least two bachelorette parties, both alike in dignity but diametrically opposed in their aesthetic, colliding into each other by chance and giving off that kind of mildly uncomfortable vibe which suggests the accidental meeting could turn into a Sharks/Jets showdown at a second’s notice. (This trip’s edition: A group of 30 women clad in flowing dresses, speaking in hushed tones vs. a mixed-gender posse of possible southerners sporting homemade booty shorts, cheap plastic visors and screaming “whoop whoop, you happy fuckers!”)

What I don’t expect is an education in digestion from a celebrity mixologist, but that’s precisely what I get: In the backroom of Montecristo at Caesar’s palace, Rob Floyd offers a masterclass on Pepsi’s role in the digestion process — who knew? — while mixing together ingredients in a smoking metal bowl (I want to call it a cauldron but recognize that “exploding with smoke” is only one of a cauldron’s defining features). The result, which is equal parts sweet and bitter, will need to be eaten with a spoon. When Floyd announces this, the room, full of people who would be considered a little overdressed for a Saturday afternoon anywhere but vegas, erupts into warm applause. Samples are passed out. Soon, American Idol alum Pia Toscano will take the stage. And then there will be dinner, followed by a night of dancing at Omnia (which I insist on referring to as The Omnia Nightclub and Discotheque to the delight and revulsion of others).

With all the activities going on, it may be a little hard to pinpoint exactly why I’d been flown to Vegas with my husband, so I’ll be real: We were there to taste Pepsi. But not just any Pepsi — no, you can get that down at your local corner store. We were there to taste the new varietals of Pepsi’s 1893 — Citrus Cola and Black Currant Cola. These, too, can be purchased at your local corner store, but they deserve some fanfare as they’re billed as all-natural, fair trade, and sweetened with real sugar.

It’s Pepsi’s way of getting into the craft cola market and the soda’s selling point — aside from a reminder that it’s is a heightened version of creator Caleb Bradham’s original 1893 recipe, hence the name — is that it goes down well on its own but even better with alcohol. That’s why a huge bottle of WhistlePig Rye Whiskey welcomed us in our hotel room. And while I don’t drink whiskey, I can tell you that the cola’s good.

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