Photos by Infinity Photo and Jeff Ragazzo

Editor’s Note: This feature was written and published before the Guinness World Record-setting event, but photos of the epic cocktail were obtained after Nov. 5 and inserted into this version. 

Las Vegas will be treated to a spectacle on November 5, when a giant highball glass full of indigo-hued gin will meet gallons of tonic water and magically turn pink. The feat at the Apex Social Lounge at the Palms Casino Resort will set a world record for largest mixed drink for the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) Las Vegas Chapter, but will also serve a greater purpose.

“We’re creating awareness Las Vegas style,” said Livio Lauro, of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada, and lifetime member of the USBG. The record breaking drink is just one of many events throughout the month of November to help highlight National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness & Family Caregiver Month through Keep Memory Alive’s Month of Memory. Keep Memory Alive is the fundraising arm for the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in downtown Las Vegas. It’s the second year for the Month of Memory, which was created to help spread the awareness beyond the typical community who frequent and support the Lou Ruvo Center. 

“Last year, we were doing different promotions to not just raise money, but also raise awareness right here in this community, local and homegrown, doing a lot of good,” said Anna Robins, senior director of Keep Memory Alive. “Not everyone knows what goes on in our cool building downtown. We created this (Month of Memory) as a way to hopefully speak to a different audience.”

Breaking the Guinness book of World Records will certainly reach an audience. The cocktail, made with Empress Gin, Fever Tree Tonic Water and giant ice cubes from Ice Occasions, starts out a shade of purple because of the botanicals used and will turn pink because of how one of its botanicals—Butterfly Pea Flower—interacts with acid. Made in British Columbia, Empress Gin also features Empress tea, juniper, grapefruit peel, coriander, rose petal, ginger root and cinnamon bark.  “It’s a very crafty gin, and it’s not just the gimmick of turning purple to pink,” Lauro said. “It truly is a good gin and is noteworthy for a lot more than just the color change.” 

Roughly 400 bottles of Empress Gin will be used for the mixed drink, along with about twice as much tonic water, fresh lime juice and the ice cubes, mixed in a giant glass made by SRS Fabrication. Spectators will be able to try the gin and tonic. At the right time, the tonic will be poured in, forcing the change from the gin’s natural color to pink. “That color change is sudden and dramatic,” he said. “It’ll go viral, but we’re creating much more than a stunt.”

Lauro helped put together the event, as a member of the Guild and wanting to help it break a world record. 

“The members of the USBG are the heroes behind this,” said Lauro, who co-founded the Nevada chapter in 2001. “The mission of the Guild is to enhance the image of the bartender and the cocktail itself, so this is all right up our alley. It’s a community event and we plan to have the Vegas community there. It’s greater than just the Guild and the Palms.”

But it is the location, the Palms, that helps highlight why some of the partners of Month of Memory are so special. The resort was chosen because the cure to this disease is very near and dear to their executive team and they have been supporting the cause for a long time. The choice of gin runs deeper than the color purple, as does the partnership with Crown Royal, which is packaged in a purple bag. Lauro said, “The reason behind Empress, is the ownership of that brand had loved ones affected and they’ve been supporters from day one, as has Diageo, the owner of Crown Royal. Purple is cool, but the involvement is even cooler.”

Purple is the color of Alzheimer’s awareness, the same way pink is for breast cancer awareness. Month of Memory is a major initiative by Keep Memory Alive to spread awareness of everything the local Lou Ruvo Center does. The center also works with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and ALS. 

While there are epic events like the giant mixed drink, Keep Memory Alive’s partnerships also include little activations, dollar donations per check, round ups to the check or even little plastic brains that can be sold for a dollar. There’s also the Audi Henderson Lake Las Vegas Classic on Nov. 1-3 in Henderson, a two-part golf tournament and culinary event with proceeds heading to Keep Memory Alive. Other events happen throughout the year, including the annual Keep Memory Alive Power of Love Gala (which has raised millions of dollars for its cause), a Texas Hold ‘em Charity Poker Tournament and Summer Social and Rodeo.

“There are all sorts of creative ideas partners come up with,” Robins said. “There are all sorts of ways, but no matter what you’ll be doing to participate, we get a chance to spread awareness.” Robins added that an important part of the awareness is to spread the word on where the money actually goes and explained they felt they hadn’t done a good enough job educating the entire community about how much the center does beyond treating patients. In addition to treatment, the center also offers free social services, social workers, care groups and more. “We don’t just treat patients and these diseases,” Robins said. “We wrap around the entire process and help the families get through the journey of diseases with no cures. It’s our job to make that process better.”

That’s not to take away from the research happening at the center, which is the largest research study on Alzhemier’s, including 21 clinical trials. More than 70 clinical trials in all have been conducted at the center.

“There is a really rich story happening in downtown Las Vegas,” Robins said.

To help really spread the message of the Lou Ruvo Center, PBS will be airing a three-part educational series on Keep Memory Alive and the Lou Ruvo Brain Center. One part will focus on the creation of the center and how it stems from “one man’s promise other families won’t go through what he went through with his own father,” Robins said. The Lou Ruvo Center opened in 2010, founded by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits senior managing director Larry Ruvo in dedication to his father, Lou, who suffered from the ravaging disease of Alzheimer’s, from which he passed away in 1994.

The other parts of the series will highlight the state of the clinic, talking about the doctors, programs and research to all of the center’s support for caregiving. 

Robins also highlighted a program throughout schools in Clark County, which teaches them about Alzheimer’s, but also how to have a healthy brain and ensure that it’s healthy now and throughout their own aging process. The program also depicts children going through couch cushions and car seats finding coins. The hope is to teach the children every little bit counts, what people are going through and, maybe, inspire them to go into medicine. “All these little guys come in with change and raise thousands of dollars,” Robin said. “It shows together we can raise a lot of money in small amounts. That’s probably one of our favorites. It gives us that platform into the younger generation. They might see relatives struggling and they didn’t understand what was going on and we can help them, at least a little bit.”

The entire month of November is dedicated to making sure the city of Las Vegas is aware of the work being done right here in the city at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and about the diseases in general. Here’s to investing in a penny for your thoughts (which happens to be the name of a very worthy children’s program): While some of the events can generate thousands of dollars and others can generate a lot of buzz, like the record-setting giant cocktail, even the smallest actions matter, as Robins explained: “I think the important thing is for people to understand every penny really does count and really does make a difference in someone’s life. Maybe a family can get extra services, or access to food stamps. Whatever is going on, the philanthropy underwrites it.

I think a lot of the community maybe thinks we’re just a hospital, but we’re so much more than that.”

With Las Vegas already doing so much, why not take part in helping the city achieve more? It’s as easy as checking out the world’s largest gin and tonic. For more information on the event, the Alzheimer’s Awareness Month of Memory, and what you can do to support awareness of brain health, visit Keepmemoryalive.org.