Bartending has probably existed as long as there has been alcohol. If we were to examine the story of Noah getting drunk after the flood, we’d most likely find that he went to a local Assyrian bar, complained about all the rain and how much all those animals smelled and then proceeded to drink a little too much Old Testament wine. I don’t remember the rest of the story, but I believe he tipped very well.
In Vegas bartenders often serve a much bigger purpose than hearing complaints: they are the backbone of restaurant and entertainment programs and their drinks are essential to a good meal and a great experience. It seemed it was time to turn the spotlight on some of the best bartenders in Las Vegas and recognize them for their hard work and contribution to the business of Las Vegas. Our plan is to also feature each one individually over the next coming weeks and make sure they have the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience.
So what makes these Las Vegas bartenders the best?
Bryant Jane, who is currently planning his next alcohol-based project, believes that the best of the best bartenders come from Las Vegas because of this need to serve all sorts of people.
“I feel the best bartenders in Las Vegas all demonstrate a level of hospitality and knowledge that is on par or above what you see in major cities across the country,” says Jane. “Being that most of us deal with people from all around the world, most of us are used to different types of personalities from all different walks of life, and we know how to be accommodating accordingly…The best bartenders know how to take care of them and make them feel special.”
Even in places without food, a good bartender is more than just a guy or gal who knows how to make drinks, but someone who knows how to run the bar, make sure everything from the bar is smoothly run, and that drinks get out to customers in a timely manner. A badly run bar can destroy a business by not only slowing down business and cutting income but also quickly ruining a reputation if they are making bad drinks in even the best establishment. There’s no room for making mistakes, especially when you are often charging tourists twice the amount of what people get back home.
Real Bartenders know their drinks, love their drinks, and love the complexity in making a great drink. These are the guys and gals that can recite almost every basic recipe, and give you a dozen variants of the best.
Plus they have to know all these, because of the very fact that Las Vegas gets customers from all over the world.
So exactly what are some of the bartenders making right now?
Juyoung (June) Kang of Delmonico Steakhouse in the Venetian-Palazzo explains that her favorite drink to make is the Sazerac, because it’s the “ultimate balance of precision and skill that goes into making this cocktail. It seems easy but one little mistake and can make this cocktail taste off. And I love that complicated mess it can be.”
Tom Kozlowski who bartends nights at the delicious Hexx, is in love with the Vieux Carré, which is “Rye whiskey, Benedictine, Cognac, some bitters, New Orleans roots. I absolutely love being a bartender.”
David “Coop” Cooper of Carnevino Fame is making an “Italian steakhouse Manhattan with 2 1/12 oz Dickel barrel select (or favorite rye) 1/2 oz meletti amaro, 2 drops orange bitters, 1 drop chocolate bitters and then stirred real cold poured over luxardo cherries and large cube in a rocks glass that has had an orange twist rubbed for smell on the rim.”#simplydelicious
In general bartenders seem to also love their jobs and are some of the happier, and funniest people in Las Vegas.
Kang told PaceVegas.com that one reason she loves working in the industry is because of the “challenge of everyday and the people I meet…You meet all kinds of people who end up becoming your friend and that’s the best. Also when you get a chance to learn so much about everything and then get the chance to teach that to the next up and coming bartenders, become a mentor, that’s just fulfilling to give back and pass along the secrets of the trade.”
Jessica Lee Westergom, at The Sand Dollar told us that one of the reasons she loves to bartend is because she “ grew up being taught that when someone enters you’re home it’s your duty to make a guest feel welcome and give them food, clothing, shelter- anything. I use this is my daily routine for my guests. I have their drink ready before they get to the bar, I ask about their lives- they want to relax,and whether it be a beer or a cocktail”
Megan Lynn Cordrey at the Bradley Gaming and Cocktail Lounge says she loves her job because she gets “to see people smiling, laughing and having a good time” partially thanks to her.
Kozlowski agrees that “the hospitality aspect of my job is something I always try to focus on. Doing what I can to make my guest’s not just have a good time, but have a great experience is something I’m always focused on. It’s a handshake when you come in, and a hug when we say goodbye.”
So how did we compile the list? We asked bartenders and managers who the best bartenders were, and then who the best bartenders thought the best bartenders were. We simply listed the 16 most nominated people, and chose a very arbitrary number. There are tons of amazing bartenders in Las Vegas, and we invite everyone to leave comments with those bartenders!
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After almost 40 years in the business the reason I still love it is I love people. The same reason some hate it. I have my nights where its like I should have sold insurance however in the end there is nothing like coming to my corner at Carnevino, having people who have never met engage, share wine, food and stories. I love being the guy that makes amazing experiences happen. It is an absolutely awesome compliment when someone remembers you after 6 years away or when they say this has been the best night or best culinary experience of their life. That &%$&$ is amazing – David Cooper
For those who love keeping track of their favorite bartenders on social media, here’s a list of them and their Facebook profiles.
1) David Cooper | Carnevino at Palazzo
2) Adam Rains | Carnevino at Palazzo
3) Sarah Delgado-Rith | Cosmopolitan’s Oak & Ivy
4) Bryant Jane | Project TBD
5) Juyoung (June) Kang | Delmonico Steak House at Venetian
6) Amy Fitz | STK at Cosmopolitan
7) Kevin Gorham | Downtown Cocktail Room
8) Rustyn Vaughn Lee – Rose Rabbit Lie
9) SeongHa Lee – Mandarin Bar
10) Jessica Lee Westergom | The Sand Dollar Las Vegas
11) Emily Yett | Herbs n Rye
12) Lillian Hargrove | Bardot Brasserie by Michael Mina
13) Arpee Sampson III | The Golden Tiki
14) Megan Lynn Cordrey – Bradly Gaming & Cocktail Lounge.
15) Rebecca Ahnert Hayden | Fleur at Mandalay Bay
16) Tom Kozlowski | Hexx at Paris