Booze Issue

Las Vegas bartenders agree: It’s all in the shake

Before you sample that next cocktail, check out the way your bartender shakes it up. It can tell you a lot about their personality.
E.C. Gladstone

Every drink may have an exact recipe, but if there’s one thing that every bartender does just a little differently, it’s the way he or she handles their cocktail shaker. Some put a little panache into it, some just get the job done, some profess a scientific method, while others shrug their shoulders. As a professional bar fly I couldn’t help pondering if all the shaking is just for show, or does it show us something more about the shaker? I figured it was high time I put my minor in psychology to practice, and see what they said.

Chris Hopkins, General Manager, Vesper Bar (Cosmopolitan)

This London-trained Aussie (late of the Soho House) shakes with a vigorous fierceness, watching his own shaker, as if he’ll know on sight when the drink is done.

“Someone once told me, you shake it to wake it.” He notes that different ice requires different shaking.

Our take: Expect stiff competition from Hopkins in any contest—mixology, cards, maybe even minature golf.

Marissa Carbaugh, Rhumbar (Mirage)

Marissa’s style is languid and lush, softy sifting the cocktail through the ice for a supple sip. “I try to do it in an arc.”

Our take: Marissa has a very happy home life. A very, very happy home life.

Alex Penalosa, Comme Ca (Cosmopolitan)

Give Penalosa some room when he’s shaking. There’s enough aggressive energy coming out of him to shake half the drinks on the bar.

“It’s not to be flashy—drinks with raw sugars and juices need to be shaken hard, and I want to give that drink every chance it has to blend well.”

Our take: Mm-hmm, We still think someone in Alex’s life … Dad, Mom, the significant other … might be pushing some buttons. A bad night for Penalosa is likely the best night for his drinks.

Patricia Richards, Property Mixologist, Wynn/Encore Resorts

Richards is almost as famed for her picture-perfect smiling while shaking as she is for her contest-winning cocktails. With every agitation she snubs the serious sourpusses of mondo mixology.

What does she think her shake says about her? “It states fluidity, beauty, self-assuredness and expertise.”

Our take: Patricia likes everything to be just so. And at her bar, it always is.

Michael Harold, Nob Hill (MGM Grand)

Harold shakes soft and steady, and not a second longer than the drink requires. A 12-year veteran, he knows when a cocktail is ready even in his sleep.

“I can feel when the ice starts to break up.”

Our take: Harold is the kind of bartender who would probably bail a good customer out of jail. He’s that dependable.

Mariena Mercer, General Manager, Chandelier Bar (Cosmopolitan)

Mariena has a very measured back-and-forth, up-and-down style, chugging a bit like a steam locomotive in a steady rhythm. “I have a long wing span.”

Our take: Mariena’s always reaching for something new and daring—and her cocktail innovations do the same.

Rustyn Vaughn Lee. Consultant, Hank’s Fine Steaks & Martinis (Green Valley Ranch)

“Maximum efficiency” is how Rustyn defines his all-bases-covered back-and-forth, up-and-down shake. “I think it should be function over fashion, but you are on stage behind the bar, so a little showmanship never hurts.”

Our take: Lee makes brilliance look effortless. He’s either the world’s greatest roommate, or the most annoying one.

Max Solano, Beverage Manager, Delmonico Steakhouse/Table 10 (Venetian/Palazzo)

Shaking is a full-contact sport for Solano, as he freely admits. “I get my whole body into it. People think I’m doing a dance when I shake, and I have fun with it.”

Our take: Solano has subconscious fantasies of living in a James Bond film … and with one of the world’s great whiskey collections at his disposal, reality isn’t far from it.


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