For whatever reason the culinary industry as a whole tends to be a man's game. Of course there are many amazing female chefs and mixologists, but the ratios tends to lean toward the guys.
One local beverage director has turned that male-dominated stereotype on its head. At twenty-two years old, Paige Nast is leading one of the most intensive cocktail programs in Broward County at Fort Lauderdale's Tap 42.
Clean Plate Charlie: Hometown/high school?
Nast: Fort Lauderdale; St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
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How long have you been in South Florida?
My whole life! I actually was born across the street from Tap at Broward General, and have been born and raised in Fort Lauderdale my entire life! I've very much become a product of my environment, and really can't imagine living anywhere other than South Florida.
How long have you been in the industry?
I've been working in restaurants since I was 15 years old. I started off as a bread-girl at 15th Street Fisheries, and worked my way through the ranks at a few different places, from hostess to server, than cocktail to bartender, and finally Beverage Director at Tap 42. I've learned so much from every establishment I've been lucky to be a part of and have met and worked with so many great people throughout the years. I love to be hands-on and be involved in every aspect of each establishment; I'm constantly in the way in the kitchen!
I knew I wanted to be a bartender when _______.
When I was working at Ocean Prime as a cocktail server, the head bartenders and I became close and we needed to replace a bartender that was leaving. I've always been very culinary inclined and loved experimenting with different flavors and the like, and as the cocktail program there was so culinary based, I always found the beverage program very interesting. When they approached me about training me behind the bar I was instantly excited and was fortunate to be mentored by two people who had a passion for mixology, and I instantly knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of.
Favorite drink to make?
It's not as much a particular drink that I love to make. For me, and this may sound a little nefarious, I love tricking people, as in, when someone tells me "I hate gin" or whatever the spirit that they dislike may be, I come up with a cocktail that they usually end up loving, and when they ask what it is, I tell them HA, you don't hate ____, you're drinking it! It's just fun exposing people to new things.
Least favorite drink to make?
Any spirit and ______. I get that sometimes people want to enjoy old trusty and just stick to what they know and like, but I really love getting the opportunity to create something awesome and unique for my bar guests. Most bartenders would probably answer "Mojito" but the way I look at that is, it's just as many steps to make any other cocktail!
Strangest drink requested?
There's probably been a lot more that I can't think of at the moment, but a few recent odd-balls: Cosmo with olive juice (????), and a Bloody Mary with a splash of Guinness, which was surprisingly tasty, the Guinness actually balances the acidity and apparently its popular in the Midwest.
What's your favorite spirit?
This is almost like naming a favorite child, because I love both Whiskey and Gin, and for the same reasons; within each spirit category, each different brand is so distinct from the next. I love how varied both whiskies and gins are and always love to discover a new awesome brand.
What's your favorite thing to drink after work?
Makers 46 Manhattan, on the rocks, with an orange twist, preferably flamed. AND STIRRED NOT SHAKEN!
What is your favorite place to drink after work?
I like to go to Laser Wolf with our beer director at Tap to try whatever they have that we don't. I know that sounds surprising because I'm a mixologist so you would think I would be drinking liquor, but I'm a self-confessed cocktail snob and I'd rather drink beer if I'm not confident I can get a properly executed cocktail, because no one likes to be that person that complains. I also love Park Tavern in Delray, even though it's a little far from me, they have GREAT cocktails and an awesome vibe overall.
What's the best pick-up line you've heard at the bar?
There's no such thing as a good pick up line.
"I would drink your bath-water" to which I replied "I just worked for 12 hours, might be a little salty!" GROSS!
If someone comes in and orders a ______, you instantly think ______ about them.
Long Island; AMATEUR!
Biggest pet-peeve while working?
I hate when people leave glass racks on our back-bar, it just irritates me because I think it looks messy. I also am OCD about placing new bev-naps underneath every new drink, sometimes I even end up putting two or three because I'm such a creature of habit.
Who is your favorite local bartender? Any why?
My friend Luis at Steak 954, because he's very passionate about what he does and truly cares about the industry just as I do.
If I wasn't a bartender, I would be a ______.
Not really sure but definitely something in the industry! Perhaps a sommelier.
Favorite kind of bar customer?
Adventurous people that really embrace the experience and are open-minded enough to trust me and try new things.
Least favorite kind of bar customer?
Rude, wasted, and over-all miserable ones! Although I do love a challenge! I love being able to turn a hater into our newest fan.
If you could make a drink for anyone, who would it be? And which drink do you think would suit them?
Dale Degroff, because he is basically the godfather of mixology. I'd love to make him my Drafted Old-Fashioned as I think it's one of the most innovative cocktails that I've come up with, while still a classic at heart.
Favorite thing about bartending?
Meeting such different and varied personalities, and again, being able to open up people's eyes to new flavors and spirits. I truly love what I do and interacting with so many different people really is life-enriching. I also love that it's a continuous learning process; you can never know everything and learning new things every day is something that definitely fulfills me.