According to Tap 42 mixologist Paige Nast, making the perfect cocktail is simple: Use only fresh ingredients mixed with high-quality liquor and a good dose of hospitality.
At just 25 years old, Nast isn't your average bartender. A former mixologist for establishments including Miami's Yardbird and Rok:Brgr in Himmarshee Village, Nast has been working in restaurants since age 15, starting as a bread girl at Fort Lauderdale's 15th Street Fisheries — and working her way through the ranks from hostess to server to bartender — before obtaining her current post as beverage director for Tap 42, as well as Tap Co.'s upcoming concept Bar Rita.
Today, Nast — also a graduate of Bar Smarts advanced program and a level-one sommelier — is busy working on creating drinks that will reflect the industry's latest trends. We caught up with the talented mixologist to see what she drinks (and where she hangs out) when she's not behind the bar at Tap 42.
Name: Paige Nast, Tap 42 beverage director and mixologist
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale
Special training: Bar Smarts Advanced Graduate, Court of Master Sommeliers Lv.1, CRT Award T Certified
New Times: What inspired you to begin bartending?
Nast: I grew up learning to cook with real ingredients and making things from scratch, which inspired me in my very first bartending job to use the same approach for cocktails. I was always enamored with the hospitality industry as I love meeting people from all walks in life, so that, combined with a passion for creating things, inspired me to pursue a place of my own within the industry. I love the fact that just by being nice, smiling, and providing a little bit of information, you can really turn someone’s day around completely. You never know what someone is going through, and I think it’s awesome to be in a position to make someone happy.
What's the first important drink or cocktail menu you remember making?
I’ve made a ton of drinks over the years, but of course my favorite cocktail menu that I’ve created will always be our first few cocktails at Tap 42, as it was my first time really taking charge of the menu. The Drafted Old Fashioned is my favorite drink that I’ve created, as it was the first true beer cocktail I encountered or thought of. The beer-syrup idea just kind of dawned on me, and I did some research only to realize no one else had tried it before, so I figured why not me, and after that the rest is history!
What's your favorite bar in South Florida (besides yours, of course)?
I love grabbing drinks at Laser Wolf. It's off the beaten path, they always have a great selection of craft beer, and I know the guys there pretty well.
What’s your favorite drink on your menu right now?
The Meet Your Maker. I love bourbon, and Makers 46 is a go-to for me. I also love things a bit on the tart side, so with the combination of passionfruit, lemon juice, and basil syrup, this drink is completely me. The basil foam is also too good not to try.
How about your favorite drink or bar program at another restaurant?
I also like to see what Park Tavern in Delray Beach is doing. They always have some fun and creative cocktails rotating through.
What's in store for your next big menu change?
Right now, we're currently testing some margaritas for our upcoming new concept, Bar Rita. I also have a really killer play on a Manhattan that I'm waiting to debut. Stay tuned.
What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
Mostly odd requests concerning switching ingredients. While I'm all for customizing your experience, most cocktails are designed to be perfectly balanced, so I always advise to leave them as they are.
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What do you drink or make for yourself?
I'm a Manhattan gal. I take two ounces of Knob Rye, one ounce of Carpano Antica, and some orange and Hellfire bitters. Then stir and serve up with a flamed orange. Perfection. I also have been obsessed with all variations of the Corpse Reviver for quite some time. I had an amazing Corpse Reviver while I was on vacation recently.
What do you feel is lacking from the South Florida food and drink scene?
Creativity and diversity. There are not enough actual beverage programs in Broward that use fresh ingredients. It's more or less the same stock recipes recycled over and over.
Name one bar tool you could not live without?
Just one?! I suppose a juicer, as you can't do fresh juice without a juicer. Everything else can be improvised, but this is a necessity.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.