Words by: Ian Cameron
Lindsay Nader, 28, is a bartender from Los Angeles who trained at PDT, New York while working as an actress. Now back in California, she is now ensconced at Pour Vous, a champagne salon, and recently co-founded a high-end craft cocktails events company. But more than anything else, she's determined to break out of the bartending 'bubble' to become the face of mixed drinks on TV.
I got my big break in bars at PDT. It was kind of a fluke - I knew a pastry chef who introduced me to Jim Meehan, and I started working on the door at first. I was still acting, so was just looking just a part-time job. The shift is a killer: it starts at 2.30pm, the phone starts ringing at 3, service begins at 6 and you leave at 2am. Then Jim moved me to cocktail server, so I had to taste everything - that's how I fell in love with his cocktail philosophy - and then I became a bartender. In the end I was there for three years.
What makes me happy is when I feel I am taking care of people. Most bartenders can make a decent drink, and honestly that should be the easiest part of the job, but it's the experience that goes with the drink that's most important. I love being the host, making the drinks and controlling the room, introducing people to the right people. It's important to be able to cope with the most challenging of situations, so it's your responsibility to be up with the news and to culture yourself. I'd rather get a mediocre cocktail from a gracious and upbeat bartender than the most well-crafted, esoteric and forward-thinking cocktail from a conceited douchebag.
I'm not just Lindsay Nader, I'm also becoming known as the N.A.D.E.R. on my blog- it stands for Next Level Advocate For Drinking & Eating Right and is a sort of extended persona of myself. I've been working for the last one-and-a-half years through social media to become a more well-known personality, and it's also a useful means to express myself to the industry uncensored. We've seen chefs morph into celebrity and I'd love to see the same phenomenon happen with the world of spirits and cocktails. I just finished working on a TV project - a peak into the culinary world in LA through six women. A good bartender is a performer and entertainer by nature and I believe that I may be someone capable of bridging that gap.
In LA there's such a blogger presence and a lot of it is good, but there's a lot of ass kissing too. Everyone seems to be trying to get to the top by establishing good relationships but they're often afraid to speak their mind. One of my main complaints recently is how the whole cocktail revival got away from us and became more about the ego of the bartender and less about the guest. It's not helped by cocktail geeks who memorise your movements, ask lots of questions and take that as their foray into the world of bartending - forgetting about the human interest.
I personally get inspired by food, I'm always eating out and have a lot of chef friends, and we're constantly going to openings and tastings. Having spent time in New York, where fresh produce can be erratic, by comparison the farm-to-table aspect in LA is huge, and that makes it one of the most exciting cities for food and drink. I was in Santa Ynez recently, at this organic farm, and was inspired to create a green bean-flavoured Gimlet, blanching the green beans and pulverising them, using the flowers as garnish.
We're living in a new golden age of cocktails but there are still a lot of bad drinks . If you look at all the TV and film parties that are held in the city, most of the attention goes on the food and the guest list. So two friends of mine and I have created a craft cocktail services company, called Elysium: we want to take the plastic cup away from women in gowns and men in tuxedos. We figure out in advance whether we can shake to order, otherwise we batch and shake them in the right way, or serve punch bowls.
LA was always the city that was a little bit behind and other cities found their culinary identity before we did. But recently I've seen so much growth, and now we don't actually have enough bartenders with the skill levels we need. Peel back all the bullshit and you find a vibrant town with a food and beverage scene that rivals other major national and international cities. We've come from a point where some great restaurants turned their backs on bars - even boarding them up in some cases - to a point where they are realising they need to rip the wall out again. You cannot open a restaurant without a bar programme now. Five years in New York gave me my hustle but I'm so happy to be a part of LA again.