MAD MIXOLOGIST O THE ENTERTAINER! MAGAZINE JULY 2019
Alison Bailin Batz >> The Entertainer!
pened in 2014 by brothers Jeffrey and Michael Mastro, their father Dennis Mastro and business partner Scott Troilo, Steak 44 has gained a reputation as a destination steakhouse. Beyond that, thanks to inspired cocktails, Steak 44 is gaining local and national recognition for its beverage program. Among the maverick mixologists behind the bar is Amanda Nugent, who has been with the brand since day one. She recently sat down with The Entertainer! to share her story and some of the secrets to Steak 44’s success.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR OWN ENTRÉE INTO THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE WORLD? My journey has been legitimately full circle. I actually got my start in the food and beverage world back in high school in the late 1990s at Cork & Cleaver. For those who don’t know, Cork & Cleaver was a long-time steakhouse and Phoenix mainstay on 44th Street and Camelback before closing due to a fire. In 2014, the Mastro family took great care to
re-imagine the exact same space where Cork once sat as Steak 44. In between, I’ve had the opportunity to work at some amazing venues in town to hone my craft, including Eddie V’s, Los Olivos and Hotel Valley Ho. I also went to culinary school, graduating Scottsdale Culinary Institute in 2001. And while I do cook on the side, mostly catering and some dinner parties in the Valley, my passion is behind the bar. To me, working as a bartender allows me to be a part of the human experience on a daily basis. I can be the reason someone smiles, laughs or creates a special memory with family. It is more rewarding than I think most people realize.
TELL US ABOUT THE ODDEST DRINK REQUEST YOU’VE GOTTEN. I’ve been lucky to not get too many completely gross requests. One, however, I constantly get that always surprises me involves high-end spirits. I’ve likely been asked to pour a guest a spirit — think ultra high-end cognac of tequila meant to be sipped and savored — and then asked to throw it in Coke or blend it into a margarita over 100 times in my career. This is odd mostly because these spirits, often north of $50 for just a shot or taste, are crafted to be experienced on their own versus as a filler for a cocktail. But, to each their own! I try not to judge and just hope they enjoy it.
WHAT IS YOUR NO. 1 PET PEEVE WHEN WORKING? This one makes me laugh more then get annoyed, but sometimes we will have guests who loved a cocktail at another bar — something with a cool name like The Whirling Dervish or Pepper Bomb. All too often, the guest will have no idea what is in it though, not even the spirit. So, I am off to the internet to try to find the restaurant and cocktail menu online to see what they are asking us to make.
PALOMA - 1.5 ounces Deleon Platinum Tequila - 0.5 ounces Sombra Mezcal - 0.5 ounces St. Germaine - 1-ounce grapefruit organic marmalade - 0.75 ounces lime juice Shake all contents with ice and strain into a Collins glass. Garnish with a lime.
WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO DRINK— OR DRINKS—WHEN YOU’RE AT A BAR OTHER THAN YOUR OWN? Reposado tequila is my go-to right now. I like it with ice and lime, maybe a touch of soda water and sometimes I add grapefruit juice to make it like a Paloma.
WHAT DOES ORDERING A JACK AND COKE SAY ABOUT A PERSON? It usually means they know what they want. When people come in and are specific, I listen to them.
TELL US ABOUT THE BEVERAGE PROGRAM AT STEAK 44? Where I think we excel is in the education provided to the entire staff on spirits, wines, beers and cocktails. Nearly daily, Steak 44 offers tastings and other opportunities to learn about every nuance that goes into a cocktail, wine or beer. As a result, we understand scotch, bourbon, tequila, wines and more from all over the world. Our wine program is stellar, and with so many Level II sommeliers on staff, there is always a legitimate expert within a few feet to help us make the guests’ wine experience out of this work. We also get the chance
to work with the recipes ourselves and offer input on small changes that might help make said recipe pop even more. Right now, we just launched some new menu offerings, but expect to always see our popular martini and Old Fashioned menus as well as one of the most impressive wine lists in Arizona.
WHAT IS ONE COCKTAIL YOU WOULD LOVE FOR US TO FEATURE IN THE MAGAZINE THIS MONTH? Given my own love of them right now, I think our Paloma deserves some attention. It is really something different and perfect for the summer.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THIS DRINK? It is an amped up version of the mainstay cocktail. Ours not only has lime and tequila, but a touch of mezcal to give a hint of smokiness upon sipping. We also use organic grapefruit marmalade and St. Germaine liqueur, which puts it over the top when it comes to flavor.
Steak 44 5101 N. 44th Street, Phoenix, 602.271.4400, steak44.com. ENTERTAINERMAG.COM