Nightclub & Bar is elated to announce that Nectaly Mendoza is our 2016 Bartender of the Year. Nectaly is the owner of Herbs & Rye, his temple dedicated to classic cocktails located in Las Vegas. Herbs & Rye is not only a local hang (the hang for local libation lovers) but a cocktail destination for tourists, visiting bartenders and mixologists, and aficionados due to its atmosphere, personality, menu and high standards.
Nectaly pays tribute not only to classic cocktails but to the techniques and crafting standards that made them icons. Not only that, but he studies the spirits, flavors and tastes of the day of a multitude of epochs.
“We have to go by the book and understand how the American palate was drinking at those times," says Nectaly. "Our education needs to never end."
The menu he has created is divided into eras: the Gothic Age, Golden Age, Old School Age, Prohibition, Years of Reform, Rat Pack Era, Tiki Boom, and Revival. Visitors will find concoctions from 1776 to present, from the Jack Rose and Widows Kiss to the Horse’s Neck and Painkiller (and everything in between). You’ll also find his drink of choice: the Piña Colada.
This is a bartender and bar owner who clearly loves learning about, crafting and serving cocktails. He’s also someone that 2015 Bartender of the Year award winner Steve Schneider has called “a leader amongst his peers.”
While others point to Nectaly’s ambition, strength, attention to detail, commitment to quality and standards, and leadership as the keys to his success, the humble bar owner and bartender would use just one word: luck.
A Vegas native, Nectaly was no stranger to police and jail during his youth, and his first foray into the hospitality industry lasted a paltry two weeks. He started his career, short as it was in the beginning, as a busboy at Las Vegas tamale restaurant Doña María Tamales. He took a stab at the industry again when he decided to apply for a job at Bellagio Las Vegas. Nectaly says he was left in a cubicle by the woman interviewing him for an unbelievable nine hours. As recompense, he was offered a job as a glass polisher at Olives, a Todd English restaurant.
It was Nectaly’s drive to climb the hospitality ladder that landed him a job with Light Group as a bar-back. Just 3 years after leaving Bellagio for Light he was made beverage specialist for the renowned nightlife group. Just over 7 years ago, amid the recession that ravaged the country, Nectaly opened Herbs & Rye and committed to providing the highest quality cocktails and Old Vegas dining experience to everyone who walked through his doors. A testament to his commitment, heart and soul: to avoid closing those doors in 2011, Nectaly sold his car so he could make payroll. Then, along with his staff, he underwent intensive bar training and introduced a steakhouse menu.
Speaking to his heart, Nectaly visits elementary schools throughout Las Vegas to show the children there (who are often at risk, food insecure, or undocumented) that paying attention to history, math and science can help make them successful restaurant owners one day. To reach out and engage the kids – and to give them a treat – he creates a sundae bar for them.
Call it luck, call it commitment, call it whatever you want, Nectaly is the type of bartender others should strive to be. His dedication to the craft, desire to give back, and humble attitude in the face of great success make him a true leader and role model not just within our industry but within the community. And just as important, he’s the type of bartender we want to serve us our next drink.
Cheers, and congratulations to Nectaly Mendoza!