In our travels we have run into many people that thought that a mixologist was just a fancy term for a bartender. How wrong can they be? True, most mixologists start off as bartenders, but the terms are not interchangeable. The latter is more like a chef, creating new drinks, not just pouring them
The Creation of cocktails has grown into an art, using fruits, vegetables and other flavors with the same precision that they are used in the kitchen by Chefs. Mixologists rely on seasonal ingredients and their cocktails are frequently commissioned for special events, menus and themes.
It is no secret that Las Vegas is home to many of the world’s greatest Chefs but it is also the home of renowned Mixologists as well. One of them can be found at The Palazzo Resort’s FUSION Mixology Bar making amazing one of kind cocktails to order.
Mixologist Wendy Verdel –Hodges lives and breathes her craft 24 /7. The Venetian / Palazzo Resort’s Winter In Venice events featured cocktails created by Wendy. This was an excellent opportunity to sit down with Wendy at FUSION Mixology Bar, sample some cocktails and speak to this amazing Mixologist
- Mixologist Wendy Verdel-Hodges
SH: Wendy, how long have you been a Mixologist
WVH: Let’s see, I have been Bartending for 19 years and a Mixologist for 6. I consider myself a “throw back bartender, If you can eat it, I can make a drink out of it! “
SH: Many people think that a Mixologist and a Bartender are the same thing. What is the difference?
WVH: Passion! It’s like comparing Cognac and Brandy. Cognac can only come from the Cognac Region in France. All Cognacs are Brandy but not all Brandy’s are Cognacs. In other words, All mixologists are bartenders, but not all bartenders are mixologists. For myself as a mixologist , it is a lifestyle and a living . We have knowledge of all spirits and classic cocktails and handcraft new cocktails as well.
SH: How does it work when you’re approached to make a new Cocktail?
WVH: It all depends on what they are looking for in the Signature Cocktail. Sometimes they give me a specific theme like “Winter In Venice” and I take it from there. Other times all I am given a specific Spirit that they want to feature and then I get to play.
SH: Mixologist are true artists and all artists get their Inspiration in different ways. Let’s talk about the Winter In Venice Cocktails and how you came up with them. What was your inspiration for these very special creations?
WVH : Sometimes I come up with an idea and “ magic” hits the first time .Other times it may take 3 or 4 times before I am happy with it. I also get inspiration in dreams and I wake up and write it down the idea. The Inspiration was obviously winter and Christmas. When I created the CAMPANILE CIDER I wanted to use Frangelico because it reminded me of winter, a warm fireplace and cider!
- Campanile Cider
1 ½ oz Frangelico
1 oz. Clove Infused Bacardi Red Peach Rum
½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1 oz Apple Juice
2 dashes Bar Code Baked Apple Bitters
Shake and strain
Cinnamon Sugar Rimmed Martini glass
The RIALTO EGGNOG was not the original name I had for the cocktail but it was my take on a Brandy Eggnog .
- Rialto Eggnog
1oz Captain Morgan
1 oz Christian Brothers brandy
Dash ground cinnamon
Dash ground nutmeg
2 oz egg nog
Shake and strain into martini glass
Top with fresh grated nutmeg and cinnamon
The GONDOLIER BLANCO is all about Christmas. I think of Candy Canes and Chocolate and I made Christmas in a glass and even has a Candy cane Rim
- Gondolier Blanco
1oz White Chocolate liqueur
1 oz White Creme de menthe
1oz White Creme de cocoa
½ oz White Chocolate syrup
½ oz cream
Shake and strain into candy cane rimmed martini glass that has been swirled with chocolate syrup.
We also featured some classic cocktails as well.
- Negroni Festivo
1 oz Campari,
1 oz Martini Rosso sweet vermouth,
1 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin,
Served on the rocks with an orange cinnamon rim and Garnished with a candied orange peel
- The Godfather
¾ oz Amaretto
1 ½ oz Scotch Whiskey
Served on the rocks with a lemon twist
SH: You have always done well in Mixology Competitions. Do you have any coming up?
WVH : I am always looking at what competitions are around . But I look for the right completion for me that will show off my passion for Mixology . I prefer the competitions ions that showcase the best talent and is not a popularity contest but based on skills and on my day off !!!!
SH : Please tell be about you and the Pisco Championship.
WVH : It was a very big deal and I was flown to Peru after I was first in Las Vegas. I finished 2nd in The Nation and the Peruvian Government made us Pisco Ambassadors to the USA and gave us Chef coats and everything ! It was a very big deal down there with paparazzi and everything. We were treated like celebrities.
SH: Driving in today you had an inspiration for a new Cocktail which I am having right now. Tell me about that
WVH: I was driving into work today and Duke Ellington’s Sugar Rum Cherry came on my satellite radio. Its was cool, Jazzy and had some blues. I said to myself. This has to be done !! My mind started working and the first thing I thought of was Sugar plum fairy. I made the cocktail for you and here is the recipe!
Sugar Rum Cherry
1 oz Cruzan black cherry rum
1.5 Sailor Jerry spiced run
1/2 perfect purée Cherry
1/2 clove infused simple syrup
1/2 fresh squeezed OJ a
Zest from 1/2 orange
Rim : orange zest cinnamon sugar
Fresh Orange zest and freshly squeezed Orange allows the oils from zest to make it pop
SH: Lastly, you are an expert in your field. I would really like to know what YOU order when you are out for a cocktail.
WVH: That’s easy, Chopin with a twist or beer! I don’t want to be disappointed. The words I live by are KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Wendy is one of the best Mixologists in The United States. When In Las Vegas it is well worth a trip to The Palazzo / Venetian Resorts and visit FUSION Mixology Bar for a cocktail made just for you !