USBG Las Vegas
Meet Marissa Barlow. A recent transplant from Chicago, she has been a member of the USBG since 2007. She feels most at home at cocktail bars that have a welcoming and unpretentious vibe that also know how to nail the perfect sour! Marissa is still looking for that place in Vegas, which is a fun journey, and she is still searching for the right bar team to join. While she has only been in our chapter for 2 months, you will definitely see more of her in the weeks & months to come.
What is your approach to bartending?
My approach is mise en place. I like to have a team as prepared as possible and set up for success. I am a firm believer that it translates to better hospitality for the guest as you’re better able to focus the attention on people as opposed to tasks.
Who do you look up to?
I look up to Ashtin Berry. Her commitment and approach to bring awareness of intersectionality to the bar world is awe inspiring. If you don’t follow, her you should.
What is your next step in your career?
My focus right now is to better my wine knowledge and get my sommelier certifications.
Our chapter’s motto is “hospitality first.” What does that mean to you?
To me this means a commitment to focusing on guests and their experiences. Coming into work and leaving any distractions and ego at the door. One of my favorite things about this industry is the power it has to bring people together and connect through food, drink and kindness.
Thoughts on the Las Vegas and the USBG?
I’m excited to be part of such an active vibrant USBG community here in Vegas. I love all of the educational opportunities and getting to visit different venues. Everyone I have met has been wonderful and welcoming.
Chinatown continues to grow its talent pool, seemingly overnight. A new addition is Joon Koo. While new to Las Vegas he has already made a name for himself in the bartending community throughout the country and his experience and creativity is a welcome addition to Las Vegas.
You are new to Vegas but already have a ton of experience and a name throughout the bartending community. What is the biggest surprise (positive or negative) you weren't expecting about Vegas?
Being new to Vegas is an understatement. I never had the desire to move or even to visit Las Vegas before a friend convinced me to. Everyone I have encountered has welcomed me with open arms and showed me nothing but love and made me feel at home from day 1. Well, the biggest surprise of Las Vegas was how diverse the city really was. All I knew about Las Vegas was about the fancy hotels and all the bright lights and the city that never sleeps. The city is so much more than just the Strip.
How did you find your way into the bar industry? Did you end up in it while doing it "temporarily" on your way to something else or have you always wanted to be a bartender?
I started working at a restaurant as a server during my senior year in high school. In the beginning, I did not think I would still be working in this world 15 years later.
The flavor combinations you come up with are extremely interesting and creative. How do you brainstorm and create an innovated cocktail menu? Do you work better by evolving freestyles into a more finished cocktail or is everything meticulously written down and planned?
I love food. I find inspiration from everything I smell, taste and experience, and I always want to recreate that memory into drink form and share the moments and memories with my guests. Studying the mother cocktails and classics were the most crucial part of the learning process and talking about "why" was the most significant help.
Tell me about Sushi Kame
Sushi Kame is a new addition to Chinatown. We are located underneath the Green Leaf Lotus Apartment complex by Spring Mountain and Valley View. We focus and specialize in seasonal ingredients. The flavor palates of our dishes are very subtle to keep the integrity of nature's gift. Our chefs focus on providing that one-of-a-kind experience to each guest by adding the unique ingredients to each dish, the love. As the dishes are prepared with so much love and care, we work hard to add the same, if not more of the same care, on the beverage side. At the bar at Sushi Kame, we try our best to make all of our ingredients as honest and transparent as possible.
Our USBG chapter is extremely excited to have you join us. How did the USBG impact your career as a younger bartender in another city?
USBG Dallas Chapter embraced me from the moment I joined. I have made lifelong friends and created a second family. I started bartending much later than many of the other bartenders in the area, but USBG definitely helped me take the fast track to meet fellow bartenders and learn about different aspects of the business and opened many doors for me.
Anything you would like to add?
I'm incredibly excited to be a part of the Vegas community. I'm a nerd in every aspect of life—I like to know the reasons behind each process and why. From making the simple syrups to juicing, shaking the daiquiri and stirring a martini, understanding why and how is my favorite part of working as a bartender. I don't know everything, but I'm constantly searching for the answers and different processes. I'd love to nerd out with y' all—whether it be at your bar, where I work or wherever we get to see each other. I'm excited for this new chapter in my life.