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We may be in strange times, but it reminds me why I love this city and why I love the service industry. Both seem to attract an array of good-hearted misfits. For many of us, our families are in other parts of the country, but we think of the city and our service industry brethren as our extended family. 

The same goes with our local USBG and is even amplified. Over the course of the COVID-shutdown, our chapter, with support of many brands, did much to assist bartenders and service industry professionals. Along with volunteering opportunities each week, there were multiple meals, events and pantry items that touched many of our members.

The USBGLV Pantry was a slew of daily staples provided by the sponsors and the USBG. They provided fresh eggs, milk and canned goods all in safe and sanitary pickup spots, using the venues of Sand Dollar and Hardway 8 as anchors. 

Mama’s Kitchen (Christina Nyguen from District One) was a weekly pop-up at various locales including Mordeo, that partnered with brands and made several meals of different styles along with a care package. Speaking personally, the chance to have a home-cooked meal made with love, was something that helped brighten my path during times of uncertainty. 

Competitions and cocktail making assignments were another way brands and their ambassadors were able to help. Many competitions involved video, photo and audio-visual components to them that helped spurn our creativity during the idle weeks. Some were in the winners-take-all model, like the Don Q and the Lemba competition, while others were cocktail assignments where every participant received compensation for their work. 

The generosity and general being of our USBG chapter helped reaffirm my faith in humanity during the uncertain times and reminded me why our industry is paramount. Even for those of us who mostly remained at home, we found ways to contribute.

With Lemba as a partner, I and several bartenders came together and created a cocktail book. Lemba Loves Las Vegas is a celebration of Las Vegas and Las Vegas cocktail culture. With quarantine cocktails, mixology secrets from the best along with simple barroom quenchers, it showcases a number of Vegas cocktail hotspots—Herbs & Rye, Velveteen Rabbit, The Cosmopolitan—and the way bartenders’ home bars were represented.

It was humbling for me to be able to work with so many of our talented bartenders. There are recipes from some legends like Francesco Lafranconi, Mariena Mercer and even a foreword by cocktail-god Tony Abou-Ganim. International & local competition winners like Seoung-Ha Lee, Eric Hobbie, Raul Faria, Gene Samuel, Adam O’Donnell, and all-time leader of second place wins, Jason Hughes, rounded it out wonderfully. 

In true-DIY, quarantine fashion, a majority of the photos were taken by the bartenders who made them with a little help from myself and the Uber-talented Jose Salinas (@fotosbyjose). Also to further showcase the talents of our local industry it features art by my co-writer Terry Clark and by Flock & Fowl alumnus, David Veliz.

Proceeds will go to our local chapter of the USBG and will be used to help out-of-work Las Vegas service industry professionals affected by the COVID-19.