July 2016 Bartender of the Month: Rodger Gillespie

Name: Rodger Gillespie

Establishment: The Social Room at Ora Nightclub

Recent Gigs: When you see Rodger Gillespie at a bartender competition or behind the bar, or see his name attached to a cocktail program, you know you’re about to have a great time and taste some amazing drinks. For the last decade he has been the mind behind some of the most successful cocktail programs in Las Vegas, including The Linq Hotel & Casino, The Cromwell, Giada, Bound by Salvatore Calabrese, Gordon Ramsay Steak, MGM, and The Mirage. However, Rodger is no stranger to Florida’s dynamic nightlife scene, having spent 10 years behind the stick in The Sunshine State. In fact, this BarSmarts and Academy of Spirits and Fine Service graduate (both with honors) has designed cocktails for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

Never one to rest, Rodger’s mind is always working to perfect the next great libation creation. His many bartender competition wins are evidence of his desire to craft innovative beverages and demonstrate his skills. Rodger is the 2013 Nightclub & Bar Don Julio Competition winner, the 2013 Nightclub & Bar Shake it Up! winner, 2013 Seven Magazine Best-Off Menu Cocktail winner, 2013 Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender Award winner, and has taken home the Bombay Sapphire People’s Choice Award, among many other accomplishments and accolades. Rodger has worked with and competed against the best in the industry and has never failed to prove why he holds a spot in the upper echelons of bartending and mixology. He will be missed in Las Vegas but we can’t wait to see what he does for South Beach.

“Much love Vegas,” says Rodger. “Couldn't have done it without the entire city.”

Why did you become a bartender?

At first I just thought it was finding new and creative ways to pick up women.  After a few years and getting to work in a kitchen, my eyes started to open.  About ten years in and coming to Las Vegas I again met two influential people in my life as a bartender, Eben Klemm and Mariena Mercer.  Mariena and I met being the opening team of a bar and restaurant concept that was New York based.  At the time, Eben was the corporate mixologist for them and I really bit onto the geekiness of the training. After that it was a whirlwind of openings and cocktail competitions.

What made you want to work at the bar/bars at which you’re currently bartending?

The Social Room at Ora is a concept that gives me freedom and a challenge I’ve been waiting for.  The company’s belief in my abilities is amazing and I can't wait to show the world my ideas and concepts.

What are some fun flavors you’re working with?

Everything from pistachio to roasted beet. Nothing is off limits.

What are some of the unique spirits and ingredients you’re playing with?

I think I speak for everyone when I say sherry, but Mastiha is really in my wheelhouse right now.

What are you doing different from the norm in your beverages?

I'm not sure about different, but reimagined.  I think that there is something to be said about three- to four-ingredient cocktails.  I do have secrets; those secrets that will be revealed soon.

What do you feel is the next hot trend in mixology?

I think and hope it's cachaça. I love Pete and the gang with Avuá – that stuff is the nectar of the gods.

What’s in the mixing glass or shaker for your customers?

Creativity with no apologies and no pretention.

What are you sipping on and why?

Fernet because I can and cachaça – Avuá – because it's bananas.

What are you dancing to while tending bar? 

Frank! Always Frank! Old Blue Eyes calms me.

What are some quirks/quotes you are known for? 

Man I wish I could say but some things are for the staff only...

Benjamin Franklin is famous for saying "Beer is proof that God loves you and wants us to be happy." What's your beer mantra? 

It’s delicious – drink it or I will.

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