Gabe Chavez is a classically trained chef, but cocktails are his thing at Nook Kitchen in Arcadia.
“I started as a server,” he says. “When I wanted to get behind the bar, I bar-backed like everyone should.”
We recently had the chance to sit down with Chavez and get his backstory on how his career led him to Nook Kitchen. He’ll share, too, what makes Nook Kitchen’s cocktail program special.
Tell me about your career as a bartender.
When I started bartending, it was more like beer and wine. Gradually, I moved my way to cocktails and just fell in love with it. I think, because of the culinary aspect and just kind of the flavors and having fun with flavors, that’s what really got me into it. That’s how I made my transition into cocktails, and the rest is history.
What is oddest ingredient you’ve ever used in a cocktail?
I made a drink with cognac and sweet potato syrup, allspice, and I made dandelion bitters, and we called it the Yamin.
What is your favorite memory working behind the bar?
I don’t know if I have a favorite memory working behind the bar. I think I just like to take everything as it comes and experience it. Obviously, life is an accumulation of experiences, but I just think I enjoy the interaction with people and co-workers and getting into the weeds and working your way out of them.
What is your go-to drink when you are at a bar other than your own?
Chartreuse, green chartreuse.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into the industry?
Work your way from the bottom up. Like I said, I bar-backed. My first job was at Four Peaks, and I was a food runner, and that was very informative. You have to understand what everyone else goes through before you can get to a point where you are like, “Oh, hey, I’m in charge now.” If you don’t understand what everyone else goes through, then I don’t know if you are going to make it in the right way.
What does ordering a vodka tonic say about a person?
That’s what they like to drink. No judgment. No judgment ever.
Tell us about the beverage program here at Nook Kitchen.
It’s fun. There’s something for everyone. That was the goal when I formulated a menu — there has to be something for everyone. I was a little scared coming to Arcadia from Downtown (Phoenix). I didn’t think the crowd would be as adventurous as they are, but I stand corrected. People in Arcadia love cocktails. People will go through the whole menu when they come. I feel blessed that I can come up with stuff that people really enjoy.
What cocktail would you like for us to feature in The Entertainer! Magazine?
Sad Girls Por Vida ($13)
What do you like about the drink?
Beautiful, fun mezcal drink. Approachable, but still checks all the boxes for mezcal drinkers.
Sad Girls Por Vida
1 1/2 ounces mezcal naran
3/4 ounces Butter Washed Sotol Coyote
1/4 ounces Bruto Americano
3/4 ounces blood orange oleo
1/4 ounces yuzu puree
1/4 ounces fresh lemon juice
A few dashes of chocolate-infused Peychaud’s Bitters.
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Pour into a rock glass with a large cube of ice and garnish with an edible flower.
4231 E. Indian School Road