I first fell under the spell of Travis’ bar craft at Rancho Pinot when he spontaneously agreed to pair cocktails with our dishes. I still recall the delicious creativity of one made with Fernet Branca, grapefruit and Bacanora (a Sonoran agave liqueur) with an aged balsamic.
Travis Nass, born in Colorado and raised in Southern California, arrived in Phoenix about 10 years ago. A man of many talents, it was as a teppenyaki chef at Benihana that he fell in love with the industry. After working the front and back of the house and learning everything in between, he found the best blend of the two in bartending.
To sample his cocktails, visit the historic Hermosa Inn, where he works his magic behind the bar at The Last Drop.
I find inspiration… all over. I am lucky to work at an amazing property with fantastic people who inspire me to do better every single day, in an industry filled with talented, innovative individuals, and in a state where we get loads of fresh produce which always gives me something to play with. I also find inspiration pouring through old (and new) cocktail books. Classics are classics for a reason, and many obscure cocktails in those books follow similar drink templates. Plus, I love the idea of drinking history.
On a hot summer day… I will occasionally order a refreshing beverage like a French 75 or a Four Peaks AZ peach ale topped with a shot of Fernet; however, seasonality doesn’t really affect what I am drinking. I feel it is my duty to drink everything. Although I do drink more beer and sparkling wine in the summer and more red wine in the winter, I usually choose whatever excites me on a cocktail list, or have the bartender make me something with a spirit, brand or liqueur that has been holding my attention.
On a cool winter day… while I don’t drink that seasonally, I do love a Hot Toddy, anything stirred or a big red wine.
The best part of working at The Last Drop is… the people and a property full of rich history, not to mention an amazing garden. I work alongside a team of professionals dedicated to bringing our guests the best possible experience. It inspires me to do better every day.
At the end of my shift… I love to experiment. I’ll go home and throw together a cocktail that has been rattling around in my brain and try to work out the kinks, or make one of my favorite nightcaps—a Bijou, Fernet-Me-Not, Manhattan or Brandy Sazerac.
My favorite spirit? I feel it is my duty to drink everything, so it is hard to pick a favorite. Lately I have been obsessed with agave spirits. Gin always has a big place in my heart, especially with the interesting micro-brands. I usually drink more whiskey in the winter, but I have been into scotch a lot lately. I guess the answer really depends on what I am working on, what I have tasted lately, what I am playing around with at home and what I have tried at other bars. It is a very fluid thing and changes all the time. But, gun to my head, I guess I’d say gin… maybe.
I wish more people would order… anything with boutique spirits. I have curated a unique selection of boutique brands on the back bar at The Last Drop. With the boom of micro-distilleries all over the United States, it is time to step away from your old standby and try something new. Trust me, it will be delicious. As with micro-brew beer and independent vineyards, there is infinite variation out there, so find someone who you trust for recommendations.
I love when a guest… asks questions! I am a bit of a nerd so nothing gets me more excited than a guest who wants to learn about cocktails. Granted, I am probably the king of TMI, but I could talk for hours about anything cocktail-related. Sports are not my treasure, so if you ask me anything about the game that is on, you are probably not going to get any helpful information from me.
My favorite thing about working behind a bar is… that I make people happy for a living! What could be more fun than that? Everybody is at a bar to have a good time, whether they are celebrating, meeting friends or winding down after work. Even if you go to the bar after a bad day, you go there to make it better.
If I wasn’t bartending, I would be… distilling spirits, primarily because as a bartender I have had the opportunity to taste a lot of spirits and visit distilleries. I have a few original ideas for things yet to be put to market, that might actually be marketable. If I didn’t make the decision to be in the bar industry, I probably would still be cooking. I love food.
Favorite spots for a cocktail in Phoenix? I usually end up at Crudo or Shady’s since they are right by the Last Drop. Those guys always do a great job. Spotty [Clint Spotleson] makes some of the best cocktails I have had in a while at Virtù, and Richie [Moe] and the gang at Citizen Public House always have something interesting happening. It’s exciting. There are so many great cocktail places in the city now that there are too many to list.