Friends With Benefits: Tommy Schimmel
For Tommy Schimmel, it’s about breaking stereotypes. He first did it as a kid when he took ballet classes; and then again when he majored in ballet performance at the University of Arts in Philadelphia.
And, now as the operations manager at Sake Rok at The Park, he’s breaking cocktail stereotypes. “When it comes to creating our cocktails, we really want to create something that is original—steer off the path from using all Japanese ingredients just because we’re a Japanese restaurant,” Schimmel said. “It’s about not sticking to the cookie-cutter method.”
It was Schimmel’s background as a dancer, and his many years of bartending, that landed him the job at Sake Rok. When he moved to Las Vegas a couple of years ago, he started at the restaurant as a dancing bartender. “That’s what’s so cool about this place, there’s so much talent that’s just hidden—people don’t realize that their server was, is, a dancer first,” he said.
His bartending talents quickly moved him up the ladder to bar manager and he received his current title this past spring. “My main focus, every day I come to work, is the bar,” said the Chicago native. “I really thrive with ‘How can we make new and interesting things?’ Finding the perfect balance of familiar and unusual flavors.”
Schimmel is currently expanding his sake knowledge, too, and has received a Level 1 Award in Sake from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. “When it comes to cocktails, I get really excited,” he said. “Whether it’s a new drink or product that comes out that I want people to try, I want to expand my knowledge as well as the staff’s.”
Earlier this year, Schimmel and his team revamped the cocktail menu, adding a majority of new recipes but keeping two top sellers, including the Hana Berri. “I’ve never really tasted any other cocktail like this before,” Schimmel said. “It uses high-quality vodka and the Nigori sake switches the game up, plus the sparkling blueberry sake to top it off—its unique flavors just blend really well together.” Those flavors include Grey Goose L’Orange vodka, Ozeki Nigori sake, Banzai Bunny blueberry sparkling sake, St-Germain elderflower liqueur and lemon juice and garnished with an edible orchid.
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