Friends With Benefits: Nate Hedlund of Sahara Las Vegas
From the farm life to the neon lights. “When you’re a kid growing up where I did, you didn’t have a lot to do except for drink beer and go ice fishing,” says Nate Hedlund, beverage director for Sahara Las Vegas. “When you’re drinking Busch Light and talking with your buddies and saying, ‘How awesome would it be to get paid to be in beverage?’ And you dream of this glory job. Then once I moved out here and got introduced to wine and beverage and saw there’s actually a path to do this, I wanted to be in the business.”
Born and raised in Northern Minnesota, Hedlund and his family were turkey and beef farmers. From the crack of dawn it was riding tractors and cutting hay. To celebrate his 21st birthday, he visited Vegas, and from that moment it was his goal to live and work in Sin City.
Hedlund moved to town in 2007. “When you grow up on a farm, sitting by yourself all day, Vegas is on the other side of the planet, and I wanted to be a part of that.” With no connections in town, Hedlund got hired at Mandalay Bay through a temp agency–eventually he got hired full time and his career took off. With lots of hard work and gumption, he worked his way up the ladder, was promoted to titles like wine director and beverage manager, helped launch beverage programs for multiple properties, and in February of last year he joined Sahara.
“It’s been more than 10 years in hospitality,” he says. “I’ve been a beverage director for four properties now. I’ve worked in every category of beverage. Given all types of budgets, programs, corporate, non-corporate–and still my favorite part is watching a guest try a drink and say, ‘This is really good,’ or ‘This is delicious.’ ... when I hear that there’s just no better compliment.”
What about the next 10 years? Answers Hedlund, “Some day I want to be the property president. … Yes, that’s definitely a dream.” Not bad for a kid from the farm.
Libation: Mediterranean Martini
“Casbar is not your typical casino bar,” says Hedlund. “We don’t use typical ingredients. The cocktails are more elevated, but we don’t charge huge amounts for the drinks.” Casbar is just one of the many spots across the property that Hedlund has helped launch the bar program and specialty cocktails like the Mediterranean Martini—mixed with Ketel One Botanicals Grapefruit Rose vodka, Lillet Rosé, blood orange and Q grapefruit soda.
Benefit: If you have a Fernet-Branca coin, take it out and put it on the bar. You’ll only be charged $5 for a glass of Fernet.
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