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September 23, 2014

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StripSteak bartender Amanda Gager is a cocktail connoisseur

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Tiffany Brown

StripSteak bartender Amanda Gager

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"It's kind of like chemistry," Gager says of bartending — and fortunately for her, there have been few test tubes bubbling over lately. The California Mule is StripSteak's take on the Moscow Mule, a classic cocktail traditionally served in a copper mug — but not here, she says, since the mug has a tendency to alter the taste of the drink. The update is served tall and made with Krome, a gluten-free vodka distilled from corn, Fever Tree ginger beer and fresh lemon and grapefruit juices.

Amanda Gager was caramelizing raw sugar on the rim of a martini glass when the clouds parted, the light shone down and bartending became something more than what it had been previously — mainly watching regulars sign over their paychecks for a few free beers and the chance at video-poker fortune.

Call it kismet then that she wound up at StripSteak, Michael Mina's gourmet steakhouse at Mandalay Bay, where she can practice her love of cocktails with people who appreciate them as much as she does.

"I'm a very personable bartender," Gager said, in the middle of an interview that touched on everything from her love of snowboarding to her college career, which included a double major in international business and studio art. "I like to talk to my guests. I want to be involved with them."

Hailing from Absecon, N.J., Gager grew up with the now-infamous Jersey shore ("Those kids aren't from Jersey," she reminds us) just across the bay. Five-and-a-half years ago, she moved to Las Vegas, where the only people she knew was a flair bartending troupe she trained with back home. It's safe to say she's made her mark, having spent two years working with a top cocktail program, one that continues to evolve along with the profession.

"It's never-ending," she said. "There's always some new spirit, some new fruit or some new juice to play with. The possibilities are endless."

— Originally published in Las Vegas Magazine

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