Bartending with Meghann Allred: The Liquid Unknown

Megann Allred brings her excitement and expertise of the bartending world to this week's feature

For more content like this Meghann Allred bio, check out Adam Rains and his additional works.

Bartending is a great American living art and is performed 24/7 in this pleasure-culture mecca that we call Las Vegas. While it doesn’t always garner the same cache as other culinary art forms, it undoubtedly has a central place in our culture and it is integral to the American experience.  

Bartenders are the “maestro” of our good times; the best give us what we didn’t even know we needed. It’s been said that, “a bartender should be one part sage, one part rockstar, one part mixologist.” The good ones are all of these, and the great ones perform these with hospitality in their hearts.  

This column will be a continuing dedication to the craft of bartending in and to the people that do it. Our city has an abundance of world-class talent, unique cocktail culture and personalities that scream to be showcased. Read on to meet your new favorite bartenders, explore their unique art form and enter the liquid unknown. 

Bartending with Meghann Allred

image courtesy of Meghann Allred

Summerlin now has multitudes of world-class offerings when it comes to food and drink. One of the bright spots in this now vibrant dining scene is La Strega. If you’ve gone there, most likely you have tried the amazing coastal Italian cuisine, but there are also good cocktails! Meghann Allred’s fresh take on classics as well as seasonal and unique liquid delights are not to be missed. 

Tell me about the arch of your bartending career. 

I joined this crazy community after the boom of the “new bartending era” began. I feel like I’ve been catching up for the first five of my eight years and more recently have found my footing and style behind the bar. Depending on how deep you want to dive, we’re talking history of cocktails, spirits, wine… We’re learning the science behind subjects like molecular mixology and how to apply cooking techniques to create a new stage of evolution in the beverage industry. I want to play with all of it!

A personal goal of mine in achieving this level of knowledge is the study of at least one major certification a year. This year I was able to achieve two. One was a bourbon stewardship with an in-depth study in Louisville, Kentucky and the second was a Sherry Certification with the Consejo Regulador de Jerez out of Cadiz, Spain. 

Why is bartending the best job in the world?

Well, I will start by affirming that one has to love bartending to do it. It’s challenging for sure and requires constant adaptation. That being said, it is never boring and if you find yourself bored you are either in the wrong space or the wrong career.

For me, bartending mirrors my previous line of work as a dancer/aerialist. Both careers are controlled chaos. Constantly on your feet, on the go, multitasking to the max. If you find yourself in the right space, as I have, you have the bonus of creative control and consequently the evolution of you in your chosen profession. Bartending has given me the creative outlet I was used to with performing on a stage. It has provided wonderful travel opportunities where I have met icons of the industry and gained new friends who are passionate for their profession and wildly talented. 

Have you competed in any bartender competitions? If so, which ones? 

Oh yeah! My first was Woodford Reserve’s Master of the Manhattan competition in 2018. My head chef and boss at the time would have entered me in the competition without my knowledge if he remembered how to spell my name (hahahaha!). However, it was the best opportunity I could have imagined and opened my eyes to an entirely new realm of bartending. I made it to the semi-finals in Kentucky that year. I was also the Las Vegas semi-finalist for the same competition in 2022. I have continued on the competitive path entering both in-person and online competitions. Winning some, losing some, but growing from each and every one. 

Where do you see Las Vegas’s place in the world of bartending?

That’s a tough one and I would love to discuss this further. For starters, you have to know where to look to find the gems. It’s not that the gems are hidden per say or lacking, but I feel like the outside sees Las Vegas singularly as the Strip, which is oversaturated with basic bartending and smoke & mirrors gimmicks and those grain spirited sugar laden yard drinks … We do have icons in the industry out here, some known and some new bartenders/mixologists pushing the barriers and successfully experimenting with new ideas, techniques, and flavor profiles. 

The last 10 years in beverage has seen a proliferation of techniques, flavors, ideas, and products. What do you think is next? What is new at your bar? 

Lately I have seen an increase in the ‘revamping’ of classics which are really taking interesting twists on presentations and flavor profiles. As an overall community we have absolutely beaten to death the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Margarita and Martini variations. I have noticed that lately we have started moving to some of the more retro classics such as the Grasshopper, Brandy Alexander and the resurgence of the Espresso Martini. 

The bar at La Strega has been playing with multiple techniques lately. We have had a concentration on cocktails made to pair with Gina’s seasonal offerings. A newer sous pression technique has been successful behind our bar and I’m personally excited to work with any techniques that offer less waste outcomes. 

What spirit do you most identify with? Favorite to mix with? Favorite to drink? 

I don’t really discriminate on spirits. They each have a place and time for optimal mixing and enjoying. My favorites include any spirit or cocktail that takes you on a journey.

What do you drink when you aren’t at work? 

I have a deep affection for sherries, brandy, whiskies and wine. 

Describe your personal style of service.

I enjoy taking guests on the journey whether it be food pairings, unique ingredients or the history and story of a classic. 

Please name some people that you admire in the industry. 

I can’t proceed without mentioning Gina Marinelli, the head witch and executive chef partner of La Strega and Harlo in Summerlin. On the beverage side I have to include Julie Reiner and Ivy Mix out of New York, and Drea Boulanger, who is the Wine Director at Spiegelworld. 

What do you do other than bartending? 

I love dancing, salsa specifically. I enjoy cooking, especially when my husband and I magically have a moment off together. Exploring Las Vegas, as it is my new home. I want to know more about it from its nature and landscape to historic past, and its constantly changing and new venues. 

Chef Gina is a Vegas icon and La Strega is one of the best Italian restaurants in Las Vegas. Please tell me about what that means to you. What is the focus of the bar program? Tell me about the food. 

Working closely with Gina has been an industry professional’s dream. Gina is a chef that pushes her entire team to thrive with in depth information on dish inspiration, composition and preparation. She tells you her secrets and the whys of what she does. Gina is an open book and she cares about the people she takes under her wing … or broom. 

The focus of the bar program leading into 2024 will be cocktails. Pairing perfectly curated cocktails and non-alcoholic offerings with our menu. Experimentation and innovation with techniques and flavor profiles so that our guests can be transported somewhere new and exciting. This may sound typical but when done well, the outcome can be magical. 

Coastal Italian and unique offerings. Gina curates a seasonal menu and partners with local foragers and producers to create all things Italian but not ‘typical’ Italian. You will not find garlic knots or spaghetti and meatballs here. What you will find is fresh-made pasta like the rigatoni Bolognese made with wild boar, caviar bites made with milk soaked and dusted fried cheese curds that are topped with uni crema, caviar and micro basil, or Peruvian bay scallops that have pops of flavor from the truffle aioli, spicy bread crumbs, micro basil and smoked trout roe. Her menu spans from the northern Piedmonte to the southern Sicilian regions of Italy and everything in between.

Cocktail “Tan Santa” 

image courtesy of Meghann Allred

Glass: holiday mug

Ice: cold draft or large cube

4 drops saline solution

.5 oz heavy cream

2 oz caramelized white chocolate milk (recipe from The Aviary Holiday Cocktail Book)

.25 oz Galliano

.5 oz Peppermint Brandy (Christian Brothers VS)

1 oz Lemba Spiced Rum

Hard shake and double strain.

Garnish: toasted marshmallow skewer 

(optional: grated dark chocolate over the top)

Peppermint Brandy: 

Combine 4 oz Christian Brothers VS 40% Brandy, 1 bag peppermint tea in a jar and leave overnight at room temp (around 70 degrees). Strain and reserve for service. Two-week shelf life.

Caramelized White Chocolate Milk:

250g white chocolate, coarsely chopped

500g whole milk

Immersion circulator or sous vide bath: 

Seal the white chocolate in a vacuum bag. Cook in sous vide at 200 F for 5 hours. When the chocolate is nearly done, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat, taking care not to let it scald. Remove the milk from the heat. Transfer the caramelized white chocolate to a medium bowl, then pour the heated milk over it, stirring to combine thoroughly. Allow the mixture to cook completely, then transfer covered to the refrigerator to chill thoroughly. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove solidified fat particles. Reserve in the refrigerator.  

Saline Solution:

Combine and stir 50g water, 17g kosher salt until salt dissolves. Bottle and reserve.

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