The boys club is officially over. Herbs & Rye has had some staff turnover since the cocktail bar and steakhouse opened in 2009. But of all the bartenders to step behind the stick, not a one has been a female. (You can see where this is going, can’t you?)
Meet Emily Yett. Bubbly, sassy, energetic and not afraid of hard work. Coworker and bar manager Joe Pereira admits that he was straight with Yett during the hiring process: fourteen-hour days, opening then closing—could she handle it? You bet she can.
Raised in Rancho Cucamonga, California, Yett started bartending the second she turned 21. At the Tartan—a Scottish pub with, ironically, the same wallpaper as Herbs & Rye—the employee closest to Yett’s age was in her 50s. At the bar, “it was a lot of brandy Alexanders, mai tais, Grasshoppers and Pink Ladies,” she says. “They would call a margarita with no salt a ‘topless Maggie’ and call all their bourbon drinks by the mixer: ‘a Coke,’ ‘a Seven’ or ‘a water.’ A regular Coke was a Shirley.” When Yett landed a barback gig at Bally’s in Las Vegas she was the only one in her age group to know those calls, and it served her well.
Having taught herself flair bartending from YouTube videos by Las Vegas’ own Ken Hall and Christian Delpech, Yett started flipping bottles at Carlos & Charlie’s and The D, where she was actually noticed for her mixology chops and whisked off to open Bound bar in the Cromwell. An Herbs & Rye regular, Yett caught owner Nectaly Mendoza’s eye during a bartending competition that required both speed and precision. “I will drop my union job and take out trash cans for you to work here,” Yett told Mendoza, “because the team is so solid, to be a part of it would be amazing.” She started her first shift at Herbs & Rye in January on her 30th birthday.
“Being in the flair world, I’m kind of used to being the only female,” Yett says. “It puts me in a position to show everyone I like to have fun, but there’s a reason they picked me and I’m back there. I’m trying to prove to this city that I can be right there with the rest of them.” But don’t expect her to put away the flair now that she’s back in the land of brandy Alexanders. “I eventually want to merge the two. And when I put my mind to something, I do it.”
The girl power doesn’t stop there. General manager Kimberly Wachsman was born in Las Vegas, but grew up in Guam and returned to Nevada after graduating high school. Two days later she had a hostess job at Herbs & Rye, where her sister is a food server. Just a year and a half later, Wachsman was promoted to general manager.
“[Yett and Wachsman] are awesome. I have not been happier,” says Mendoza, who has a passion for mentorship. Wachsman says Mendoza has encouraged her to learn the business from top to bottom: serving, bartending, food running. It’s always been Wachsman’s goal to someday own her own restaurant. Now, seeing it from the inside, she is even more committed. “I still have a lot to learn,” she says. “But Nectaly has kept me positive. Some days I want to break down because of the stress. But he’s right by my side saying, ‘I don’t want you to give up.’” Still, the hardest thing for Wachsman is approaching tables.
Where she isn’t shy is with her staff, to whom she has no trouble delegating. “I like to be a leader,” Wachsman says. “They tease me, they give me a hard time, but I know it’s for the right reason, to strengthen my weaknesses. They want to see if I can handle it. But they don’t want to see me fail. We’re all like family, and you know how family is.”