What was Tony Abou-Ganim’s biggest career challenge?
Opening the Bellagio Hotel in 1998. It was the most challenging and perhaps the most rewarding. Coming from San Francisco, I had no idea what I was getting into with a property that had 29 bars, 200 bartenders, 150 apprentice bartenders, over 200 cocktail servers, 24 hours a day, 25,000 drinks a day. We wanted to implement a fresh, handcrafted, classic approach to the cocktails we were making. It turned out to be a tipping point in Las Vegas in terms of how we look at cocktails today. With everything being made from a machine, from off the gun, from a mix — to squeezing fresh fruit, shaking and stirring, great glassware, hand-cut garnishes, making pina colada mix, stuffing our own olives with bleu cheese. Even though I’ve been gone since the end of 2003, you still walk into Bellagio and you feel that philosophy. And, you still have bartenders that are there from 1998 who can carry on that passion. I’m really proud to be a bartender, to work at the Bellagio and make you a great cocktail.