‘BAR STAR’ LUIS NAVA
THIS SUMMER’S COCKTAIL MVP
Everybody loves a Cinderella story—rooting for the little guy. So, when someone starts at the bottom and works their way to the top we just have to cheer them on. But I fear calling Luis Nava a bartending star on the rise is a bit misleading since he’s technically not even a bartender. OK, is that misleading or just missing the mark entirely? Either way, this “bartender” at The Raymond 1886 in Pasadena has made two of the best new cocktails you’ll have this summer in-and-around Los Angeles. So yeah, maybe he is a bartending star on the rise.
I’ve championed The Raymond 1886 bar program and its bartenders for years as I think it’s easily the best cocktail bar in town. And hands down this summer’s MVP is Luis Nava. So just who hell is Luis Nava?
Luis Nava is a veteran of The Raymond for 16 years. He’s a jack of all trades who works in the kitchen doing whatever needs to be done like AV setup for events and parties, and handyman work, yet manages to create killer cocktails. He’s also an extremely shy guy who stands firm at attention and is beyond polite.
“Luis has been the backbone of our bar program for so long,” says 1886 head barman Peter Lloyd Jones. “Luis has a very refined palate and his preparation and his familiarity with ingredients is a major strong point. He is constantly working with seasonal ingredients and finding new ways to engineer more efficient ways to prepare ingredients for cocktails.”
Two people who know Luis well described him to me as the bar’s “secret weapon.”
“Luis is a man of few words but I think that is because he is a man of action,” says Jones. “Luis has been at The Raymond 1886 for 16 years. It’s not realistic to categorize what he does for us into one role. If I had to choose one phrase I would say he’s ‘the gatekeeper’. This man literally covers all bases by creating the fabric of our restaurant and bar and applies himself as the glue. Luis seems to have just one motive; maintain consistency in operations; service; upkeep. He knows every inch of the whole property and can notice the slightest change or imperfection only to be quickly fixed without anyone’s notice. The story is literally endless in terms of what Luis has done for this bar and restaurant.”
He also likes mountain bikes (daredevil racing downhill at speeds beyond 40mph), trucks and guns in addition to a well-balanced and boozy drink. Originally from Zacatecas, Mexico, Luis, the oldest of five children, moved to Los Angeles with his family at the age of nine. Raised with the desire to be a good role model to his siblings, Luis started working at The Raymond (where his father worked as a cook) at the age of 18.