ABOVE: Whether a novice or an aficionado of cigars and fine spirits, all will feel welcomed at the casual yet elegant La Casa Cigars & Lounge. (Courtesy: La Casa Cigars & Lounge)
Gemma Acheson is the mixologist for the posh La Casa Cigars & Lounge located at Tivoli Village within the affluent community of Summerlin in Las Vegas. The mixology maven has spent years honing her expertise in the food and beverage industry, both in the United Kingdom and Las Vegas, where she has resided for the past 14 years.
From the moment you enter, La Casa exudes luxury and refinement with its dark wood accents, sultry paintings of exotic women and state-of-the-art walk-in humidor showcasing hundreds of carefully hand-crafted fine cigars.
The upscale lounge also displays a dizzying array of high-end spirits, a private membership-only VIP club room that features individual lockers for its discriminating members and a large patio. It also features a live jazz music, Tuesday through Saturday.
CLASS met up with Acheson at the cigar lounge — where she’s been employed as the bar manager since 2017 — to speak to her about La Casa and her rise to prominence in the challenging mixology profession, which is competitive, creative and constantly changing.
Seated in the very comfortable lounge area filled with leather barrel-backed club chairs, CLASS enjoyed learning more about La Casa and its incredible mixologist.
How many types of cigars does La Casa have available?
We have approximately 35 to 40 different brands and several types of styles each. Several of our top brands include Padron, Arturo Fuente, Cohiba and Davidoff. Our prices start at an affordable $8 and go up from there. We have something for everyone.
La Casa offers a special membership program. What does it include?
Membership includes your own private humidor inside the members lounge. You also get a box of cigars on signup, and access to the VIP members lounge and all members-only events, such as cigar and whiskey pairings.
In addition to it being a high-end cigar lounge, what do you believe attracts the many well-known people who frequent La Casa?
They feel safe here. Our guests treat each other with respect. Those people receive no special treatment and the same level of service. This is a destination bar. You come here because you are coming here, not just passing by.
Why do you think more women nowadays visit cigar bars, which for a long time were male-dominated venues?
Women come in groups. They have achieved success, and that feels good. Cigars and fine spirits have been a definition of success for years — and they deserve it.
What was your foray into a hospitality career?
I am from Lincolnshire in the U.K. My great-grandfather owned a pub. I grew up there and saw hospitality from a very young age. When I got older, I worked in a pub. I turned wine bottles in the wine cellar and other tasks involving the business.
As a woman working in this industry, have you found it to be difficult?
A pro is a pro no matter what gender you are. As a woman and a manager, you must be heard in the right way; it’s about being heard in a nonaggressive way. You have to be aware.
The terms “mixologist” and “bartender” seem to be interchangeable. What is the difference between the two?
We are all bartenders first. I think for a mixologist, it’s a career and not just a job. Currently, there is no official mixologist certification — but it’s on the way.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a mixologist?
Take it seriously. Educate yourself — it’s not easy. Travel and immerse yourself in the food and beverage industry. Keep learning. It’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle.