Whiskey maker focuses on people, then process, then product

Jeff Tomastik, president of Derby Spirits/Ambros Banana Whiskey, poses by a bottling machine in the company’s production facility in Henderson.

After 2 1/2 years of preparation, Ambros Banana Whiskey launched recently and is now featured in restaurants, nightclubs, bars and lounges on and off the Strip. “The most recent accomplishment for us is being carried in all Lee’s Discount Liquor and Liquor World locations in the greater Las Vegas area,” said Jeff Tomastik, president of Derby Spirits.

Tell us more about Ambros Banana Whiskey and how the concept was conceived.

The idea behind Ambros began by seeing the need to improve how flavored spirits were created. Nothing available in the market captured true authentic flavor, and that needed to change. People are now demanding real ingredients in everything they consume, and spirits should be no different. By pairing the most popular spirit in the world, which is whiskey, with the most consumed fruit on the planet, which is banana, Ambros Banana Whiskey was born.

Is there a special ingredient or scientific methodology behind the whiskey?

This is what makes Ambros unique. We infuse our premium whiskey with only 100 percent real bananas. We use no artificial flavors, no natural flavors, no fruit juice concentrate and no added sugars or syrups. With tens of thousands of bananas used in each batch, our proprietary process is the first of its kind.

Where does your entrepreneurial spirit derive from?

I’ve never been artistic, so to express my internal desire to create, I turned to building brands. The feeling you get seeing someone enjoying a product you made is second to none.

As the former hospitality service adviser to the consulate of Monaco, what did your duties entail?

After attending the International University of Monaco for my graduate degree, I wanted to find a way to stay in touch with their culture. The consulate of Monaco here in Las Vegas had such an incredible team and they brought me on to be the liaison to any foreign guests visiting the consulate. I would assist in providing access to whatever they needed in Las Vegas to ensure they felt welcome.

How did that experience help you in your role as president of your own business?

Anytime I can be exposed to people from different cultures and backgrounds, I use it as a learning experience. I try to soak up any knowledge they have by being around them and asking as many questions as possible. Information, experiences and relationships are the driving force for my area of business and I continue to soak up knowledge from anyone I come in contact with.

What is the best business advice you’ve received?

When we first started Ambros, my partner, Sami Omar, told me any successful business is built by focusing on the people, then process, then product. None of them work without the other, and that has become our company motto and words I will forever live by in business. 

Describe your management style.

My management style is very collaborative, especially since at this stage of Ambros, we do not have an incredibly large staff. The input of everyone on my team is welcomed and needed for us to be successful. When we are all providing ideas and insight, the better I can execute as the person making the final decisions. Ultimately, I have a specific vision and I always trust my instincts. 

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Lack of preparation is by far my largest pet peeve. This is how details get missed, and success lives or dies with the details.

Where’s your favorite place to people watch or explore in Las Vegas?

Since I am always on the Strip, downtown is where I love to explore and people watch. I do not get to go there as much as I would like, so when I do, I always seem to find somewhere new. And the people watching on Fremont Street always provides some amazing entertainment.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

After spending so much time in the south of France in graduate school, that will always be a place that I would consider living. I have a lot of work to do with Ambros before that can happen.

Whom do you admire?

I have had many mentors up to this point in my life, but I can say that after the process of launching Ambros, I admire anyone who goes out there and takes the risk to start their own business. It takes a certain type of person to turn an idea into reality and put in the time to really make it work.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I also founded Tail & Fin, a fast-casual restaurant concept with multiple locations in Las Vegas including two locations inside T-Mobile Arena.

Do you have any advice to share with other business owners?

My best advice would be to never stop building meaningful relationships. Sometimes, entrepreneurs get bogged down by the difficulties of running their business and forget to continue cultivating their network.