September 23rd, 2009

Kevin Martin


Bartender profile
There’s young Kevin Martin, looking urbane behind the bar at Eastern Standard, placing a white napkin down for your appetizer and effortlessly shaking you a gin flip. Such a gentleman. Then he hands you your drink and, while making some pleasant small talk, suddenly grins the grin of a 10-year-old who just got away with a world-class prank. That’s when you picture him wearing a grass skirt and slinging blender drinks at Cheeseburger in Paradise on Maui. Or at least now you will.

Yes, Martin spent his formative years in the business as a “blender ‘tender,” serving tourists (and a few celebs) frozen daiquiris on the beach in Hawaii, being a surf bum and generally having a blast after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. Though trained as a cook, it didn’t take him long to realize he didn’t want to work in a “hot, muggy, windowless box.” So, he donned the grass skirt and quickly learned a thing or two about speedy drink service, which came in handy when he returned to New England and started working around the corner from Fenway Park.

Why did he leave paradise? It was time to put his education to use, he says, and to “learn the finer points of service and hospitality.” Not to mention the fact that, bless his Connecticut Yankee heart, he loves Boston. Martin has, in just a short time, put his stamp on the already talented staff at ES, and is now advancing that tradition as a manager. But what else would you expect from a guy who had the only frozen-lemonade stand in his neighborhood and who catered his first wedding at 16? Experience, confidence and genuine politeness, all wrapped in a boyish smile. It’s hard not to be in a good mood around this guy.

Glastonbury, CT.

First drink you ever had
My dad used to give me a sip of his Manhattan, followed by letting me fish out the maraschino cherry to eat.

Most touristy bar in Boston that you like
Does Fenway count? Nothing like a warm Miller Lite on a hot day.

The difference between bar-goers in Boston and bar-goers in Hawaii
When most people head to a bar, they are either looking for fun or to get something off their chest, no matter where you are. But the difference between Hawaiian drinkers and Boston drinkers is patience. This phenomenon of waving your hand or, worse, your credit card, in Boston must stop. It’s just rude. It’s the bartender’s job to know who needs a drink. Trust us, we know you’re there, we just told you we’d be right with you, and now you’re waving at another bartender. Stop it!!!

Your guiltiest-pleasure drink

Since the LUPEC girls outed me on this drink a few months back in a Boston publication, I’ll have to admit it’s a Miami Vice: half Piña Colada, half strawberry daiquiri. As a former blender ‘tender myself, I admit it’s a pain because it take two blenders to make it, but ooohhhh soooo gooood.

Best cocktail to introduce vodka drinkers to other spirits
If I don’t think that they’re going to be able to get away from the look of a “pink martini,” it would have to be a Jack Rose, but if I can get them into a Bees Knees with Miller’s Gin, I’d be stoked.

Describe the most insane Red Sox crowd you ever experienced
There’s nothing like opening day in Kenmore Square. You are five people deep from 9:00 a.m. to midnight, serving countless oysters and plates of calamari, with an occasional omelet, to people eating standing. The music is blaring, you’re slinging gallons and gallons of Bloody Marys and wishing that Bloody Mary mix could somehow come off the soda gun. Managing what seems like a million tabs. And then, of course, there’s dealing with people that wave, but for the most part Bostonians are in good spirits on this day and just want to feel the camaraderie of the city. It’s a great time!

A bartender’s best friend is…
Wine bottles with a screw top.

A bartender’s worst enemy is…
Mint fragments in a drink that weren’t meant to be there.

Best or worst pickup line you’ve ever witnessed
“Do you think if I flex hard enough I could rip my shirt?” Response: (laughter) “Nope.”

A famous person you’ve served
Since I worked in one of those bars that everyone knows about and wants to visit when you go to a tropical location, I’ve actually waited on numerous famous people: Pauly Shore, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake, Jesse James and Sandra Bullock, Pete Carroll, Ming Tsai, Jimmy Fallon, Sean Greenhalgh, Rick Lyle and, of course, Peter Wolf.

Most beloved bartending book
The Craft of the Cocktail [by Dale DeGroff], also the first cocktail booked I’ve ever owned.

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9 Responses to “Kevin Martin”

  1. MC Slim JB

    This guy is really good: glad to know his name and a bit of his story, since I’m usually too abashed to ask until I’ve been drinking at someone’s bar for at least two years.

  2. ljclark

    Two years?! That’s rigorous.

  3. gustav

    kevin is a real peach. he straddles that fine line between bartender and mixologist as well as anybody in boston. he is also very strong.

  4. MC Slim JB

    Two years is not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a good baseline. It’s not that I’m trying to keep things on a strictly business basis, but cheap familiarity is something I want to avoid. In my experience, when many customers introduce themselves to a barman, it’s so they can get a name to call out later for service.

  5. sushiesque

    For similar reasons, I usually wait until the barman introduces himself. (Barmaid/herself, etc. And I can’t even begin to fathom what etiquette governs facebook-friending.)

  6. lantheaume

    It’s always a pleasure to see Kevin.

    Whether he’s working behind the bar, or having a drink of it, he is forever a gentleman and a pleasure to be around.

    Thanks for adding him to the bartender profiles!

  7. lantheaume

    crud… “or having a drink of it” should be “or having a drink in front of it,”

    Wishing it was time for one myself!

  8. Patrick

    Love the “Bartender Profiles.” It’s great to learn the background and perspectives of the folks behind the bar.

    Kevin is a class act, the Mike Lowell of bartenders.

    I dine out most nights a week, and always quietly introduce myself to a bartender or server if I don’t know their name. It makes for a much more comfortable experience.

    I’ve had thousands of conversations with bartenders and servers about this issue as part of the research for a book I’m working on. Most folks are perfectly comfortable with customers using their name, as long as it’s not used incessantly to curry favor. Like anything, it’s all in the approach. “Excuse me, ‘Jim’ (bartender), whenever you have a moment please,” was the top choice when asked, “How do you prefer customers address you when they need you?”

  9. laura

    Kevin is great, glad to see him up here. My boyfriend and I went to ES for a mid-week birthday dinner at the bar last month. We quickly toasted and said happy birthday only once the entire time we were there. Kevin somehow noticed and gave us complimentary champagne and dessert at the end. Plus he makes just awesome classic cocktails. I’m glad he is my neighborhood bartender.

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