Let’s get this bread
A cocktail warrior tells all
Photo by kc kratt
We’ve all been there: dragging friends through the snow to make that one last stop. You know the cat behind the bar is slinging your favorite new cocktail, and you’ve definitely got one left in you. I don’t know about other folks, but spirits hold my nighttime heart. Beer is for breakfast, wine is for lunch and dinner, but cocktails … cocktails transcend arbitrary schedules. Buffalo is ripe with talented characters behind the pine. Some swagger harder than others. Way harder. Some carry that white lighter, why-am-I-so-far-past-the-27-club-cut-off rockstar vibe into every shift.
Carolina Martinez is a tour de force, a Manhattan transplant who landed in Buffalo at full speed, and hasn’t stopped yet. If you’re even slightly in the know, you experienced her craft at Buffalo Proper, and now I’ve lassoed her for a little Q&A. Like the rust belt Where’s Waldo.You can find Carolina slinging drinks at Casa Azul and freelancing at a few other places. Listen for her signature laugh somewhere around Allen.
Welcome to the Carolina Martinez experience. Razzle dazzle.
Which cocktail would win in a fight? Negroni vs. Mai Tai?
A Mai Tai may pack a punch, but I have a strong inkling that a Negroni will sweep the leg.
What was the first drink/food/moment you remember having that inspired you to start a career in the food and bev business?
I remember this one bar I worked at in Brooklyn called Hope Garage, back in maybe 2013. At the time, I really enjoyed working Sunday brunches—before retiring from them, so I could do my own day drinking. In a short amount of time, I eventually got really good at anticipating everyone’s needs and creating an ambiance. It wasn’t long before the owners took notice; they asked me if I wanted to step up and become a manager. I declined at the time since I had a full-time job in digital marketing but, shortly after, at another restaurant I worked at part time, I went from serving/bartending to essentially running the place. (I know, it’s two moments.)
What about the restaurant industry attracts you the most?
Definitely somewhere between the hospitality and culture. I read that you inherit not only physical traits from your parents’ DNA, but also certain characteristics. My mom is an innate entertainer and instilled this habit of offering to clear and wash. My dad is definitely very charismatic and extroverted. I am incredibly introverted, but the thought of hospitality—the act of genuinely caring for a guest and ensuring they have a memorable time under my care—does some weird thing to have me come out of my shell. As far as being attracted to the culture, I know it may seem that the long nights of partying until the sun rises, sleeping in, and going to work at later hours might seem attractive to some, it’s definitely the camaraderie that kept me in the industry longer than I thought I would ever be. I made some of my closest friends while being balls-deep in the weeds.
If you could change one thing about our current food and bev scene, what would that be?
We don’t need that many cocktail bars. The scene is nice, but I think the per capita of Buffalo is the issue, if that makes sense? A lot of bartenders scoff at the notion of serving someone a vodka soda or a beer, as if it’s insulting their craft. Dive bars are cool, period. I wish we could fast forward to that and have more trashy dive bars—in addition to the Pink, which I love, obviously.
Imagine your dream cocktail program. What album would it be?
Gwen Stefani, Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
Pick a celebrity alive or dead. Now make them a drink. Who and what?
I would make Stevie Nicks a frothy whiskey sour sprinkled with gold foil, served with a spoon.
If that’s too risque, definitely Brittany Murphy would get a Suntory Toki Highball as an homage to her movie Ramen Girl.
What are some pitfalls that you experience specific to the Buffalo food and bev scene?
That’s an easy one. Don’t give away your bar. We’re all giving away free shots in exchange for larger tips, but, at the end of the day, it’s a business and it’s there to make money. I’ve seen a lot of bar owners who don’t know anything about business. They were in the hospitality industry and decided that the next step was to own a bar, and eventually that lack of knowledge tends to bite people in the ass.
What’s coming down the pike for you? Anything big? Anything exciting?
By the time this article comes out, Buffalo Proper will have closed. I honestly have no idea what’s to come. I’ve spent two years trying to navigate the Titanic, which, as you can imagine, is extremely exhausting. It may be time for a little break. I’ve been toying with the idea of finally getting back to the real reason I moved to Buffalo, to have a few shifts a week to cover my living expenses, and focus on sewing.