Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Adam Mair - "It's a numbers thing"
Next story: Isaac Menge and Eric Bifaro: Print Shop Operators

The Best Reality Show In The World

Patrick Gilmartin (photo: Rose Mattrey)

Allen Street Hardware barkeep Patrick Gilmartin

Take 10 bars, 14 years in the business, and 317 mojitos. Shake them up. Any good mixologist will tell you that those ingredients add up to an adventure.

If you’ve stepped into a local pub and bellied up for a cold one in the last decade or so, chances are at least one of your beverages was constructed by legendary bartender Patrick Gilmartin.

Nearly 15 years ago Gilmartin made a decision that changed the direction of his life and vastly improved the bar scene in Western New York. Tired of bouncing around in banking and sales, Gilmartin was desperate for a change.

He decided to spend a year in Attica.

Gilmartin’s first job behind the bar was at Attica Golf Club. Without any previous bar experience, he knew his chances of gaining employment were slim so he put on his signature smile and told a little white lie. “The manager looked me square in the eye and asked if I could make martinis and manhattans. I lied and said yes,” Gilmartin says with a coy smile.

After leaving Attica Golf Club, the Btavia native settled into Riley’s, a pub in East Aurora. He recalls having to break up a fight, his least favorite part of the job, and getting entangled in the brawl. “I got my nose broken and fell in love with this job,” he said.

For the next eight years, he bounced around pubs and restaurants all over the city: the Old Red Mill Inn, Magruder’s, Orazio’s, a few stops in between. Gilmartin has poured spirits and polished glasses in no fewer than 10 local watering holes. He even tried his hand at management but was put off by the additional responsibility. He likes to keep things simple. He likes to stay connected to his customers.

Like any veteran bartender, he can spout stories of his adventures for hours. He recalls breaking up a fight between two sisters in a men’s room as they argued about a boyfriend. His smile fades as he remembers a poignant conversation with a young woman who was drowning her sorrows as she contemplated suicide. He talked to her for hours until he felt that he had perhaps helped her to see the worth of living. He cares about his customers and their lives.

“The people are the best and worst part of this job,” he says. He has little tolerance for ill-behaved customers. But he says they make up a small portion of his clientele. For the most part, people are what make his job special. “People will tell me something that they have never told anyone else,” he says. He hears of pregnancies, imminent proposals, illnesses, and pending divorces, and he advises that it is a bartender’s job to listen and not to judge. Bartending, according to Gilmartin, is the oldest form of social networking and has Facebook beat hands down. “Bartending is the best reality show in the world,” he says.

Long hours often are a bartender’s biggest complaint, but Gilmartin doesn’t mind the time. He happily refers to himself as an “indoor man” and enjoys spending his hours behind a bar. He does lament missing family functions and making social sacrifices because of the evening hours he works. When most people are driving home from a long day at the office, he is preparing to start his workday and help the rest of us to relax.

Two years ago, he found himself working long hours at Laughlin’s when a chance encounter once again changed the direction of his career. While mixing cocktails and pouring pints, Gilmartin struck up a conversation with Scotty Collins, general manager of the popular bar and eatery, Allen Street Hardware Café (245 Allen Street). What started as friendly banter turned into a job offer.

Gilmartin has been mixing drinks at Hardware for the last two years and he is happy to be part of what he considers the most professional bar staff anywhere. He speaks of his co-workers with great respect. “We’re not going to college to do something else, this is what we do for a living,” he says.

He says that the father/son ownership team of Mark and Charlie Goldman is one of the keys to the establishment’s success. “They don’t micromanage. They give us the framework and let us do our job,” he says.

Hardware, he says, is not a gimmick bar. He recalls working at a bar that promoted a mojito night; he spent hours crushing mint leaves and doling out two-for-one mojitos. He is proud to say that Hardware doesn’t have mint leaves. “We are a bartender’s bar,” he says. “We don’t even have a blender here.”

The father of two and married for 34 years, Gilmartin calls North Buffalo his home. He adores Buffalo and its residents and calls it the greatest city in the world. You can find him behind the wood on Allen Street every night except Tuesday.

blog comments powered by Disqus