Behind Bars

Five Questions for the Bartender: Robbie McGrath of Matt’s in the Market

The man hasn’t had a hangover since the Carter administration, which means he can focus on making you a mean Bloody Mary.

By Allecia Vermillion March 1, 2012


Robbie McGrath is a bartender in the grand tradition. He tells stories. Cracks jokes. And has an undisputed signature drink.

A Minnesota native, McGrath went on to open three restaurants in downstate Illinois in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, all named Robbie’s. McGrath, however, has moved on: “I came out here 10 years ago to visit my sister and moved here six weeks later.”

For the past five years McGrath has held daytime court at the bar at Matt’s in the Market. He gave up wearing a watch years ago because he works in the shadow of the giant Market clock. While he drinks vodka martinis in his off hours (he had “a bad experience with gin in ninth grade”), McGrath has built up quite a reputation around his Bloody Mary, served with a snit of beer in the Upper Midwest tradition. And not just any beer—Miller High Life, preferred for its superior ability to be uninteresting. He’ll gladly make you an old fashioned, a whiskey sour, or a mimosa, garnished with a confit orange slice. But it’s the bloody that bears his name on the menu.

Here, five questions for Robbie McGrath.

What is the most underrated spirit?
Aquavit…I use Linie aquavit in the Bloody Marys with a snit at Matt’s in the Market.

What’s your favorite Seattle bar (besides Matt’s in the Market)?
I spend time at Tilikum Place Cafe, Boka, and Place Pigalle but look forward to going to the new relocated Restaurant Zoe as I now call Cherry Hill area home.

Favorite place to eat?
On Wednesday eve I often meet a couple of friends at a restaurant that none of us have been. What a wonderful way to see and try new fresh food ideas. Its hard to beat the burger and caesar at La Bête, lamb chops at Bisato, and the guacamole at Poquitos.

What’s the worst thing you’ve seen someone do in a bar?
I actually once saw a mother change her baby’s diaper on top of a bar! Maybe Washington state has the right idea by having a 21-and-over bar area policy.

Do you have a preferred hangover cure?
I have not had a hangover since Jimmy Carter was president (However Calvados and Bailey’s will certainly season a strong morning coffee).

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