The stage sits above the bartenders, where bottles usually go. It’s a half-moon, giving a bit of theater-in-the-round effect, with the bartenders working at the feet of the performers as if they’re in an orchestra pit. The stage stays quiet earlier in the day and for the after-work happy hour crowd. As the night goes on? That’s when things can get lively.
“Our CEO built our stage that way so everyone feels like they’re part of the band, part of the music,” says Blue Martini’s Christine Opre. “The architecture is all designed for relaxing and a fun feel.”
For the better part of a decade, the bar and restaurant has been one of the go-to spots at the northeast corner of the Galleria Mall – the bit of the shopping center that’s been redeveloped into an upscale dining and nightlife hub. It’s a little spot mostly given over to upmarket national chains – Capitol Grille, Seasons 52, P.F. Chang’s. (Blue Martini is headquartered in South Florida, which is also where four of its six locations are.)
“The location’s great, and it was that way from the start,” Opre says, noting that in addition to mall shoppers, it’s conducive to beachgoers. “We also have that little yacht landing that’s right across the way from us.”
It’s an area that’s changed and grown, built for restaurants and bars that are also into change and growth. That makes it a perfect fit for Blue Martini. The music – often a laid-back acoustic performer during the week, and maybe a lively Top 40 or Latin band on the weekend – is one area where the place is always seeking out something patrons haven’t seen before.
“There’s always new talent that we’re trying to get into Blue Martini,” Opre says. “It’s always changing and evolving.”
The stage is the room’s main focus when you first walk in, but the place offers a few different experiences. There’s outside seating, a second bar in the back in an area that can double as a VIP space, seating around the corner, away from the music. Neither achingly hip nor quiet and staid, it’s the sort of place that defies easy demographic categorization.
Happy hour tends to draw the just-off-work business crowds, as well as retirees from the condos that dot the area near Sunrise and the Intracoastal. Ages skew younger as the night goes on.
“It’s a mix,” Opre says. “The late night is where the 21-to-30 crowd kind of dominates,” Opre says. “We hear a lot that a lot of people think Blue Martini is one of those places where you can bring your parents, and then send them home and stay out.”
The place has also become known for a handful of big nights a year.
“We’re always changing our promotions,” Opre says, but “one thing that always remains consistent is our four corporate events that we do every year.”
In addition to a massive annual New Year’s Eve party, Blue Martini does a July Little Black Dress party (“It has a huge turnout every year and the girls love it,” Opre says), a Valentine’s Day party and a Pink Party every October. The Pink Party always ends Breast Cancer Awareness Month – staff wear pink uniforms, and $1 from every sale of a special season martini goes to charity. This month, Blue Martini organizes a big event that happens off-site – the Blue Martini Golf Tournament. The tournament, now in its seventh year, happens this year on March 20. Money raised goes to A Prom to Remember, a charity that plans prom experiences for kids affected by cancer.
Then there’s the weekly fun, such as Wednesday-night ladies night – a fairly recent addition that includes half-off cocktails all night, $5 Tito cocktails all night for everybody and complimentary cocktails and champagne from 9 to 11 p.m.
But of course, special nights only work when everybody wants the food and drink on offer. As with the events calendar, the menus – including, as you might expect, the substantial martini menu – are always moving. “We’re always updating our menu, testing out new recipes,” Opre says. "The recipes are really specific. Before they can go out and start making drinks, they have to go out and have a really rigorous training.”
For customers, rigorous training is less required – although if you want to start with the after-work crowd and make it to the end of the band’s set, a little practice wouldn’t hurt.
- Don Q limon rum
- Red Bull Blue Edition
- Club soda
Put the mint (about six leaves, or to taste) in a cocktail glass along with a slice of lime. Crush with a muddler. (If you want to get fancy and you have a mortar and pestle at home, now’s your chance to use it.) Fill glass with ice. Pour in about 1 oz of Red Bull and rum, and about 1 and ½ oz of club soda. Note: If Red Bull’s not your thing, you can also sub in a fruit juice. Pineapple works nicely.