What's Hot in Miami: Q&A with Tamarina Bartender Nathan Rogers
By Kara Franker
The Brickell area restaurant features a combination of classic and modern cocktails and specializes in coastal Italian cuisine. In addition to their fresh Mediterranean Italian fare, Tamarina’s crudo bar and oyster program offers an impressive selection of raw and lightly cooked frutti di mare, deliciously fresh crudo, carpaccio, tartare and caviar.
We caught up with Nathan to find out more about Miami's newest hotspot.
1. Tamarina is drawing quite the happy hour crowd. What's the most popular drink at the bar and what's in it?
We sell a lot of Old Fashioned cocktails. Dark spirits are finally having their day and I couldn't be happier about it. People have strayed away from the sugary martinis of the 90s and 80s and are being more selective with not only what spirits are used, but also how the drinks are being prepared.
Techniques, the types of ice you use, even the tools you work with, all have an effect on the end product. To be honest, an Old Fashioned is perhaps the simplest cocktail you could prepare and yet time and again people tell me that those we prepare at Tamarina are some of the best they have ever enjoyed. I'm always glad to hear this and even more excited when I see the same faces returning time and again.
And from our cocktail list, the Dragoncella is probably the most popular. This is a very refreshing drink full of fresh citrus and herbs (all local when possible) that goes down a little too quickly on a hot day. It is a combination of vodka, Velvet Falernum (a classic Barbados liqueur), fresh pressed grapefruit juice, tarragon and a touch of lemon. It's also on our happy hour menu, which only increases its popularity.
2. I've sampled a few menu items and I'm in love with the fresh crudo. What's your favorite thing on the menu?
The pulpo appetizer. Grilled octopus is essentially a ubiquitous dish in Italian restaurants, but ours is exceptional. It is well marinated and yet simple at the same time. For me, what defines it is the charcoal grill that it's finished on. One of my gauges for any menu item in a restaurant is whether or not I could replicate it at home, and frankly, anything that comes off of our grill has any attempt I could try beaten by a long shot.
3. I love the scene here, especially at the bar. How would you describe the scene at Tamarina?
I think it's very elegant. If I didn't work here, I would definitely be a regular. The decor is dramatic, the music is well-selected, the urban views are great -- all that said, it still has a comfortable feel. And that is very important to me. I also really enjoy the people that frequent the restaurant. Our crowd is savvy and they're open to trying things they haven't tasted before, which is great for me because we have so many spirits and ingredients that you really won't find anywhere else in Miami. It's fun for everyone.
4. Miami is a great place to be a bartender. What do you love about the city?
More than anything, I love the general quality of life in Miami. Everyone knows we have great weather, but to me the value you can get in terms of your living space is unparalleled. I've lived in many cities (Boston and NYC for example) and while the prices have certainly gone up here, it's still about a third of what you would pay in any of those cities for comparable size and amenities. I also like to leave the city and venture around Florida when time allows. And yes, the sunshine is pretty fantastic, too.
5. Tell me about a few of your favorite places around the city besides Tamarina.
To grab a quick bite, Coyo Taco in Wynwood is a rare treat. I love every apsect of the experience there. It's colorful, energetic and the food hits the spot. I go whenever I find myself in a five-block radius and it never disappoints.
For a romantic dinner, I love how secluded Gibraltar at the Grove Isle Hotel feels (and I'm cautious to give this spot away). It has one of the most awe-inspiring outdoor dining spaces I have ever seen. Go at twilight, sit outside by one of the fire pits, get a bottle of wine and something from the grill and just let the magic happen.
The River Oyster Bar does happy hour right. This was the first restaurant in Miami that I truly loved and I have had great experiences on all of the countless visits I have made. And the prices at happy hour make you feel like you are stealing.
If I get a weekend night off (haha, yeah right), I love the scene downstairs at Le Chat Noir. I've heard some brilliant live jazz performances there. A dark room, a bottle of wine (or two), a cheese plate and I'm in bliss.
6. Let's say you have friends coming in from out of town. What kind of things would you suggest that they do and where should they stay?
Well, fortunately or unfortunately, you never have to recommend nightlife to a person coming to Miami. I try to remind people to take advantage of the OTHER things you can do here. There is always some major event going on here (many times several in the same week). Whether it's the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, the Polo World Cup, the Comedy Festival or the Miami Open, I tell people to take advantage of whatever event they can. And at the end of the day, whatever we do here in the Magic City is going to be a party whether it's a "cultured" event or not.
And my favorite hotel to recommend is the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key. The second you step in the lobby you know you are going to be pampered from the time you check in until the moment you are forced to go back to whatever responsibilities pull you away from your leisure. The view is incredible and all of the amenities and venues within the hotel are world class. I'm also a big ambassador for downtown Miami so I love it's proximity to what I feel is the most exciting part of town.
If you go...
Tamarina is located at 600 Brickell Ave, Miami, FL 33131. For more info or for reservations call (305) 579-1888 or visit TamarinaRestaurants.com. Happy hour is weekdays from 4:30 to 8 p.m.