Meet Kristina Magro
KRISTINA MAGRO 25, Ukrainian Village
Behind the bar: Thursdays-Saturdays at Fulton Market Kitchen in the West Loop, Sundays at Bordel in Wicker Park
Bartending bio: "It was the diviest of all dive bars," said Kristina of her first bartending gig at age 19. "You were just popping bottles [of beer] and shots of whiskey. I genuinely don't think I ever made a cocktail there." At 21, she started bartending at Jameson's in Joliet, near her hometown of Channahon, Ill. "That's where I learned how to speed bartend and make the best chocolate martini in the world," she said. (The secret? Frangelico and heavy whipping cream.) After moving to Chicago, she worked at Lincoln Park sports bar Derby and then The Local in the Gold Coast. "All I did was make vodka martinis and stuff blue cheese olives over there," she said of the latter. "I would try to do fun things with the menu, but nobody really got it." Hanging out at Drumbar across the street inspired her to learn more about craft cocktails. "I just thought it was so cool. They've got dropper bottles, and they're lighting things on fire," she said. "Working at a steakhouse, you become very educated in wine, but I really wanted to be well-rounded in spirits as well." She joined the team opening massive bar and restaurant Fulton Market Kitchen last year and also works one shift a week at Bordel, a little speakeasy-style bar from the same owners.
Signature drink: My Other Car is the Batmobile, a pisco-based cocktail with citrus juice, pear cider and chai tea-brown sugar syrup ($13 at FMK)
Bartending style: Kristina likes getting to know her customers, but getting them talking to each other is also part of what makes a fun night out for everyone. "People come to a bar because they want to have fun and feel cool. … I try to get people at my bar to talk to each other … so you can show up by yourself and still have fun."
Competitive spirit: Kristina recently participated in San Antonio Cocktail Conference and Portland Cocktail Week. She's trying to push outside her comfort zone by participating in a few competitions this year, such as Speed Rack, an event for female bartenders that raises money for breast cancer research.
When she's not bartending: She collects vinyl (motown, blues, classic rock) and plays the ukelele. "I really, really wanted to play guitar when I was younger, but I have really small hands. and it just wasn't working out," she said. Free ukelele lessons at Guitar Center inspired her to pick it up.
Drink of choice: "I like a nice High Life because it's quick and refreshing," she said. "On cold winter days, I love scotch or whiskey, but I'm also super into rum. I think it's a very underrated category. It's very versatile."
Off-duty hangouts: Drumbar, Bar DeVille, Sportsman's Club, The Dawson, Lone Wolf