Bartender Chat: Kathy Brophy of Prego Talks Speed Bartending and People Pleasing
Kathy Brophy is always eager to serve.
Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
Quick, picture the rowdiest beach bar you've ever been in. Now, picture the exact opposite.
These are the two ends of the spectrum in which Kathy Brophy, bartender at Prego, has worked. She started out in clubs and bars on South Padre Island, and now she's at Prego, the subdued Italian restaurant in Rice Village, where she also runs the catering program.
Because she trained for high-volume bartending, though, Brophy is faster than your average cocktail creator. She works fast and talks fast and gets things done. When you meet her, it's easy to see how she can manage to keep on top of both catering and bartending--she's moving a mile a minute.
In her time at Prego, she's become known not only for speed, but also for mixing a darn good drink. The menu is mostly fairly classic cocktails, but Brophy makes a lemon drop that will make your lips pucker and cause you to lean back a little in your chair and relax. And that's exactly what Brophy wants. You relax; She'll keep mixing as quick as possible.
How long have you been bartending? Well, I've been here 17 years, so probably 23 or 24 total. Or maybe even 25. Oh my!
How did you start bartending? I started in college. I actually started working at a club in college, and then I moved down to South Padre Island. They hired me as a bar back at Wahoo Saloon, which is a good bar, and I learned from the guys there how to be fast. And then I moved to Houston. I temporarily worked at the River Cafe, which was on Montrose, and then I moved over here about two or three years later.
Why did you move to Prego? I had a friend who was a manager here, and he was like, you've gotta come over here and work. And I've been here ever since. It's a great place.
And you've been bartending the whole time? Well, I'm also the catering manager, so I get to do some off-premise parties sometimes. But pretty much, yeah, I've been bartending the whole time. I like catering, though, because it's something different. You get to go see people's houses and how they live, and you get to entertain and make people really happy.
If you weren't bartending, what would you be doing? I don't know. That's a really good question. I don't even know if I could...I just love bartending so much. Maybe cooking? I'd still be in the restaurant business. Or...I don't know...flight attendant?
Why a flight attendant? Cause you're pleasing people and talking care of people. I can't get away from serving!
What is your favorite drink to make? The lemon drop. Or a margarita. I went to Mexico and learned how to make a margarita really well.
Do you have a favorite ingredient to use? I love fresh citrus and citrus vodka.
What's your least favorite thing that people order? Well, we don't have a blender. So when people order frozen drinks, I can say with a smile, "I don't have a blender." Frozen drinks are hard to keep up the consistency and stuff. Sometimes people try to order stilly shots, but again, we don't have the stuff. No Jaegermeister. We have grappa...
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The luscious lemon drop.
When you're not here, where do you go to drink? I used to go to the place Tavern on West Gray, but that's no longer there, so...my house. I have a pool, and my boyfriend built me a bar, so I hang out there.
What do you drink? Tequila and beer. A shot and a beer. I keep it simple at the house. It makes me happy. It makes me too happy sometimes...
What's one of the weirdest or craziest things you've seen while working behind a bar? Honestly, not too much here. At South Padre, I saw a lot, but I pretended I didn't. I mean, there's no dancing on the bar here. We have a lot of the football and basketball players come in. And they get to know you, so that's cool.
What's one thing that you wish people understood about bartending that they might not? That sometimes it's hard. You can't drop everything and help the next person. I like to finish what I'm doing for someone, but you have people who come and want to be served now. We'll get to you, and we'll take care of you, but just have a little patience. I don't see that here much, but I see it out a lot.
If you could have a drink with anyone, living, dead or fictional, who would it be and why? The lead singer of Aerosmith, Steven Tyler. It's my favorite band and my favorite singer. I just think he's be really fascinating to sit and have a drink with. I don't think he drinks, but maybe we'd have some tea.
I'm pretty sure he drinks... Yeah, I guess people in music groups...
What would you drink to impress him? A shot of tequila and a beer. Why change it up?
Here's Brophy's recipe for her famous lemon drop cocktail.
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