Bar Beat

Bartender Chat: Nick Palumbo of Kelvin Arms

After breaking his heel in a sports accident, Nick Palumbo of Kelvin Arms (2424 Dunstan Road) was told by his doctor that he couldn't bartend anymore. But that didn't stop him. "I started bartending days instead of nights because it's not as busy," Palumbo says. We're glad he didn't listen to the doctor's warning.

Palumbo started bartending 25 years ago in Atlanta. "I was a busboy at the time, and when the bartender didn't show up, they put me behind the bar," he explains. "I made good money as a bartender, so I kept doing it." Eleven years later, Palumbo found himself in Houston. "I worked at the Mercury Room for a while, but Kelvin Arms was my regular hangout on the way home." The self-proclaimed "Houston's only Scottish Pub" quickly became his home.

The night we visited was National Absinthe Day, so we decided to order an absinthe cocktail in celebration. Despite the chalkboard drawing of the green fairy, Kelvin Arms stopped carrying absinthe after only a year. "I've been bartending a long time, and absinthe is the nastiest drink I've tasted," Palumbo says. "Well, absinthe and Fernet-Branca are the two worst." Fernet-Branca is an Italian spirit similar to bitters.

So, what does Palumbo like? "I'm a beer drinker," Palumbo says. "I like lagers versus hoppy beers." His favorite drafts at Kelvin Arms are the Warsteiner and Belhaven Stout. "I prefer the Belhaven over Guinness because it has a sweeter finish." The two beers look the same in the glass, but we agreed that the Belhaven was a bit sweeter. If given a choice, though, we liked the Warsteiner, the lighter of his two favorites.

Palumbo's next adventure will be on an island somewhere far away from the tourist destinations. "I'm a warm-weather, beach kind of guy," he says. "If I wasn't bartending, I'd be sailing."

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Jane Catherine Collins