written by Patrick Clark
Everyone loves happy hour. What’s not to love? You get to drop by your favorite neighborhood bar after working your nine to five and get cheap deals on some great food and drink. It’s a great formula, but finding themselves unsatisfied with the status quo, the folks at Martha have found a way to shake up the conventional Philadelphia happy hour.
Every Monday, the East Kensington bar brings in a special vendor to set up a table and give out free samples of their products. Dubbed “Martha Mondays”, the event has featured purveyors of goods ranging from beer and wine to ice cream and even energized crystals. According to owner John Medlinsky, the goal of the event is not just to draw in customers on what would otherwise be a slow night, but rather to collaborate with other local businesses to create lasting connections.
“We’re really into sourcing from our neighbors and friends and we thought this would be a cool way to bring our suppliers and purveyors in to meet the customers face to face so the customers have a relationship with the people whose stuff they’re potentially buying,” Medlinsky said. “Mondays are otherwise a kind of slow night so to make it interesting we wanted to attract restaurant people and other customers who are interested in learning and trying new things.”
To accompany the guest purveyor, Martha offers free snacks and a number of half-priced cocktails each week that are made special for that single Martha Monday. Bar manager and cocktail artist Mike Landers dissects whatever the vendor is bringing and infuses the week’s cocktails with ingredients found in those products.
“Mike is a genius. He really engages these products,” Medlinsky said. “He’ll pull unique flavors out of every ingredient. The cocktails on Monday are always interesting and thoughtful.”
According to Landers, the main goal for him in crafting the weekly cocktails is to complement the product. “We want to highlight whatever the product is rather than try to mask the flavor of it,” he explained. “If we have a whiskey event, it’s about tasting whiskey.” And of course, if you’re not feeling a cocktail, you can’t go wrong with a refreshing happy hour Kenzinger—brewed right next door at Philadelphia Brewing Company.
Recently, Martha hosted Little Baby’s Ice Cream for the second time in the event’s history.
Landers crafted three cocktails for the event: the “Lychee Li”, the “Ice Cream Collins” and the “She Got The Way To Move Me Cherry”. All three utilized seasonal ingredients, Little Baby’s Ice Cream and local spirits. At their last collaboration, the ice cream got a little messy when trying to incorporate it into the cocktails so this time around, Landers decided to do a fat-wash to avoid the mess, combining the spirits and ice cream and letting it sit in the freezer for a few days prior to the event. The result was fantastic, with all three cocktails retaining the unique flavor of Little Baby’s ice creams while staying light and going down easy.
In many ways, Martha Mondays can serve as a sort of testing ground for new and weird products from the vendors. Medlinsky said his favorite part of having a brewery in on a Monday is seeing the unique stuff they bring out. One-off bottles and weird brews are commonplace on those days. “While we put their beers on draft and sell those for half-price and make beer cocktails with them, a lot of brewers bring special stuff on those Mondays, which is awesome. It’s not just the core brand stuff.”
But Medlinsky explained that there’s more to Martha Mondays than simply giving out free stuff and making unique cocktails. “We obviously want to be able to bring people in on a Monday and help out the brand we bring in, but the subversive goal is to sort of combine physical and social networks. We have our audience and our physical neighbors and our guest will have their own network in Lansdale or wherever they’re from,” he said. “The ideal situation is where those two networks meetup. It really works. We don’t have an advertising budget so instead we do stuff like this.”
So far it seems like Medlinsky and the people at Martha are doing just that with their Monday happy hour. Medlinsky said that they’re not looking to change the formula too significantly in the future because they’ve been so successful with it so far. So if you’re looking to change it up on a Monday, you can check in at Martha to see who’s around next week. It’s guaranteed to be interesting.