Words & Deeds

After 52 years, last call arrives for ‘pro’ bartender. His famous Boise drink lives on

The thought of never serving another martini didn’t shake him.

His final evening at the Riverside Hotel’s Sapphire Room didn’t create much of a stir, either.

But now that last call has come and gone for Pat Carden, ordering a drink won’t feel quite the same in Idaho’s capital city.

Carden retired quietly at the end of February. He had bartended for 52 years — the final 22 in Boise.

“I’m tired,” Carden, 73, says with a laugh. “That’s basically what it came down to.”

“This has been a good run,” he adds.

Known locally as the inventor of the Ten Minute Martini, Carden was a popular face among night owls. Longtime customer Wayne Selvig says Carden represents a lost era of bartending, when personality and service were crucial cocktail ingredients.

“It’s like trying to find an old-time barbershop,” Selvig explains. “He was just such a gentleman. Pat, he’s a pro.”

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Pat Carden pours a Ten Minute Martini at Chandlers Steakhouse in 2010. Katherine Jones Statesman file

Many Boiseans associate Carden with Chandlers Steakhouse, which still serves his award-winning martini. Carden and Chandlers parted ways after he tore his rotator cuff in an office accident in late 2013, he says, leaving him unable to work for many months.

Carden’s final three years were spent at the Riverside, where he helped establish the classic cocktail program at the hotel’s Sapphire Room, Bar365 and Sandbar Patio Bar & Grill.

You will not hear Carden refer to his Ten Minute Martini as a craft cocktail. Yes, it takes time to create, thanks to a slow dance with ice. And, yes, he appreciates the new wave of bartenders passionate about artisan mixology.

But trendy craft cocktails and their meticulously handmade ingredients aren’t part of Carden’s DNA.

“It’s not what I do,” he says. “They get into some wicky stuff — that ‘You’re kidding me? The drop of that you put in there took you two weeks to make.’”

He laughs.

“I’m sorry, I’d like to get the order and get it out. I’m way old-fashioned when it comes to that. I want the cocktail to be really good, but — I’m probably not the last of the breed, but one of the last that just wants to get the order, make it correctly and off they go. And I always ask, ‘Is that to your liking?’ ”

Customers noticed.

“Always a big smile,” Selvig remembers, “and a sincere ‘How you doing?’ Just a good fella.”

Carden started slinging drinks when he was 21. A student at the University of California-Irvine, he went on to graduate with a double major in Asian history and comparative culture. Carden used his degree nearly every night for the rest of his life, he says, “when you consider that a bar is a culture. That might be a comparison all by itself.”

After decades in California, Carden took a job in Portland. But he was soon lured to Boise by restaurateur Pug Ostling, who put him to work at Noodles in 1996. Other Carden stops read like a Downtown Boise restaurant history: Tapas, Desert Sage, The Milky Way — even one that’s still open and thriving, Bittercreek Alehouse.

Boise cocktail aficionados remember Carden’s nearly seven years at Chandlers fondly. Restaurant owner Rex Chandler valued and promoted the Ten Minute Martini. Meanwhile, Carden won local martini mix-off and bartending awards.

Now that Carden has retired, Chandlers is the only place to order a Ten Minute Martini. It’s become so iconic that the restaurant doesn’t even need to market it anymore, general manager Dave Boyle says.

“It’s such a huge part of our brand,” Boyle explains.

The original Ten Minute Martini, known as the Vesper Reconsidered, includes Plymouth Gin, Blue Ice Vodka, Lillet Blanc, orange bitters and a lemon twist. Chandlers sells it for $13.

Carden says he’d consider allowing the Ten Minute Martini to continue without him at the Riverside. He has a trademark on the name, he says, but has never registered it. “The drink is more important than me, and I’m not going to try to hold somebody up,” Carden says.

Brian Anderton, food and beverage outlets manager at the Riverside, says they’ve already agreed that at least one Carden house-made specialty will be on the summer menu: Pat’s Main Beach Sangria.

“He had a whole host of recipes that he developed over the years,” Anderton says, “and they were all fantastic.”

Like the sangria, the Ten Minute Martini was born in California. Long ago, Carden documented its origins, which are posted on the Chandlers website. Essentially, the Ten Minute Martini was an accident. It was created after a customer ordered, left to use a pay phone before Carden had stirred it, then returned 20 minutes later.

Carden offered to make a fresh martini, but the man refused.

“He said, ‘Nah, you gotta taste this.’ I did,” Carden remembers, “and I said, ‘Wow.’ That is the smoothest thing I’d ever had cross my lips. We ratcheted down the time from 20 minutes to — it actually works at 8. But 10 is easier to remember.”

Decades later, it is a staple of upscale Boise cocktail culture.

“It’s nice to be remembered for something like that,” Carden says. “People say ‘You invented it.’ I say, ‘No, I tripped over it.’”

Since retiring, Carden has not experienced any sudden urges to tend bar. His back muscles appreciate a new routine that does not involve lugging cases of liquor. Carden is especially loving the extra time with his wife, Joselita, who retired earlier this year.

But he’s had time to reflect. Would Carden have preferred to pour his final drinks at Chandlers, where he and his martini flourished together? Of course, he admits. “But that wasn’t to be,” he adds.

“It’s been a good finish,” Carden says. “There’s a lot I miss. And will miss. I kind of enjoy that I don’t feel like I got beat up at the end of the night. But I did enjoy the company of the guests that came and sat down at the bar. That’s what I’ve always enjoyed. And the music at the Sapphire Room and the music at Chandlers.”

You won’t likely see Carden ordering a Ten Minute Martini now that he’s on the other side of the bar. “I can probably do that better at home,” he says.

But he does have a little secret to share.

The key to a solid martini isn’t high-dollar booze. Or the length of time it spends being chilled.

It’s the vermouth. Even refrigerated, it doesn’t last forever.

“The most egregious error that bartenders make is they don’t pay attention to their vermouth,” Carden says. “It’s the first question that you should ask when you’re ordering a martini in a bar. ‘How long has that bottle of vermouth been open?’ ”

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