louie bar manager kaitlyn gibbs photo by izaiah johnson

Ones to Watch 2021 // Kaitlyn Gibbs

It’s Saturday night at Louie, the dining room and patio are slammed, and Kaitlyn Gibbs is behind the bar. Gibbs (who uses the pronoun “they”) gets an order for an espresso martini and quickly turns it around. A customer on the patio inhales the drink and immediately tells everybody around him that it’s the best espresso martini he’s ever had. People on the patio start ordering the cocktail; diners inside and at the bar, alerted by the steady stream flying by, start to request it as well. Before long, Gibbs had over 30 orders for the drink. “Every time I heard the ticket ring, I was like, ‘Oh my god,’” Gibbs explained – in addition to the cocktail’s multiple touches, they had to pull fresh espresso for each one. They were in the weeds. 

louie bar manager kaitlyn gibbs // photo by izaiah johnson

It was almost like a Slumdog Millionaire kind of situation. The bartender came up slinging coffee and building their palate at local cafes like Kaldi’s, Sump and Comet Coffee, spending their nights visiting restaurants to learn more about food and drink. Their favorite place to eat was Louie, whose hospitality they found affecting. “I thought it was the coolest place to be. I still do,” Gibbs said. “I was 20 at the time, and I’d never had anybody treat me that way.” When owner Matt McGuire offered them a bartending gig out of the blue, assuring them that they would fill in the gaps in their knowledge as they went along, they were nervous to move away from coffee, but they took it. Three months later, the bar manager job was open, and McGuire offered it to them. “[Gibbs] has a great palate,” he said. “And like all great makers of things, the work isn’t an impediment. The work is exhausting, and they’re not afraid of the work. I think our business needs more people like them.” Gibbs said yes to the opportunity, slowly gaining confidence and skill from a combination of exhaustive training, constant wine tastings and reading everything they possibly could.

At Louie, Gibbs has found a nurturing environment that empowers them to do things they never thought they could do. Last summer, for example, McGuire came to them about the wine list. “I think that I’m getting bored,” he said, asking them to help expand the restaurant’s repertoire of Italian classics into a broader, more adventurous list. Gibbs’ response? “Hell yeah.”

So when the night of the espresso martini came, Gibbs was ready. In a perfect storm moment, they coolly dominated a situation that would have destroyed most young bartenders. Since they had already put in the work, the equation that evening was simple: shots of espresso, perfect martini base, knowledge and grace under pressure. No problem. 

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