Doing cocktails right
Martini Pete’s in Grafton focuses on upscale and fresh

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent

Dec. 30, 2014

 Peter Olds, owner of Martini Pete’s in downtown Grafton, uses a juicer to squeeze fresh grapefruit juice for a drink called a salty dog, which combines the juice with vodka. It’s served in a glass with a salted rim.
Photos by Laurie Arendt 

GRAFTON - As the owner of Martini Pete’s, Peter Olds isn’t going to make you your mother’s Old Fashioned. He actually can’t. He doesn’t have Old Fashioned mix on hand.

“The Old Fashioned is on the drink menu,” he admitted. “But it’s a ‘historically correct’ version: Rye whiskey, sugar and bitters, with just a splash of water. I also do a Wisconsin version, which has Korbel with a little muddled orange and cherry.”

There isn’t a pre-made mix of any kind to be found at Martini Pete’s in downtown Grafton. Instead, there are bins of fresh citrus fruit and a large citrus press on his bar.

Olds does make his own infused vodkas – celery and jalapeno for his Bloody Mary’s (mixed with a homemade Bloody Mary mix) and a ginger-and-pineapple vodka are currently marinating behind the bar – and has created a menu around craft cocktails and upscale beer.

“I grew up in Grafton and my family owns a number of restaurants, including PJ Piper Pancake House,” said the 2001 Grafton High School graduate. “I really thought the area needed an upscale place, and I wanted to bring a little piece of downtown into Grafton.”

Olds enlisted the design help of his cousin, Shelley Maculan, to transform the vacant late-1800s building into an upscale bar with a “rustic industrial” dcor.

“This building has been many things, but I don’t think it has been a bar until now,” he said. “It was a barber shop at one time and also, I believe, a pharmacy.”

During the past decade or so, it was also briefly an art gallery and a coffeehouse. Olds renovated the interior, which now includes a full bar and seating/standing nooks for customers. While Martini Pete’s does not serve food, customers are welcome to carry in food to eat while they enjoy their craft cocktails.

“I wanted to create a place that does cocktails right,” he said. “We don’t really even have a rail here. Instead we use more upscale brands and rely on fresh squeezed juice instead of mixers. Almost all of our customers order off of our menu rather than coming in and ordering a mixed drink.”

Olds said that this means that there really aren’t overly sweet or syrupy cocktails on the menu. In fact, one of the most popular drinks features the flavors of cucumber and mint.

“It’s not overly sweet at all; instead, it’s refreshing,” he said. “A lot of people don’t actually like heavy syrupy drinks, so our menu is doing very well.”

Throughout the year, Olds also plans to create special, seasonal cocktails. For example, blood oranges come into season in January, and he hopes to incorporate them in a limited-run special cocktail.

Martini Pete’s quietly opened in July and the first six months have gone very well.

“The business has primarily grown through word of mouth, and I do maintain a Facebook page,” he said. "We have customers who come from Port and Saukville and from Mequon. They’re all looking for cocktails that are a little more upscale with some great flavors to them.”