Kristen Nelson –
Taking a Permanent Vacation -
Bartenders of the Beach
Friendly Kristen Nelson has a personality as sunny and bright as the place she tends bar– Parrot Key’s open tiki bar on San Carlos Island. So friendly is she that on Wednesday afternoon, she agreed to become the second bartender profiled in our new series designed to introduce our readers to some of the island’s most creative cocktail creators who work long hours wearing many hats - therapists, matchmakers, taxi-dispatchers and occasionally marriage counselors - all while entertaining large groups of often impatient and demanding patrons for hours on end. But like all bartenders we’ve met so far, Nelson told us that it’s a job she’s grown to love and always will.
"I’ve been here at Parrot Key for a year and a half,” Kristen told us. "I moved here from Philadelphia five years ago after I stayed friends with a random friend I met on a cruise ship who said I should come.”
Nelson told us that she began her bartending career after working as a hair stylist, saying the creative energy and enthusiasm required by her first career perfectly suits her second.
"My old boss at the salon had another business helping people with parties, so she sent me to school to be a bartender,” Kristen said. "We made it into a side business when we weren’t doing hair, and I gradually became a bartender full time. When I moved down here, I went straight into bartending because I could make a lot more quick money to help me with my move.”
Kristen, with her bubbly personality, found the camaraderie and convivial atmosphere of serving drinks in a paradise setting a perfect fit.
"Bartending here at Parrot Key is so much fun – everyone wants to talk to you and I love meeting people and helping them to enjoy their vacation,” she said. "In fact, our most popular drink is called ‘Permanent Vacation’ – which works so well for the type of restaurant we are, vacation style. It’s a blend of Southern Comfort, coconut rum and peach schnapps with pineapple and cranberry juice.”
Yum! The way Kristen described that drink, we could just hear ‘It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere’ playing in the distance. Unfortunately for us, it was only noon on deadline day so we had to stick to imagining the sweet, fruity coolness of it.
When we asked Nelson about some of her fondest memories behind the bar, she told us a tale that will make expat Bostonians proud of the girl from Philly.
"At my old restaurant, I was able to take care of a group of Red Sox players,” she said, laughing."They were a crazy bunch and we had a great time – that was awesome.”
Kristen says she loves working at Parrot Key because she gets to enjoy her two passions: talking with people and making them laugh and being creative.
"It’s such a great environment to work in, and a great group of people to work with,” she said. "Tiki bars are always fun with the palm trees everywhere, water and Caribbean music – plus you can’t beat the scenery! I spend all day looking at boats in the Back Bay, how tough can that be? Plus, I love my regulars here.”
Now that’s she’s convinced her parents to move here, too, Kristen says she doesn’t see herself leaving our emerald shores anytime soon.
"I will probably eventually get back into doing hair,” she said, flashing her characteristic sunny smile, "But I think I’ll always be behind the bar, at least part time.”
Kristen told us she works varied hours at Parrot Key, most of them at night, so be sure in and stop in and enjoy a ‘Permanent Vacation’ with her – whether you’re on one or not.Keri Hendry Weeg