Local Profile: Martin Cabrera of Navy Beach

Martin Cabrera, Director of Operations at Navy Beach, not only knows what’s great to drink, he pours them too

Martin CabreraNavy Beach in Montauk is a waterside dream, placed far from the local competition along Fort Pond Bay. People seeking food, drink and sun can find all three, and we check in with Director of Operations Martin Cabrera, who gives us directions toward his favorite plates and potables.

Your background has seen you work spots in major cities—NYC, Chicago—but in Montauk, there’s no skyscrapers or bustling sidewalks, just the glistening waters of Fort Pond Bay, sunsets and beach. Do you find yourself as energized when working in relaxed MTK?

Oh boy! Not sure if we can call it “relaxed MTK”, in a different way it seems pretty energized to me. Growing up as a child near the sea it was something I always craved. So adapting to a beach life of sunsets and amazing boating was not difficult as you can see, even more so in such a great community like Montauk… But the summers are pretty busy for us, so it’s non-stop for us from June through August. We get to breathe a little more in May and September, thankfully.

You’re a mixologist, but also Director of Operations—does that mean if we come to Navy Beach, the boss is busy serving drinks?

You know… I am not too big on titles; to me, we all are the same at our house. I always like to get involved. It doesn’t matter what it will take. The way I see it, the only way to do things right, is to get involved. So yes, I guess, you would see me greeting and picking people up from their boats, prepping food in the kitchen, playing music for the afternoon, pouring drinks behind the bar or catering to patrons. It’s what I like. I have a great passion for taking good care of people, it fills my heart with joy. That’s what hospitality means to me.

Your reputation definitely qualifies you as a “boss” when it comes to beverages, so we’d like to pick your brain: pretending we’ve never been to Navy Beach before (which we of course have!), and we arrive on the hottest, sunniest summer Saturday in history—what do you recommend drink-wise to beat that heat? And while visiting on such a scorcher, what should we eat?

SpritzSpritzers are great! In the heat of the afternoon, anything with a fizz, that’s light, crisp, and refreshing. Like a good Aperol Spritz for example—bubbles and fresh fruit, how can you go wrong with that? This season we focused on a new section called “Spritzers” in our cocktail menu. Keeping it hot with the low calorie drink craze. The “Blood Orange Piscine” Vodka, Champagne Rosé, Fresh Blood Orange, Sparkling Water and Mint served over ice in a wine glass, is a refreshing addition to our menu this summer. From experience working for many years with South American and Asian flavors, we take pride in serving raw dishes that pair perfectly with hot summer days. A rotating selection of ceviches, tiraditos and crudos can be found on our menu every year. Seasonally changing depending on availability, one of my favorites is our Tuna Nikkei, which represents the Japanese contribution and influence on Peruvian cooking—a fusion of South American ingredients combined with Japanese recipes and traditions.

Switching it up, let’s say we’ve just completed a day of surfing, which means we’re maybe a bit chilly and waterlogged. Any thoughts on what food and drink would be good to get us warm and going?

Literally from sea-to-table. Every year we emphasize on serving a juicy fish stew or soup utilizing Montauk’s amazing seasonal local product, perfect to warm up on those chilly nights or to refresh in the middle of those hot summer days. Last year we had a great success with our “Seafood Moqueca” prawns, clams, mussels, squid and cod served with roasted cashews, basil rice, coconut milk and dende oil. This season we are playing with “Catalonian Suquet” clams, monk fish, squid, shrimp and mussels served in a saffron-tomato broth, roasted almonds and sparkling white wine. As far as beverages go, a Milagro Añejo “SBR” or a Clase Azul Reposado tequila on the rocks with a slice of orange will definitely get you going.

Navy Beach has such amazing access to the sun, right down to sensational sunsets. Pitch us the perfect sunset meal, with main plate, dessert and paired cocktails or wines.

Whole FishWhat to Drink: Rosé, Rosé, Rosé… why not? We have a great commitment to rosé, we have put a big emphasis on it since we opened in 2010. This year we will continue to expand upon selections and regions. Corsica, Sardinia, La Rioja, Sicily and of course the Franco regions of Loire, St. Tropez, Bandol, Rhone, Burgundy and Champagne (to name a few) and will also explore Germany, Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand and the USA.

What to Eat: There is nothing better than a whole local catch, we’re a big fan of it! Like living in the Caribbean, it varies depending on the day. Our Fried Whole Black Bass for example is always a great choice. Served with grapefruit segments, watercress, crispy hearts of palm and a mustard- rosemary dressing. Finish the meal off with our home-made Key Lime Pie, while watching the sunset. (With another glass of rosé, of course!)

In the past decade, Montauk has evolved from sleepy fishing village to a hospitality haven, and Navy Beach was among the first to arrive as part of that movement—and is still going strong, while a number of other places have come and gone. What’s the secret to NB’s success? Is there a formula for making magic in Montauk?

Like they say, “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you”… Ha! It’s all about hospitality, which is hard to execute, and more out East sometimes, but at the end it’s all about that. Of course good product and the environment and ambiance that we have created are key, but care and attention to our guests is what really counts. It keeps bringing people back over and over again. We have made great friends with many of our customers and it’s great that they get so excited each season for our reopening. That means a lot to us.