In a saloon town such as San Francisco, the bartender plays a crucial role. Confessor, friend, sounding board — the man or woman behind the plank sees to it that our needs are met with elegance, grace and often wit. They see humanity at its best and most convivial, but also offer a nod and a welcome to the lonely. But what do they see when they look at us? What are the tricks of their trade? And what lessons have they learned along the way? In this Examiner weekly feature, we talk to some of our local bartenders to find out.
25 Mason St., San Francisco; (415) 409-FARM; www.farmerbrownsf.com
This week, we got a little southern comfort from the rocking staff over at Farmer Brown, one of our favorite spots to get our soul-food fix. We felt right at home with bartender Harmony Fraga, who coaxed us into happy hour bliss with a bounty of cocktails favoring a southern disposition. In addition to the Kentucky Derby, we were also treated to delicious juleps and an amazing cucumber margarita. And you can’t begin to imagine how good these cocktails taste when paired with the bar’s hot-and-spicy nuts or mini cornbread muffins. Despite her name, Fraga told us she’s more of a passionate listener than a musician and only pretended to play the recorder when it was required in elementary school. And though she certainly knows her way around bourbon, she’s also keen on getting people to better understand the benefits of Campari, that bitter liqueur that has its fair share of haters.
Harmony, you have an interesting name. How’d you get it? It’s after a small town near San Luis Obispo my parents visited. Only 18 people live there, 18 to this day. It was for sale a couple of years ago for $11 million. I haven’t gone there yet.
Who is Farmer Brown? Jay Foster, actually. His concept is farm-fresh southern food showcased with cocktails made from all fresh juices and housemade infusions, with produce from local farmers.
Have you done any farming? I have. My grandma had a nice garden with tomatoes and peppers. It definitely tastes better when you grow your own fruits and veggies.
I just got back from the East Coast, and I can’t speak for all of it, but it was shocking to experience sour mix, Schnapps and Curacao instead of fresh ingredients. A lot of people who might be from out of town stop me when I’m making a drink to comment on its taste. It’s not bad, they’re just surprised at the difference.
What do you typically order? Usually I’m a vodka and soda girl, or shots when I’m out with a friend.
What drink do you make the most? Mint Juleps, and we do a couple of variations.
Have you ever been to the Kentucky Derby? No! I’ve always wanted to go for those hats.
What’s a drink or spirit that you don’t serve enough? I’d say the use of Campari is not represented enough to accent a drink.
If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? Madonna. She’s an innovator. I would love to pick her brain.
What would you serve her? Something strong; a Dirty Vodka Martini.
Do you think she’s responsible for her rumored divorce from Guy Ritchie? It’s all hearsay. If they are getting divorced, it’s only because he can’t handle her.
Do you have any pet peeves? When a customer asks for your name, and you think it’s just to be nice. And then they shout your name as if you’re a friend. Then you realize you’ve been duped because they are using it to their advantage to get your attention over everyone else.