About the series: 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 atus? What are the tricks of their trade? And what lessons have they learned along the way? In this new Examiner weekly feature, we talk to some of our local bartenders to find out.
601 Eddy St., (415) 885-5088, www.bambuddhalounge.com
Bambuddha Lounge Gov. Gray Davis is how 33-year-old Josh Klaus got behind the bar at the über-swank Bambuddha Lounge, the Thai-, Filipino- and Balinese-inspired restaurant located inside the Phoenix Hotel. Many remember lounging poolside, cocktail in grip, when Backflip was the Phoenix’s resident bar for The City’s finest. This former scientist has been working at this oasis of hip smack dab in the middle of the Tenderloin for a little more than two years, making the bar his new laboratory and mixing up the smoothest cocktails for an even smoother clientele.
Where were you before you got here? I was over at the Gold Club. It was a girl who worked at the Gold Club who got me the job here.
Where are you from originally? I was born and raised in Lincoln, Neb. At 18, I moved out to Pennsylvania for a brief gig and then moved back to Omaha, Neb. That was where I got my first bartending gig, at the Saddle Creek Bar & Grill. It goes back to the turn of the last century and 311 played its first gig there. Which, needless to say, as a bartender that was my coolest gig.
So how’d you get out to California? I graduated with a degree in science from UC Berkeley and got hired as a staff research assistant in the Geology Department; basically, I hung out with graduate students and got paid. Shortly thereafter, Gov. Gray Davis cut the state budget, around 2002, 2003 [impacting state-funded universities] so I went back to bartending.
What’s the clientele like here at Bambuddha Lounge? It’s an interesting level of diversity, from monthly gatherings of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to groups from the Culinary Academy. It’s an eclectic mix. We threw Persian New Year last year. The Golden State Warriors threw a party here. Alex Smith of the 49ers … he was a really nice guy, very down to earth.
Is there a hot drink you are serving at the moment? I think what most people are saying is the hot drink is the Mango Mojito. It’s taking over the Cosmopolitan as the ubiquitous drink. On a good Friday night we’ll make 100 to 150 Mango Mojitos. Say we make 150 Mojitos, 120 are going to be Mango Mojitos.
What’s your biggest pet peeve? Somebody looking at the bartender, and we know they’re there, and we see it, and we get to them and they don’t know what they want.
How about the swimming pool? Anyone ever fall in? Every summer we have these poolside parties from Cinco de Mayo through October. I recall a time we had a men’s basketball team and they had won whatever tournament level they were in. They had been drinking the Guavarita, a take on the margarita with guava juice and lots of tequila. This group of basketball players had a lot of them to celebrate. It was still light out, so they proceeded to push each other into the pool, in their uniforms, wondering where the towels are. That’s the rule of thumb here. If you want to go into the pool, bring your own towel.
What have you learned about people since being in bartending? In general, people love attention. I tend to think that a bartender will find that out better than most people. A lot of people would like to be a bartender. I wouldn’t say it’s envy that I get; it’s a lot of respect and admiration. Everyone would like to be a bartender or at least try it once.
» 1 oz. Cointreau
» 1 oz. Triple Sec
» 1 oz. Vodka
» Lime Juice
» Guava Nectar
Pour into a mixing glass. Shake it up. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a wedge of lime.