Chambers bartender Richard Woodruff found niche in booze 

click to enlarge Chambers bartender Richard Woodruff counts a surprise trip to Vegas among his best tips from customers, but he’ll make you a Lucky #13 even if you can’t buy him a ticket to Sin City. - BETH LABERGE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Chambers bartender Richard Woodruff counts a surprise trip to Vegas among his best tips from customers, but he’ll make you a Lucky #13 even if you can’t buy him a ticket to Sin City.

In a town crowded with chic, sexy bars, Chambers stands out. Located in the Phoenix Hotel, the bar underwent a striking and modern remodeling. It once housed Backflip and Bambuddha Lounge. Unique and varied lighting in the two indoor bars, brocade and leather banquette seating, and indoor and outdoor fireplaces give it a distinctive, classy feel. A wall display with more than 10,000 classic LPs sometimes proves to be too tempting for customers, says bartender Richard Woodruff, noting that some go spinning right out the door. The poolside patio is a favorite, especially on sunny Sundays when patrons can dance to DJ music and enjoy barbecue. As the big lighted sign in the front lounge says, “BE AMAZING.” Chambers pretty much nails it.

BAR info: 601 Eddy St. • (415) 829-2316 • www.chambers-sf.com

What’s the crowd like here?

It’s a destination spot. We’re still trying to get past the clubby bar scene that it was. We’re a wonderful restaurant with more of a lounge feel. People get dressed up. It can be a very fancy crowd, especially when we get a theater crowd or workers from the Federal Building.

How did you become a bartender?

I was a financial analyst for Wells Fargo. I got into my second motorcycle accident and was on disability for two months. I knew the owner of KoKo Cocktails, and he asked me if I wanted to sit on a stool and check IDs for $100 a night. A week later, he asked if I wanted to be a bartender. Two weeks later, everybody thought I was a pro. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was doing what I should be doing.

What do you drink?

I’m a beer-and-a-shot guy. But when I go out to dinner I start with a cocktail, like a Vesper martini, Manhattan or Rob Roy, then wine with dinner.

What bars do you like?

The Hi-Lo Club after work. The Madrone Art Bar has one of the best liquor selections in The City. The Fat Angel. The Toronado.

What’s the most popular drink here?

The vodka drink, #11 Vodka. It’s a basil vodka gimlet. It’s incredibly, wildly popular.

What do you like about bartending?

Making people happy. I require human interaction to recharge my batteries. A good bartender can read customers. You can order a lemon drop once. After that, I want to take over and guide you through the spirits. I don’t consider myself a mixologist. I’m a barman.

What was your biggest tip?

A trip to Vegas on a charter plane. A guy I was serving said, “I’m taking you to Vegas.” We left at 2 a.m. and came back at 3 p.m. the next afternoon. I was in the right place at the right time.
Where are you from?

Jacksonville, Fla. I’m a seventh-generation Floridian. I was raised by a Southern debutante.

Lucky #13

  • ½ oz. Anchor Genevieve gin
  • 1½ oz. gin
  • ¾ oz. Creme de Yvette violet liqueur
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice

Shake ingredients together with ice. Strain into a Collins glass with salt on half the rim. Top with tonic. Garnish with orange slice.

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Donna Domino

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