Walk all the way down Mission Street and don’t stop until you see a beer-bellied, masked luchador downing a bottle of some feel-good. At that point, you will run into The Knockout. The spacious, lively tavern is famed for its Thursday night bingo, along with its diverse selection of bands and DJs. Bingo rules are simple: buy a drink, get a bingo card. Bartender Josh Yule doesn’t measure his ratios when making drinks — he eyeballs them. And he makes his own cocktails, such as the French 74 or the Bernie Lomax, inspired by the cult classic “Weekend at Bernie’s.” But be careful, that one can kill you. Friday is Soul Night, but if you’re looking to get some rounds in any day of the week, hit up The Knockout.
You were a barista for a long time. Do you have any formal cocktail training?
No. I hung out in bars for so long, I just knew how to make things. Honestly, a barista I think is a little harder than bartending. It’s more labor intensive, and this way you just gotta know your ratios — don’t add that much gin, add this much gin. You want it to taste good. So far, I haven’t made a bad drink yet … so far. It will happen. I mean, I’ve tried to make things bad with like hot sauce and things like that. And they’re still good.
This place has been described as a dive bar. Is that accurate?
I don’t see this place as a dive bar. When I think “dive bar,” I think of the guy at the end of the bar who can’t lift his arm, but he’s got a scarf tied around it and he pulls on it just to lift the drink. Shady characters. It’s really quiet. There’s an old lady who’s been around the block, you know? That’s a dive bar, and I like those places. But this is more of a, ugh, I hate to say it, “punk-rock bar.” I hate punk-rock. I grew up listening to it, but now I can’t stand it. It’s a buffet of things. But whenever I think of changing careers, it’s hard to leave here. The money is good. The owners are fantastic.
Let’s hear a little bit of Josh Yule history.
I’m from Florida. I don’t want to piss off my Florida friends. Florida has a different way of thinking. Most people there aren’t forward-thinkers, they’re backward-thinkers. And that’s why I came out this way. I wanted to get as far away from the South as possible. I think I’m a San Franciscan now. I think after 10 years, I have my residency — I hope. I’ve been told by a friend who grew up here that after 10 years, I am a citizen of San Francisco.
Your French 74 cocktail is a blend of a Kir Royale and a French 75. What gives?
So I like the Kir Royale, but it’s a little dainty-looking — for a dude. And the French 75 comes in a pint glass and it’s just a little too much. So I just kinda shoved them together and put them in an up glass. I was actually trying on this one. The French 74 is actually just like the French 75. They’re both pistols. The French 75 has a really mean kick, that’s why they came up with that drink. The French 74 is a very rare pistol that was given to the officers in the French army, and it has a bronze tint to it, like color at the bottom of the drink. I don’t know if it’s going to win any major awards like the Nobel Peace Prize.
Is this place haunted?
Before it was The Knockout, it was the Odeon, owned by Chicken John. Before that it was the Brickhouse, and before that it was something else. And I heard that someone was stabbed. And I’ve been here during the day with all the lights off, and I keep seeing someone walking around out of the corner of my eye. And I’m always like, “We’re cloooosed … you’re not there.” I haven’t seen him in a while because I haven’t worked during the day.