It could be said that Florida transplant Adam La Cagnina ran off and joined the circus. He’s been working the bar under the Teatro ZinZanni’s prized spiegeltent for seven years. What was meant to be a fallback profession to support his music career became a real gig. La Cagnina is a familiar force in the competitive bartending scene. The Cure, a cocktail featured on ZinZanni’s beverage menu, won him first place in cocktail competition. La Cagnina’s life story has as many twists and turns as the wild and whimsical show that takes place every night under the big top. A drummer in a surf metal band, a Gulf War vet, and now bar manager and wine buyer for ZinZanni, he has plenty of stories up his sleeve.
Teatro ZinZanni: Pier 29, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, (415) 438-2668, www.love.zinzanni.org
Why did you come out to San Francisco? I moved the West Coast in ’95, after I finished college. I moved to Hawaii just to surf, and was kicking around Hawaii bartending there. I was in a band that moved to the West Coast to tour, so bartending has always been a way to support my lifestyle.
Is your band still together? I am in a band now, but it’s not the same one. It’s called ¨ [Umlaut].
Do you spell it out? We just put the two dots. It’s metal. Surf metal.
We’ve never heard of that genre. It’s new. I’m starting it. We’re a power trio, bass, drums and guitars. The bassist is a woman and she sings as well.
What would you say is the showiest drink on your menu? The Russian to the Tropics. It’s muddled, it’s got blueberries in it and vodka and sugar, and it’s got a fun garnish. We garnish it with a pineapple frond, so it’s not something you see as a garnish in a drink in most places.
What’s the craziest stunt you’ve ever watch unfold here at Teatro ZinZanni? Well, last year was the “storm of the century,” when it rained for three straight days. In a half-hour, 10,000 gallons of water had collected on top of the tent [covering a portion of the lobby]. The roof sagged almost to the floor. The whole area was just a big water balloon, and the show [was] still going on inside. We cut a hole in the bladder to let the water out. We were so close to peril. The whole place could’ve been flooded. But this place is awesome, because the show must go on. In 10 years, we’ve never canceled a show.
If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Really? I was in the first Gulf War, and it was a pretty powerful experience. At the end, I was working a security detail [guarding Schwarzkopf at the end of the war]. It was such a powerful moment for me to have the war over and see him come in as this symbol of strength and the war is over.
Cowboy in Heels
– 1½ oz. Jim Beam
– 2 dashes of orange bitters
– Sparkling apple cider.
– Two sugar cubes
Muddle sugar together with orange bitters at the bottom of a glass. Add ice and whiskey and shake together. Pour over ice and top with apple cider. Garnish with an orange wedge.