Bartender Caramia Tontodonato brings Boston charm to SF

The Parlor: Bartender Caramia Tontodonato is half-Irish, but no one believes her. Can you guess why? We met up with this amazingly charming Massachusetts transplant at The Parlor, a spacious, surprisingly hip bar located down at Fisherman’s Wharf (which is what we like to think is the crossroads of the world). In addition to the swath of booths and tables in the front, a club-size space is available in the back for private parties and even features a VIP bar built to look like an old-school library. Adorable! Also adorable: So many of Tontodonato’s stories, including the ones about the nuns who schooled her between seventh and 12th grade. The education continues with Tontodonato now enrolled at the Academy of Art and working toward her master of fine arts degree. 2801 Leavenworth St., San Francisco, (415) 775-5110, www.theparlorsf.com

What brought you out to San Francisco? I went to school for multimedia with a concentration in graphic design. I actually moved out here because I’m getting my MFA in computer arts and media. I’m focusing on motion graphics and visual effects. It was either New York City or here.

What cocktail do you typically order? I’m a gin drinker. I am. I love gin. I’m a Hendrick’s person. Although starting to work here I was introduced to the G’Vine gin, which is the French gin [made from grapes]. Basil Gimlets are really good. There’s my favorite cocktails from Boston that I love, but it’s one of those muddling situations. You muddle cucumber and mint, a little bit of simple syrup, a little lime juice, a splash of pomegranate juice, gin. Shake that, pour it over crushed ice. It’s so delicious that all of a sudden you’ve had like five.

What neighborhood are you living in? Hayes Valley, which I adore.

If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? My great-grandmother for sure. She was from Ireland and she came over, you know, the whole Ellis Island situation. She baby-sat me while my mother was in law school and she taught me how to spell. I have this one distinct memory … she made me laugh so hard that I fell off the bed. I remember laughing just laying on the floor, and she peeks her head over the bed and she was like, “F-A-L-L: Fall.”

You were a competitive swimmer for 14 years. What was your stroke? Breaststroke, 100 and 200 [meters]. That was a favorite in high school. Guys would be like “Oh, what do you do?” Breaststroke. “Oh, ha. Me, too.” So I would say “freestyle.” I would just lie. You know, they think that they’re so clever.

Have you taken a dip in the Bay yet? I haven’t been in the Bay yet.

Given that your entire secondary school education was by nuns, do you think they’d approve of your current occupation? You wanna know what, my nuns were pretty bada–. I think they would probably come in for a drink, actually.

What would you serve them? I bet that the head nun at my school would drink a scotch.

The Rare Parlor Manhattan

  • 2 oz. of the Eagle Rare bourbon (The Parlor went to the Eagle Rare distillery to choose its own barrel)
  • ½ oz. Antica sweet vermouth
  • Dash of Fee Brothers bitters
  • Small splash of brandied cherry juice

Shake ingredients together with ice. Strain into a martini glass. Can also be served on the rocks.

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