DNA Lounge Cocktail connoisseurs may be surprised to learn that subtlety is on the menu at the South of Market dance club and concert venue. Bartender Jared Williams has carved out a niche for himself, mixing drinks as boldly individualistic as the club’s clientele. Staircases figure prominently in DNA’s architecture. Beyond the main bar, which sits like an arena in the center of the space, a small stage is framed by two wide staircases zigzagging up to the second floor. It’s fitting that stairs give ready access to the stage because on any given night — especially Mondays, when DNA hosts the goth-industrial Death Guild party — it is the customers in their corsets, bustiers, platform heels, patent leather and lingerie who are the main attraction. Though Williams speaks enthusiastically about bar events — describing comedic spoken-word session “Mortified” as “a real feather in DNA’s cap” — it is in the goth scene that his roots run deepest. His first bartending gig was at a private goth club in Seattle called Machine Works. After moving to San Francisco, he soon became a fixture at Jezebel’s Joint, a small Tenderloin club known for hosting goth, LGBT and “sex-positive” events. When he’s not bartending, Williams attends classes at City College of San Francisco, satisfying his general education requirements and crafting art and jewelry in the school’s metal arts program.
What bars do you like?
I have two favorites. I like Pisco Latin Lounge because I’m really interested in Latin flavors. As a bartender and food and flavor enthusiast, I pay attention to all the different cultures here. Pisco does Latin flavor in their drinks really well. The other bar I have this romance with is B Restaurant and Bar. Their beautiful, sunlit bar in the Yerba Buena Gardens makes me dream of pleasant day work, making delicious cocktails on a sunny patio. It sounds wonderful.
Would it be fair to describe you as a foodie? I shy away from that term because it comes with a certain snobbery — that’s why I prefer the term “flavor enthusiast.”
How do you feel about Yelp?
It’s always wonderful to find somebody’s come to my bar and then written about me on Yelp. It’s unbelievably flattering.
Isn’t it hard to craft sophisticated cocktails in a place as busy as the DNA Lounge?
There’s a time to really slow down and make a drink properly and a time to throw down and get drinks made rapidly, but that doesn’t mean getting sloppy. And we have enough bartenders at DNA that there’s always an opportunity to provide good service.
What makes a good bartender?
Honesty with management and customers. Do the right thing for them. Be willing to try new things. Pay attention to the flavors around you. Be inspired. Every meal provides an opportunity to explore new flavors. A large part of my inspiration comes from eating.
Working in nightclubs is hard. How do you avoid burnout?
Your job is as wonderful as your customers make it. If you have a bunch of customers who care about what you’re doing, are interested in your drinks and are excited to be there, then you’ve got a great job.
You’re in your fourth semester of metal arts at City College. What’s that all about?
Metalwork is a similar discipline to bartending — a drink is fleeting, jewelry is more permanent, but in both cases it’s about sitting down and crafting something you hope will be beautiful.