Grab a Cosmo and get comfortable at HiDive

Brian Molyneaux/Special to The ExaminerLegacy: How many bartenders can boast about being cited in Wikipedia for introducing a cocktail to San Francisco? HiDive owner-bartender John Caine is credited by the online site for bringing the Cosmopolitan to The City from Minnesota.

HiDive Despite its name, this Bayside bar and restaurant is far from divey, with the feel of a historic waterfront saloon. Its comfortable, friendly vibe is due in no small part to owner-bartender John Caine, the personification of an amiable publican-barkeep. He greets regulars and newbies alike as they come through the door: “C’mon in; we’re just talkin’ about you!” and delivers drinks to female guests with a charming, “Here you go, sugarpie.” The mint-green building was the former home of the Boondocks until Caine renovated and reopened it in 2004. The Embarcadero next to Pier 28 (at Bryant Street), San Francisco, (415) 977-0170, www.hidivesf.com

Where else have you worked? I’m from Cleveland and started bartending in college, in 1981. I majored in communications, but realized that bartending paid more than a radio sales job. I worked at Julie’s Supper Club for
10 years, then I opened the 11th Hour on Market Street at 11th [Street]. It was 18 months of absolute pain. The area was like a scene out of “Night of the Living Dead.” Then I opened Cafe Mars at Seventh and Brannon [streets] before I won the bid to open here.

What do you like about bartending? We’re in the ego-based business. I’m the luckiest bartender in San Francisco. I make drinks, talk about drinks, get to be in the business and don’t have to work till 2 a.m. anymore. I’m a redneck with white socks who likes Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

What makes a Cosmo distinctive? I think the Cosmo is a great foundation in the vodka world. It’s a specialty drink with fresh ingredients. I don’t do blueberries or kumquats, but cranberry juice has a fresh quality.

What makes a good bartender? I remember lots of hardworking grunts in the Midwest. It can be tough. You either remember people’s names or their drinks. No drink is a pain in the ass to make if they tip well. I can teach you how to bartend, but I can’t teach you how to see — is this person a threat, a possible date, an old girlfriend or boyfriend? Competition is tough; you gotta make something of yourself.

What are the most popular drinks here? Margaritas. We have patron tequila and Maker’s Mark on tap.

What famous people have you served? Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines. Robert Conrad, who got into a fight at Julie’s Supper Club. He was a little f—–. I bought him a margarita and took pictures. He was great but people were always f—— with him, and maybe he had one too many. Gavin Newsom, Art Agnos. The old idea of three-martini lunches is gone. Everybody’s got a camera phone now. Lots of cops and firemen. They brought the fire boat over and did a tribute spray when we opened.

What strange experiences have you had? There was a party here, and they toasted and opened a window and poured a guy’s ashes out the window into the Bay.

— Donna Domino

HiDive Cosmo

  • 2 oz. Absolut SF
  • ¼ oz. St. Germain
  • ¼ oz. fresh lemon and lime juice
  • Splash cranberry juice

Shake ingredients together with ice in cocktail shaker. Strain into martini glass rimmed with sugar; garnish with lime wedge.

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