Jazmine Vieira embodies a rare portrait of life in San Francisco nowadays: she makes art and cocktails and is able to support herself despite the increasingly pricey cost of living in The City.
“I don’t take it at all for granted,” she said, “Especially the artist lifestyle in San Francisco, I feel really fortunate to do what I love and to be able to live off of it.”
Vieira serves up vodka tonics and fancy cocktails for the new-ish Jolene’s Bar and Restaurant, which opened in the Mission in December 2018. She became a bartender there after years of go-go dancing for “anyone willing to hire me,” she said with a laugh, noting mainstay spots in the Castro, and, unsurprisingly, for namesake bar co-owner Jolene Linsangan.
Before Jolene’s opened, Vieira danced in UHAUL, a party Linsangan produced, which Vieira calls “a party for girls who love girls,” now on Fridays in the new space.
Jolene’s, a queer bar, operates with a message of inclusivity for all. “When you walk into our doors you will be safe with us,” said an announcement for the 2018 launch. A dance floor tucked in back has walls with photos taken at Linsangan’s parties over the years of nipples of all genders. One sign in the bar reads: “No sexism, no racism, no ableism, no ageism, no fatphobia, no transphobia, no femmephobia, no whorephobia.”
As a gay man and event producer, I’m used to seeing LGBTQ bars serving crowds that are, often by majority, men. So it’s nice to see Jolene’s as a home for so many queer women. Vieira likes the female vibes, too. She mixed me the Flower of Life, a fruity cocktail inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe paintings she invented, she said, “to honor women and vaginas and beautifulness!”
Bar info: Jolene’s, 2700 16th St., S.F., (415) 913-7948, jolenessf.com
Tell me about this cocktail.
It started out as a classic lemon drop, and I asked myself, “How far can I tweak this?” I started out with the hibiscus syrup and then another bartender here, Lydia, turned me onto the Cassis liqueur. That came out too sweet, so I cut the flavor a bit with soda water. The magenta color immediately had me thinking of Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings, and I did a little research because I wanted something femme focused.
Can you say more?
I think that there’s this really interesting shift in queer culture around labels or titles. There’s starting to be this negative connotation to the word “lesbian.” And, identifying as a lesbian, that doesn’t feel good to me. So I really like to push that in my presence in queer nightlife. Like saying, “Hey, being anywhere on the spectrum is OK.” And there’s really this shift of feeling as if we have to sacrifice the L (“Lesbians” in LGBTQ) in order to obtain “queer” — which is beautiful. Queer as an umbrella term is magic, but I don’t think we should have to get rid of the subcategories that make each person on the spectrum feel special and included. So being able to do a femme-focused cocktail was really, really special to me.
What alcohol do you like to use in your drinks?
I personally like to work with more bright flavors and lighter ones, like citrus fruit. And that’s true in with my spirits, too, such as vodkas and tequilas. I like something easy to sip on versus your heavier savory drinks, like your old fashioned. I’ve been playing a lot with branching out of highballs; if someone orders a margarita, I ask, “Can I make you a pineapple margarita instead?”
What do you personally like to drink?
In my early years, I was into the vodka Redbull and vodka cranberry, although now I definitely enjoy tequila. I drink a lot of Casamigos Blanco and Reposado. Lately I’m really into exploring house cocktails, anything that’s on a bar’s menu and really just being familiar with how other people craft cocktails, because I’m still learning.
How did you come into bartending?
I was go-go dancing for some of Jolene’s parties and she approached me, saying, “I see your influence in the community and I can tell you really enjoy it. Would you ever be interested in bartending?” At first I worried about having to choose between dancing and bartending, but then I thought, why not? I went to a two-week crash course on basic techniques, your shake, your stir, your classic cocktails, then they test you on service, speed and accuracy, which I passed with flying colors.
Has bartending gotten in the way of dancing?
I used to be a full-time dance teacher, and I loved it, but it became taxing to create content and art because I had to instead of wanting to. Now that I kind of have a couple different outlets through teaching, go-go dancing and bartending, I don’t think I could go back to solely just teaching.
Cocktail special: Flower of Life
.25 ounce liqueur (Cassis Noir de Bourgogne, Giffard)
.5 ounce house made hibiscus syrup
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1.5 ounces Ketel One Citroen
Combine ingredients and shake with ice, and strain concoction into a Collins glass. Top with soda water and add more ice. Garnish with edible flowers and serve
Saul Sugarman is a San Francisco-based writer, event producer and apparel designer. Last Call with Saul appears every other Sunday in the Examiner. He is a guest columnist and his opinions are not necessarily that of the Examiner.