Meet your mixologist: Adam Richey

About the series: In a saloon town such as San Francisco, the bartender plays a crucial role. Confessor, friend, sounding board — the man or woman behind the plank sees to it that our needs are met with elegance, grace and often wit. They see humanity at its best and most convivial, but also offer a nod and a welcome to the lonely. But what do they see when they look at us? What are the tricks of their trade? And what lessons have they learned along the way? In this Examiner weekly feature, we talk to some of our local bartenders to find out.

Tadich Grill

240 California St., (415) 391-1849

Adam Richey is not a man of many words. Maybe that’s because the bar he tends is stationed inside the famous Tadich Grill, an establishment that really speaks for itself. Built in 1849, the Tadich is not only the oldest restaurant in San Francisco, it’s the oldest restaurant west of the Mississippi and the third-oldest in the United States. Besides loving the Grill’s renowned cioppino, Richey really digs the fact that the bar closes down at 9:30, which means he can get home to his wife at a reasonable hour. Richey, 37, started his hospitality career straight out of college with his first bartending gig at the prestigious Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Aspen, Colo. From there, he transferred to the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton, slinging sidecars and whatnot to The City’s impeccably groomed coterie. The just-as-famous yet more down-to-earth Tadich Grill, however, is where Richey plans to stay for many years to come.

When did you move out to San Francisco? When I was 17. I went to USF.

Hey, me too. A fellow Don! I graduated in ’92. I was studying history.

So when did you get your start in bars? After I graduated, I got a job at Kuleto’s. I was a bar runner, which is a bar back’s bar back.

What’s your signature cocktail? A Ramos gin fizz. This is a drink that no bartender likes to make.

Why? Because it’s a little bit labor-intensive. That’s why most people don’t like to make it. The Ramos gin fizz was invented by Henry C. Ramos in New Orleans in the 1800s. Back then, they had no blenders, so he’d have 15 bartenders or so lined up, like an assembly line to shake the drink so it would be a frothy consistency by the time it was poured into the glass. It’s good for a hangover because it has cream in it, and you want alcohol for a hangover, but the cream makes it more palatable.

Do I want to know how many calories are in this drink? Well, jeez, there’s cream in it. I don’t know … 600 calories? If you’re drinking, you shouldn’t be worried about calories. If you care about calories, you should be drinking vodka and soda. You know what the difference is these days between people who are 70 and 22, is 22-year-olds don’t drink brown drinks anymore.

When you’re out, what drink will you order? Depends. What time of day?

11:30 a.m.? A Ramos gin fizz.

2:30 p.m.? Pecan punch.

After work? A martini or a glass of champagne.

Why do you do what you do? The hours, lack of responsibility. At 9:30, my work is done for the day. Working here, you have to be somewhat of an ambassador of San Francisco for both the tourists and the non-tourists.

If I were a tourist, what would you advise that I do? Go to North Beach and get drinks at either Tosca, Enrico’s or Gino and Carlo’s. Go to the Brazen Head for dinner or the Balboa Café, and then I’d send you to the de Young Museum and Coit Tower.

What’s the most you’ve ever been tipped? $250 by one Russian guy.

Featured Recipe

Ramos Gin Fizz

» 2 ounces of gin

» Squeeze the juice of half a lemon

» 2 tsp. of sugar

» Splash of triple sec (or orange flower water)

» 1 egg white

» 3 ounces half-and-half

Blend (without ice) until frothy. Line the bottom of a glass with ice. Fill ¼ of the glass with soda. Pour the blended mixture into the ice-filled glass. Garnish with nutmeg.

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