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.
6150 Geary Blvd., San Francisco; (415) 221-0773
Veteran bartender Fred Sor isn’t a man of many words. In fact, this might mark the first time in this column’s history that we’ve been able to run an interview in its entirety. You’d think being a bartender at the notorious Polynesian dive bar Trad’r Sam would fill you to the brim with hilarious, controversial tales. Perhaps words could never express what he’s seen throughout his tenure. This Outer Richmond ode to the island life is about as famous — at least locally — as its uptown cousin, Trader Vic’s. Except here, you can get about three Planter’s Punches for the price you’d pay for one at Vic’s. It can get a little rowdy, so folks looking for the drink experience without the riffraff should hit up this place Monday through Thursday, or before 9 p.m. on the weekends. Heck, it opens at 10 a.m. Brunch anyone?
Where are you from originally? Millbrae.
How long have you worked here? Eight years.
How did you get into bartending? I don’t know if I can tell you the truth. I quit my office job and my brother said, “You like to drink a lot.” So I called the place up and asked if I could work here.
What’s the reason you’ve been here for eight long years? I don’t have any, really. I’m really lazy. I work three days a week.
What are you doing when you aren’t here? I go to bars.
What time does this place officially open? Officially, it’s 10 a.m. It depends on who’s here, though.
How long has this place been open? Since the late ’30s.
Consistently? Yeah. This place kind of exploded in the last 15 years.
How much alcohol is in a Scorpion Bowl? About three Planter’s Punches.
How many people does it take to finish one? Two to four, but people order them on their own all the time. I’ve seen people do two.
What’s your favorite drink on the menu? Scotch. OK, if you force me to drink one, usually it’ll be a Grasshopper because it has mint chip ice cream.
And what do you typically order, when it’s a drink not decked out with a paper umbrella? I drink beer and scotch.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would be three drinks you couldn’t live without? Johnnie Walker Black, PBR in a can, Miller High Life in a bottle.
What’s the strangest cocktail you’ve ever made? A Fogcutter. It’s got gin and rum and it tastes like black licorice.
If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? Stephen Chow. He’s the “Kung Fu Hustle” guy, and he’s made like 100 other movies before that.
What would you serve him? I’d give him the Red Hibiscus for Red China. It’s a frozen drink with rum, grenadine, gin, Sloe gin and pineapple.
Who is the biggest celebrity you’ve ever served? Adam Jones [Tool] and Kirk Hammett [Metallica]. That was a crazy night. Adam Jones got a Rasta Man, which is the sweetest drink on the menu. Winona Ryder has come in here before, but I didn’t serve her. Sal Castaneda comes in here all the time.
Is the jukebox here any good? If you like Boz Scaggs. The word is “prehistoric.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Hopefully owning a bar of my own, or in jail.
How come people get so blitzed when they come to Trad’r Sam? Mostly it’s the sugar, but we do pour heavy.
Featured drink: Planter’s Punch
– One shot of white rum
– Splash of grenadine
– Splash of passion fruit syrup
– 1 oz. lime juice
– 1 oz. lemon juice
– 1 oz. orange juice
– 1 oz. pineapple juice
– Black rum
Fill a pint glass with ice and add white rum through pineapple juice. Shake together, pour into a glass filled with ice and mix with a long-handled spoon. Float black rum on top. Garnish with orange slices and a paper umbrella.