Meet your mixologist: Chris Arenas

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.

Perbacco

230 California St., (415) 955-0663, www.perbaccosf.com

The relatively new Italian eatery opened by Umberto Gibin and Staffan Terje is a restaurant/bar with guts. When you open directly next door to the world-famous Tadich Grill, the country’s third-oldest restaurant, and only a few storefronts down from Laurent Manrique’s über-posh Aqua, you need them — or at the very least, a fortified stomach lining. So far, the sleek restaurant is keeping up just fine, earning a praiseful shout in the 2008 Zagat Survey. We had a nice chat with bartender Chris Arenas, 34, who showed us he can make a killer Manhattan. Please, do us a favor and decipher the mysterious 2/12/188 sequence stenciled onto one of the restaurant’s brick walls. No one’s yet been successful in getting a straight answer as to what the heck it means. Is that when the aliens are going to land? Is it where Al Capone was squirreling away his possessions? Somebody call Geraldo!

How long have you been in San Francisco? 15 years. I’m originally from D.C. I was 18 and jumped in a car with a bunch of my friends and intended to go to Berkeley, but stayed in The City instead.

What’s Perbacco mean? It is a positive affirmation in Italian. Like, “Wow, that party was so great last night, perbacco.” Something to that equivalent.

What’s the most perbacco thing about Perbacco? Oh gosh. That’s a tough one. Just how consistently busy this place is. We have a lot of great regulars.

In all your years of experience, what has been the best gig you’ve worked? Bartending during the jazz festival in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The good days down there, pre-Katrina.

Have you been back since? Yeah. I have a band down there with a few of the guys from Galactic. The city is kind of coming back. There are still a lot of issues, mainly from the government. The downtown area is beginning to come back.

What do you play? Bass guitar.

And the music? Funk hip-hop.

What’s the band’s name? Raw Deluxe.

What’s the first drink you ever learned how to make? The first drink I learned to make that I thought was cool was a Negroni.

We like to ask bartenders what a drink order says about a person. So, I’ll say the drink and you name the person. Ready? Manhattan. Drunk by professionals. Pretty specific about the way they like it.

Cosmo. Classic San Francisco drink.

Martini. These days, everybody orders martinis, but no vermouth. Nobody wants vermouth.

What is up with that? I give a pretty good shot of vermouth because back in the day a martini was one-third vermouth, or a one-count.

What’s the biggest tip you ever got? $500 in New Orleans, serving Cuban cigars and whiskey.

Is there any drink you hate? Anything with a sugar-rimmed glass.

Even a Sidecar? Minus a Sidecar.

What’s been your most memorable bartending moment? Serving Laurence Fishburne.

Perbacco!

» ½ Meyer lemon

» A few dashes of Meyer lemon simple syrup

» Ketel One Citron

» A dash of amaretto

Muddle together lemon and syrup. Pour 4 counts of Ketel One over ice, add amaretto and shake. Add to the muddled lemons.

Top with a splash of soda.

Garnish with orange twist.

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