In a saloon town such as San Francisco, the bartender plays a crucial role. 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?
1469 18th St., San Francisco; (415) 355-0001; www.lingba.com
We’ve all heard of the expression “liquid lunch,” and while we can’t say we necessarily endorse this kind of diet, Cody Robertson, owner and head bartender at Lingba in Potrero Hill, might have given us a convincing argument to reconsider our stance. It’s his Bacon and Eggs Bloody Mary, beautifully garnished with an actual hunk of freshly fried bacon and a quail egg that’s got our mouths and stomachs grumbling. Formerly a computer programmer, Robertson took over Lingba and gave it a sleek makeover a couple of years ago, a dramatic transformation from its previous life as the kitschy Lilo Lounge.
Where are you from originally? San Luis Obispo. I moved here 10 years ago; I used to be a computer programmer, so I moved here for a job. I used to come here when it was Lilo Lounge, back when it was a super tacky tiki bar. After the dot-com crash, the people who owned the bar here were getting evicted, they said, “You should just buy the place and take it over.”
How did you go about creating a cocktail menu without any experience? I just started bartending when I bought the place. Basic drinks are easy to learn. Then I started studying different liquors and techniques. Then [I enrolled] in the Beverage Alcohol Resource in New York. The guys that run the class, Dave Wondrich, Doug Frost and Steve Olson — the most famous cocktail people around really — teach a really intense weeklong class. It’s 12-hour days. At the end is a super-hard test that’s six hours long. I’ve never been so ready to have a cocktail.
Did you pass? I did. Only 30 percent of bartenders pass. It’s definitely not something you want to go back and take.
How did you get into brunch cocktails? We just started doing brunch here about a month ago. There were no bars that served brunch around here. I went to a bar in New York that had a bacon-infused bourbon, then it just popped into my head: “What if we do a really good savory breakfast cocktail.”
Alrighty, so I’ve never had a raw egg in a drink before. What do I do? Just shoot it back.
That’s not bad. How many people actually do what I just did? I’d say about one-third of the people actually take the egg. Then there’s some people who say, “Can I have another egg?”
Where do you get the quail eggs from? I get them from my produce company, or you can get them from Japanese distributors.
If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? Dr. Dre. I’d be curious as to what he’d order.
What’s the strangest cocktail you’ve ever made? A Strong Island. It’s a Long Island with only the, well, booze. No sweet and sour, soda or anything.
Does Lingba mean anything? The owner of the Thai restaurant next door helped me come up with it. I wanted something with monkeys. Ling means monkey and Ba is crazy. So, “crazy monkey.”
Featured drink: Bacon and Eggs Bloody Mary
Base: Fill pint glass with:
– 4 dashes of Worcestershire
– 2 dashes of Gold Mountain Sauce
– 2 dashes of Tabasco
– ¼ squeezed lemon
– Pinch of celery salt
– Pinch of black pepper
– Fresh-peeled horseradish
– 4 oz. tomato juice
– 2½ oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka from Texas
– Fill second pint glass with ice and pour mixture into that glass.
– Use chef’s knife to slice quail eggshell.
– Discard white of egg and place yolk back into intact shell.
– Add a slice of cooked bacon.
* Mixologist recommends taking egg as shot first, then take first sip of drink.