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.
Johnny Foley's Irish House
243 O’Farrell St., S.F.; (415) 954-0777; www.johnnyfoleys.com
It’s a good bet you’ve been to Johnny Foley’s, the sprawling pub near Union Square that feeds and imbibes locals and tourists in equal proportion. With its splay of cozy nooks for nibbling and a boisterous bar, this is an Irish pub that immediately culls loyalty. Chances are, however, only a few of you have been underneath Johnny Foley’s. We went subterranean with bartender Connor Haught to check out Foley’s newest addition, Micx, which has been open for a couple of weeks and features — are you ready? — dueling pianos. We were pretty shocked ourselves, but there it was, a dueling piano bar as if straight out of a Las Vegas casino. As if that wasn’t entertaining enough, we got to hang out with Haught and his colleagues, who had plenty to say about Foley’s, St. Patrick’s Day and Guinness.
How long has Johnny Foley’s been around? Ten years.
And who is Johnny Foley? Johnny Foley is a gentleman from Waterford [Ireland] who is a friend of the owners, Mary and Martin. He’s pretty hilarious and usually sits at the bar upstairs. He makes an early appearance and an early exit.
Are you Irish? Here, I’m American, or Irish American. We have quite a few Irish Irish here.
What will you be doing on St. Patrick’s Day? I will be working a long, long shift.
When people who aren’t Irish wear “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” shirts, does it bother you? I think it’s hilarious. On St. Paddy’s day, everyone wants to be Irish.
If you were going to go looking for a leprechaun in The City, where would you look? City Hall steps. On parade day, you see a few good things.
What’s the first drink you ever learned to make? We’re a beer and whiskey bar, so it was the perfect pint of Guinness. It’s a two-pour pint. You don’t want it running over the edge. You want a good head on it.
Does it drive you nuts when you see other bartenders not doing it right? There’s a few bars, yes. And if it doesn’t come in an imperial glass, it kind of ticks me off as well.
How many beers do you pour in day? We pour gallons. On St. Patrick’s day last year, we poured 80 kegs and we had a truck on call.
What do you typically order for yourself? I’m a beer guy. I like my bottled beers, my pint of Guinness, a Tangueray and tonic on occasion. We have a drink the staff shares at the end of the night. We call it the Daily Does. Tangueray, tonic, fresh-squeezed lime, fresh-squeezed orange and a splash of orange juice.
Do you have any pet peeves? Oh sure, I’ve got a million. The whistle, or the grab. Do not touch me. I’m moving here. I don’t go to your cubicle and touch you.
What’s the most obnoxious or pretentious drink you serve? The Mojito. It’s too trendy and it’s not warm enough to be consuming a Mojito at midnight in San Francisco.
What would be the perfect cocktail to consume at midnight in San Francisco? It’s got to be something to warm you on a foggy night. I would love a Hot Toddy: whisky, brown sugar, hot water, lemon and cloves.
Featured drink: Lady Guiness
» 3 parts Kahlua
» 1 parts Bailey’s Irish Cream
Pour Kahlua into a glass and float the Bailey’s in, forming a head. Garnish with an orange twist.