Having a drink at the Top of the Mark is something like a rite of passage here in San Francisco. Even the anti-romantic can’t help but get swept up in the magical view and historic surroundings. Head bartender David Major has seen thousands of sunsets and dozens of proposals at the Top of the Mark. But he’s yet to see the hotel’s famed Lady in White, a ghost many have claimed to see roaming the hallways. If you’ve never been, you must go, especially this month. Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, for every glass or bottle of Domaine Chandon Rosé purchased, a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and other local breast cancer charity organizations. 1 Nob Hill (Inside the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco), S.F.; (415) 616-6916, www.topofthemark.com
How long have you been working at the Top of the Mark? This month is my anniversary. I started work here on Oct. 21 in 1985. I’ve been here 24 years.
What’s made you stay so long? It’s a nice place to work. The surroundings are great. The people who work in a bar like this, you meet mostly happy people because people are glad to be here; they are at their destination, they love the view, they love the cocktails and we have music five out of seven nights a week. And people at the bar are very friendly; they are always asking, “Where are you from?” and comparing their business notes. I’ve learned a lot about business.
How’d you get into bartending? It was kind of a fluke. I had a photo job at a paper in the Dominican Republic, when I came back I met this woman at a party. It turned out she was a caterer and she asked if I knew anything about cooking. Through her, I went to cooking school, and then one day she said, “The union and the hotel management has formed a group to train bartenders. Do you want to be a bartender?” I said, “Why not?”
How many sunsets would you estimate you’ve seen here? In 25 years, that would probably be thousands. The view can always be different here. Some days you can see the Farallones. Those are very rare, but it’s always a nice view. It’s nice when we have a new employee that we can orientate and tell them that the Farallones are really Hawaii.
This is probably one of the most romantic bars in the world. How many proposals have you seen since working here? I’ve seen people on their knees. And there was one woman who almost swallowed her engagement ring because it’s very popular to put them in the bottom of the glass of Champagne, but when somebody is focused on the bubbles. … And one person had an airplane write the proposal in the sky. And one, this is very sad, but the poor fellow was turned down.
And we heard that your cocktail menu has about 100 different drinks on it. Yes, 100 different martinis. Officially, we have 100 martinis. I’m trying to get management to allow whoever drinks the first 99 to get the 100th one free.
– 5 to 6 count of vodka
– 2 count of Campari
– 2 count of vermouth
Stir ingredients together with a bar spoon in a pint glass filled with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a twist. Be sure to squeeze the twist directly over the drink and rim the edge of the glass with the rind before letting it settle into the drink.