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.
The Brazen Head
3166 Buchanan St., San Francisco
(415) 921-7600, www.brazenheadsf.com
How Eddie Savino, proprietor of Brazen Head and Liverpool Lil’s, gets anything done is beyond us. Beginning at 4 p.m. when the dark, East Coast-style tavern opens, Savino morphs into the mayor of Buchanan and Greenwich streets, checking in on the regulars, tying up loose ends with a distributor and his wife. Savino’s eagle eye catches anyone trying to leave before he’s had the chance to talk shop or simply catch up. Originally from the Bronx, Savino came here in 1979. When he gets excitable — whichcan be often — traces of that thick, tried-and-true accent delight. He’s a charitable fellow and will easily invite you to his annual fundraising block party for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. This year’s party falls on Sept. 16.
What is your signature cocktail? A dirty martini using Cîroc vodka. What makes this vodka so great is it’s from France, so they use French grapes.
French grapes for vodka? Yeah, isn’t that crazy? It’s five times distilled and what’s nice about it is it has a little bit of a natural fruit flavor to it. We’re trying to make a new run of it. To make a vodka out of a grape is quite unique, which is why we’re going to make it our signature drink.
So, we know this place is called the Brazen Head, but we’ve also heard it referred to as the No Name Bar. What gives? Who told you that? Word on the street is when they say I’m going to that place, the “no name bar,” it’s because there is no sign outside. The real No Name Bar is in Sausalito. In 1982 I started here, and I purchased it from someone else in 1993. It’s been called the Brazen Head from the start. I’ve been bartending for 27 years. Once I got behind the bar, the industry got a lot more fun than just waiting tables. Let’s face it, bartenders have all the fun.
Did you meet your wife out here? We met here at the Brazen Head. We hired her and I said, ‘I don’t know if she’s gonna work out. She’s a little quiet.’ But everyone else said, ‘Wait, just wait. The customers love her.’ And we’ve been married 17 years later.
What is a Brazen Head? It’s named for the oldest pub in Dublin, built in 1660. I think it was the first taxed place because once they were able to tax it, then they were able to record it.
Do you get many celebrities in this place? We’ve had Mick Jagger, John Travolta, Steve Young, Derek Jeter, Uncle Miltie [Milton Berle], Tom Jones, Frankie Avalon, Nancy Sinatra.
If you could make a drink for anyone in the world, who would it be? Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr. and Babe Ruth.
And what would you serve them? I think for Christ, I’d pour him a glass of wine. Martin Luther King Jr., I’d make an Old-Fashioned and for Babe Ruth, a Maker’s Mark Manhattan.
» Fill mixing glass with ice
» Create “skaters” by pulverizing the ice so skaters float to top
» Pour olive juice into a martini glass
» Go back to making skaters with vodka now poured over the ice
» Pour vodka and skaters into martini glass
» Serve with the olives on a toothpick