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.
48 Brannan St., San Francisco, (415) 904-4100, www.bacarsf.com
Call us crazy, but every time we had visited Bacar, a sleek yet rather innocuous SoMa restaurant, we had the audacity to skip the cocktails and dive into the wine. After all, this is the restaurant that boasts a three-story, glass-encased wine tower housing approximately 800 bottles. Yet, there we were, sipping away at a generous array of lovingly crafted cocktails with Bacar’s Greg Sherman. He enlightened us about Bacar’s Monday-through-Thursday happy hour, during which we can order such delights as the Basil & Buca, Herradura Nectar and the Monk’s Flower for half price. Better yet, on Fridays we can swing by and get our happy hour started at 2:30. Just do what we do — tell the boss we’re working from home.
How’d you wind up behind the bar? Well, when I was 16 I worked at a senior assisted-living community. Then I moved to Seattle and I was a bus boy, and then I started waiting tables at a restaurant. One night, the manager asked if I wanted to get behind the bar. I’ve gone back and forth to both roles through the years — waiting tables and bartending.
Wait, you weren’t bartending at the senior assisted living place were you? No. I was waiting tables. When I was 16, I didn’t know a bottle of Jack Daniels from a hole in the wall.
Ah. Go on. Then I moved to San Francisco and I started waiting tables at Lulu’s, then I became the bar manager at Mecca. Through friends in the business, I heard Bacar was looking for a bartender, and it really seemed like the place was heading in the right direction.
What’s the first drink you ever made? A gin martini. The manager at one of the Indian restaurants I used to work at in Seattle taught all the wait staff how to make the basics. I think back then I shook it, which I would never do now.
What’s that you’re making? This is the Monk’s Flower. It was created by me … inspired by this gentleman’s request (Craig Berold) to do something with Chartreuse.
Tell us, what the heck is Chartreuse? [Reads from bottle] It’s a herbaceous brandy made by Chartreuse monks.
What’s the worst cocktail you’ve ever had? A Bloody Mary from Colibri where it’s just tomato juice and Tabasco.
Ouch. That’s gonna cause us a war. What’s the strangest drink you’ve ever made? Well, the strangest drink I’ve ever heard of was a Yoo-Hoo and Courvoisier.
That’s weird — that’s the strangest drink we’ve ever heard of. Yeah, Steve Aleshire told you that, the bartender over at Mecca. I worked with him for about a year.
Small world! What’s this concoction you’re pouring now? This is a Hendrick’s Afternoon. We make our own cucumber water here, so it’s 1 ounce cucumber water, 1½ ounces Hendrick’s Gin, 1 ounce simple syrup, 2 lime halves, 5 mint leaves muddled. Strain it over ice, pour in a Collins glass and garnish with cucumber.
Wow, that’s almost too refreshing. Is this something you’d order? It really depends on the bar. If I’m at a place where I’m confident, like a Nopa or Absinthe, I’ll order the specialty cocktails. Otherwise, any old beer and a shot of whiskey will do.
» 2 ounces yellow Chartreuse
» ¾ ounce St. Germain elderflower
» ½ squeeze of lemon
Float 2 oz. of roséChampagne on top.
Serve up on a stem, garnished with twist of lemon peel.