Meet Your Mixologist: Jennifer Dorland, Pres a Vi

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.

Pres a Vi

1 Letterman Drive, Building D Suite 150, San Francisco; (415) 409-3000; www.presavi.com

Tucked away in the meticulously landscaped Letterman Digital Arts Center, Pres a Vi certainly has an enviable location. Bartender Jennifer Dorland gets to enjoy the scenic surroundings daily. She also doesn’t mind being so close to George Lucas, who owns the special-effects campus, because she is a pretty big “Star Wars” fan. Back when she lived in Marin County, she says she lived on Lucas Valley Road and would drive — not stalk — the thoroughfare hoping to catch a glimpse of the producer. An aspiring event planner, Dorland is getting her feet wet by planning parties for Pres a Vi. Maybe she’ll catch her big break planning the next “Star Wars” shindig. Mr. Lucas, if you’re reading, give her a call.

How long have you been working here? Since January.

It certainly seems like a beautiful location. It is! It’s got a great view of the Palace of Fine Arts.

<p>Where are you from originally? San Luis Obispo.

Two beautiful places. I have a knack for that. It’s like a prerequisite.

How’d you get into bartending? I graduated from college and was waitressing and thought, “I’d like to bartend instead.” I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I wanted to move around a little bit.

Where’d you go to school? UC Davis. I majored in biopsychology. It’s a biology major with a humanities background.

What kind of profession does one get with a biopsychology degree? I originally chose that because I wanted to go to med school. I talked to my counselor and she said, “Right now, everyone wants to do that.” So, to stand out, I chose to add the psychology. It’s interesting because you learn about how the brain interacts more intensely with the body. Then I decided I didn’t want to go to med school. Then I got into event planning.

Did a particular event inspire you to do that? It started with a group of friends. We were watching every movie that ever won [the Academy Award for] Best Picture, and we got to “Gone With the Wind.” So it went from a small affair of five friends to 25 friends. We planned all this food, and breaks, and I turned to my friend and said, “We should plan events. We should really do this.”

What would be a good cocktail to serve with a “Gone With the Wind” screening? We had Manhattans. That’s one of my favorite cocktails. It was actually winter when we did it, and for winter, a Manhattan is so perfect.

What would you serve if you were screening another Best Picture, say, “No Country for Old Men”? I’d go with beers.

What does “pres a vi” mean? It loosely translates to “captivated by wine” in Catalan.

Is the cuisine here Catalan? It started out as Mediterranean small plates, but our head chef is from the Philippines and lived in Hawaii for awhile, so he brings in Pacific Rim flavors as well.

If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? Maya Angelou. I’d serve her a nice glass of red wine.

What’s the best tip you’ve ever gotten? Be yourself. It’s a hard one to do.

Featured drink: Cucumber Basil Gimlet

1 cucumber slice

2 small basil leaves

1 oz. lime juice

1 oz. simple syrup

2 oz. vodka

Muddle together cucumber and basil in a pint glass. Add fresh-squeezed lime, simple syrup and vodka. Add ice, shake and strain into a martini glass.

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