Meet Your Mixologist: Josh Longo, XYZ Bar

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.


181 Third St. (Mezzanine Level), San Francisco; (415) 817-7836,

Every now and then, we understand it’s necessary to cleanse our bodies of toxins and pollutants and get back in touch with nature. We’d never do it if it meant giving up our nightly cocktail. Thankfully, bartender Josh Longo and the rest of the gang at the XYZ Bar in the W Hotel have concocted the perfect solution to this dilemma. It’s called the Eco-Licious program. Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., the bar rolls out a menu that lists only organic cocktails and farm-to-table nibbles. We’re talking biodynamic wines, organic beers and a few organic cocktails. Meanwhile, we can snack on yummy eco-tots (yep, fancy tater tots), pizzas and tuna tartar. Good for us and good for the environment. Never have we been more proud of our buzz.

Where are you from originally? My mom and dad.

Touché! No, seriously. I was born in Chicago, raised in Fiji and grew up in Hawaii. Tough upbringing, I know.

Why are you here in San Francisco? It’s the only city I can live in. My dad was living in Sacramento, and I was visiting on my way back from school. I was trying to move to San Diego for the surf, and I just couldn’t fit in. Every time I came here, though, I had such a great time.

What did you go to school for? I’m a chiropractor Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in Presidio Heights. [Bartending] strokes my alter ego. It’s a different kind of healing I do here.

What place on the body do you crack most? First, it’s called “adjusting.” And it would have to be the upper cervicles and your head carriage. I treat everything. A joint’s a joint.

Let’s talk about this joint, XYZ. I’m curious: Any drinks you know that begin with either X, Y or Z? Not really.

What do you typically order when you go out? Depends on the occasion. Usually a Ketel One vodka martini with a twist. I like everything except black licorice.

If you could serve a drink to anyone in the world, who would it be? My mom.

Aww. I don’t see her enough. She’s in Fiji.

What would you serve her? A beautiful glass of pinot noir. It sounds really tacky, but I miss my mom a lot. She raised me by herself.

What was it like growing up in Fiji? Amazing! Running around barefoot, no TV. We’d always cook for everyone. We’d go fishing and cook each other lunch; cook up some breadfruit. All you have to do is wrap it in tinfoil and it’s amazing.

Do you take transit to work? Yes. I take the BART from Glen Park station.

We have this theory here, that transit could really improve with on-board bars. So, what would you serve, if you could, on the BART from Glen Park station? Silver top-shelf margarita. It’s a train, so I’m thinking silver bullet.

Speaking of traveling, if you could be sipping a cocktail anywhere in the world, where would it be? Greece. It’s the only place I haven’t visited. Traveling and concerts — that’s where I like to be.

Where’s the best place you’ve been so far? Southern Italy for a family reunion. My dad’s family is from Italy.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Probably back in Hawaii, but it’s going to be kicking and screaming. I’m getting married on the Big Island in October, on the water. I’m going to miss The City though, boo hoo!

Featured recipe

Strawberry-Basil Up

2 oz. Belvedere vodka

1 oz. Strawberry puree

6 basil leaves

Splash of simple syrup

½ oz. Fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Muddle the basil leaves with the strawberry puree. Add the vodka, simple syrup and lemon. Shake it up. Pour into a martini glass.

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