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.
Prana Restaurant and Temple Nightclub
540 Howard St., San Francisco
(415) 978-9942, ext. 319
Sometimes you need to get away from it all: the noise, the drinking and the crowds. Rather than crawl under the nearest bar stool, we popped on over to Prana Restaurant to get our much-needed moment of Zen. Thankfully, Lenny Gumm, the bar manager of the lounge, eatery and nightclub, imbibed us with restorative cocktails. We also left quite excited having learned the restaurant plans on creating a garden courtyard for lunch. Aplethora of to-go options is also planned. That’s good news because Prana’s dinner menu is already pretty tasty. We found ourselves longing for their braised ribs with red curry and coconut risotto, and delightful steamed porcini mushrooms and black-truffle dumplings. Now, if only some of their tasty cocktails make it to the take-out menu, we promise to be a regular customer.
We’ve been told Prana’s menu offers cocktails that are health-giving. How’s that work? We are using ingredients such as pomegranate that has anti-oxidants, and the “Ama” (Oronoco Rum, ginger, mint, lime, ginger beer) is good for the digestive tract. In the “The Devil Made Her Do It” (Corazon reposado, Chi Devil elixir, Damiana liqueur, agave nectar, lime), the Damiana liqueur increases blood flow and it’s a natural aphrodisiac.
We keep hearing this place being referred to as some kind of Zen center. Could you please explain? The sustenance is the food; it’s the drink that gives you the day-to-day energy. The restaurant is about the every day. Every day you should eat, every day you should drink. I have to consume a lot because I ride a bicycle. It’s nice to come somewhere where I am getting organic foods and fresh meats. Eating 4,000 calories a day is hard to do.
You eat 4,000 calories a day? Where are you riding your bike? I bicycle to and from work and around town running errands. Once a year I do the MS 150 ride.
What’s that? It’s a two-day, 150-mile ride. You go from Houston to Austin. It raises money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Do you get most of your daily caloric needs from drinking or eating? For a bartender, I don’t drink a lot of alcohol. For me, it’s making the drinks. I like something that tastes good. Belgian ales.
Is there a type of drink people order that just drives you nuts? Are you trying to get me in trouble? You’re trying to get me in trouble. I’m often surprised at what people drink. We have one regular who actually pours a shot of tequila into his beer. There’s something about the two together that gives him a different kind of buzz. I guess it’s kind of like a boilermaker. I had some; it was kind of good, but I got him on the El Diablo, which is an old drink that’s fallen off the map.
Correction: In the Oct. 26 issue of The Examiner, a photo that identified bartender Erik Carlson of Umami actually depicted Lenny Gumm of Prana, who is featured in this Mixologist article.
» Equal parts Skyy Citrus and Pimm’s
» Half of a freshly squeezed lime, a dash of fresh lemonade and mint simple syrup.
Shake all ingredients together. Pour over ice into a Collins glass. Top with ginger ale. Garnish with a lemon twist.