Meet your mixologist: Marco Dionysos

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.

Tres Agaves

130 Townsend St., (415) 227-0500, www.tresagaves.com

It is Friday afternoon, the weekend is upon us. Luckily, Tres Agaves is but a mere four or five blocks away from our offices. And shame on us for never checking out this boisterous tequila lounge. Maybe that’s a good thing, because what’s even better than the very yummy margaritas is a killer guacamole that doesn’t call for dainty dipping. Just go and try not to shovel this creamy goodness into your mouth with a handmade tortilla chip. We had the most pleasant chat with bartender Marco Dionysos — a gold mine of information. Within seconds he was giving us the story behind the margarita (it means daisy by the way) and explained that Tequila 7 Leguas is named for the famous Gen. Pancho Villa’s horse. If his face looks familiar, it’s not surprising. Dionysos has shaken and stirred at Enrico’s, Vesuvio, Moose’s, Cat Club, Stars, Absinthe and Harry Denton’s Starlight Room.

What’s up with the all those names on the wall? Those are all members of the 1800 club. Those are the names of people who paid $350 for a shot of 1800 Tequila.

$350? It’s pretty affordable for prime real estate in San Francisco.

Would you pay $350 for a shot of 1800 Tequila? I wouldn’t pay $350 for anything. I don’t care if it’s Louis XIII [de Remy Martin cognac]. I have pretty modest taste and believe you can find a lot of great spirits for under $50. It’s more interesting for me to ferret out the bargains.

What does a $350 shot of tequila taste like? It’s delicious. To quote the Spirit Journal, “Forget how much it costs … the quality is undeniable.” Plus you get bragging rights. I once made a sidecar using Louis XIII cognac. It was $150. Best sidecar I ever had.

How many kinds of tequilas do you have here? We have about 120 and carry 30 brands.

Explain to us what agave is. It’s a succulent related to the lily; it is not a cactus. It looks like an aloe vera plant.

What are the three agaves? There’s Blanco, which means unaged; reposado which means rested; and añejo, which is old. Añejo tequila has to be over a year old.

What’s the deal with the worm? There’s no worm in tequila.

But I thought in that scene in Poltergeist, when the dad is drinking tequila, he swallows the worm. The worm is in mescal. And tequila is to mescal as brandy is to cognac. [The worm] was kind of a gimmick at first as the test of the alcohol’s strength. If it doesn’t dissolve in a bottle of mescal, then it’s strong enough. In England,they would take a spoonful of gunpowder, pour the alcohol over it and then burn it. If there was a blue flame, it was proof [that] the alcohol was strong enough. That’s where the word “proof” came from. If it blew off your hand, it was too strong. The worm was a little safer.

Since this is a “tequila lounge,” does one sip tequila when here? It’s served in a tasting glass, or sherry glass; the same kind people all over the world use to taste scotch, brandy, cognac and port. Just by serving it in a mini-wine glass, people begin to wonder if they sip it or shoot it.

What do you do? It depends how much of a hurry I am in.

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