Meet your mixologist: Marina Kawagishi

About the series: In a saloon town such as San Francisco, the bartender plays a crucial role. Confessor, friend, sounding board — the man or womanbehind 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.

Kate O’Brien’s

579 Howard St., (415) 882-7240

It wouldn’t be fair to call it nepotism, per se. We actually aren’t related to anyone at the near-famous pub, but given our location, it’s fair to say we’ve become well-acquainted with its cozy innards. That’s where we nodded hello to bar mistress Marina Kawagishi, who has been slinging signature cocktails at the happy-hour haven since St. Paddy’s Day of this year. Yep, that’s right, people — signature cocktails at Kate O’Brien’s. All this time you’ve been wasting your hard-earned cash on pints and house wine, you never bothered to notice the lovely and delicious basil-cucumber gimlet that can come in handy on those unseasonably warm downtown days. In fact, Kawagishi concocted a cocktail just for us. We were even allowed to name it! Naturally, we called it Our Girl Friday.

How long have you been in the Bay Area? I’ve been in California for nine years. I grew up in New York City, but moved back to California when I was 18. I guess that kind of gives my age away. I came here in 1998, spent two years in Los Angeles and then enrolled in S.F. State.

What were you studying? Broadcasting. My side job is in production. I’m an audio engineer.

What’s that entail? I work on different film and television shows. Lately, it’s been a lot of reality shows. I just worked on “Dirty Jobs,” “Take Home Chef” and something for Comcast On Demand called “Dating.”

What’s the best reality show on television right now? I am a huge fan of “Top Chef” and “Project Runway.”

What would be the dream show to work on? Working on a travel show, “1,000 Places You Have to See Before You Die.”

Where’s the first place you’d go? Tahiti or Fiji. Tahiti.

How long have you been in bartending? About a year and a half. My first bartending job was at East Side West.

Who was Kate O’Brien? She was a writer in the early 1900s … Oh man, I should’ve done my homework! You’re totally gonna call me out! She was a gay writer in Ireland, so she took a lot of heat politically.

What do you order when you’re sitting at the bar instead of behind it? I’m a vodka-soda girl. Ketel and soda.

What’s the best tip you’ve got since working in the biz? When I was first starting and I was a rookie, I cut my hand really bad. I was notorious for cutting my hand. One time, I saw a glass fall and I went to catch it with my hand and it broke. It didn’t stop bleeding for days. I was told: “Let the glass drop.”

What’s the worst bar you’ve been to in The City? I don’t know if I should say that. It’s in the Marina. It starts with a “B.”

If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? It’s kind of cheesy, but I’d have to say Madonna, because I’ve liked her since I was so young.

What would you serve her? Anything she wants!

Our Girl Friday

» A palmful of fresh chopped peach

» 1 tsp. guava jelly

» ½ squeeze of a ½ lime

» 3 oz. Grey Goose pear vodka

Muddle together. Add vodka. Shake with ice. Strain into a Martini glass.Garnish with a peach.

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