Meet your mixologist: Maura Cronin

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.

Luna Park

694 Valencia St., (415) 553-8584, www.lunaparksf.com

We’ve always loved Luna Park’s Floating Island for Two or Four (spiked party punch with passion-fruit sorbet) and its Carnival Dogs, a yummy arrangement of bite-size corn dogs served with three kinds of mustard. We also love Maura Cronin, the restaurant’s fresh-faced 25-year-old bar mistress who has been perfecting its well-established mojito recipe for the last two years. Motorcyclist, marathon runner, violinist, Cronin is a veritable Jane-of-all-trades. When she’s not behind the bar at Luna Park, you can usually find her around the corner at Bar Bambino, a sweet little wine bar that appeals to Cronin’s love of the vine. In 10 years, Cronin hopes to be playing in a string quartet somewhere and teaching kids violin and viola.

Where are you from originally? Virginia.

How’d you make your way out to San Francisco? I drove.

Why did you drive your way out to San Francisco? I don’t know. I had never been to San Francisco. I needed a change, and to figure out my life. I majored in poetry and I thought I wanted to be a writer. When I got out here, I thought I’d take an internship at a publication, but wound up taking music lessons at the Community Music Center on Capp. I have an amazing violin teacher, Oscar. I was just so inspired by him and I realized I had a real-life passion for music.

Is this your first time playing the violin? They gave me an instrument in fifth grade, but I wasn’t able to get private lessons. I was the oldest of five, so I really didn’t get any encouragement. We are cramming years of work in a small amount of time. The goal is for me to get into music graduate school in two years.

Who’s your favorite composer? Right now I’m really into Schumann.

What takes more patience, bartending or learning the violin? Learning the violin. I am sort of a garrulous person. My friends call me theatrical, but really I like being expressive. My favorite poet, Tomas Tranströmer, said: A man feels the world with his work like a glove. That’s how I feel about bartending. Then I take the gloves off and I can play the violin.

If you could serve a drink to anyone in the world, who would it be? My mom. I’ve only been to a bar with her once. She never drinks alcohol, so I’d really love to see her drink. I heard that in the ’70s, she liked margaritas. I think it’s been that long since she’s had one.

Why do you like working here? One of the reasons is, my mom was a working nurse, and I grew up on Campbell’s soup and frozen food. One of my favorite dishes was thawed chicken, with cream of chicken soup and curry powder, served over white rice. I’m pretty sure that’s off the back of the soup can. When I started working here, it was exciting for me to see the customers excited for that nostalgic food. This is the elegant, gourmet version of the food that their parentsserved them.

Mojito

» 2 pinches of fresh mint and three lime quarters, muddled in a glass.

» 3 counts of simple syrup

» 5 counts of rum

Shake well. Top with soda.

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