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.
311 Third St., (415) 536-5800
Bong Su “When you walk in, you definitely feel sexy,” says Ravann Rachelle, the 26-year-old resident mixologist at the posh Vietnamese eatery Bong Su, located in the South of Market area. The California native speaks the truth. Between the array of voluptuous statues carved into the restaurant’s sandstone walls and the power of a deceptively simple Kaffir cocktail (Hangar One vodka, pressed lemons and lemon-grass syrup), we noticed a pronounced increase in our hair-tossing activity.
Why did you go into bartending? To pay the bills! And I love people.
Where was your first gig? Mama Kwan’s on the outer banks of the East Coast. I was teaching at surf school and bartending.
Surf school? Some of my girlfriends are professional surfers.
Where were you before Bong Su? Kelly’s in Brooklyn.
How’d you get to San Francisco? I’m a graduate student at the Academy of Art. I’m going there for my film degree. I also own my own business, Get Wit It. I book bands in nightclubs.
What kind of bands? Underground hip-hop, reggae, neo-soul and jazz. I’m a jazz singer too.
Where do you perform? I just started this new band. Hopefully we’ll book the Boom Boom Room. We just got together. We do Afro-Cuban music.
So how’d you get into music? My grandpa was an amazing oil painter and musician and my mom is an amazing musician. So is my dad.
Tell us about the drinks at Bong Su. Our drinks are very unusual and you can’t get them anywhere else in The City. We use a lot of exotic syrups, like lemon grass and passion fruit, that we get from Vietnam. We have an Earl Grey Boxcar, which uses Earl Grey-infused rum. It’s very refreshing and has a very unique taste. It’s a palate cleanser and was featured in Esquire.
And where do you go get a drink when you aren’there? I like hanging out in the Mission. And I just went to Café du Nord to see this Afro-beat band. It’s really intimate. I like to go dancing at Madrone on Fridays and I like to go to ’80s night on Thursdays at Cat Club.
And what’s the cocktail you order at these places? It’s Crown and ginger. I’m a pretty hard-core liquor girl, or I like a really good glass of wine. I drink like a man. I like really full and spicy reds or really hard liquors. And I really like to sip on bourbon while I’m writing, but I’m not an alcoholic because I am definitely too busy to get wasted all the time.
Your name is unusual, how’d you get it? My mom is full Cherokee Indian and my dad is Spanish. She wanted to name me Raven, and he wanted to name me Ann, so Ravann.
Where can we find you 10 years from now? Hopefully with my screenplay being played out on the screen and not just in my notebook.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be? I would like to have a drink with Tom Waits. I’d just like to sit and pick that guy’s brain.
Hey, given your music background, any picks for “American Idol”? No.
Why? Because everyone sucks right now.
Do you think Imus should’ve been fired? No. I think if you give someone open forum to speak, let him speak … believe me, I’m the queen of screwing up my words. I have the sharpest tongue. My New Year’s resolution is to think before I speak.
» 5 counts of basil-infused gin
» Twist of passion fruit purée
» 1 count lemon grass syrup
» 1 count pineapple juice
» Splash of club soda
» Shake and pour