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.
430 Mason St., San Francisco, 94102; (415) 421-1916; www.slidesf.com
This week, everyone here at Team Cocktail is a little sweet on bartender Robert Schramm. He keeps the masses happy at Slide, the former speakeasy so named because you can actually take a slide from the second level to the first. In addition to sporting a most appealing disposition, we were charmed to pieces by his unbridled fondness for his girlfriend. She’s a bartender, too, at Colibri. He even named a drink after her: the Nadia Blue. Schramm also is studying industrial design. He’s going to be one of those people who decides how products look and function. When he was a kid, he liked to modify sports equipment, such as his sneakers. But in the future, he said he plans on designing a bar. If it’s any reflection of Schramm’s skills and personality, we have no doubt the whole place will sparkle.
Where are you from? I grew up all over the world. My dad was in international business. So I’ve lived in the Far East, the Middle East and Europe. This is the first city that I actually chose to move to.
Why? It’s got the right balance, in everything.
Where were you before? University of Colorado, Boulder.
What were you studying? International affairs. Now I’m starting a degree in industrial design. Just got into the program about a month ago.
This place is called Slide because you’ve got that sweet slide upstairs. Have you ever been down it? Once. Nobody was looking.
Feet first or head first? Feet first.
What was your favorite piece of playground equipment growing up? The sledding hill at a school in Alaska, circa 1980.
If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? Noam Chomsky. I just got all his Netflix documentaries.
Why him? Just because he’s not beholden to anyone.
Because you’re a designer, you deal with proportions and balance all the time. So, tell us, how many drinks does it take to get a woman drunk? Three.
A man? Four.
And how many drinks do people think it takes them to get drunk? Double those amounts.
If you could drink a cocktail anywhere in the world, where would it be? I saw these guys on “Top Gear” drinking gin and tonics at the North Pole on their four-by-fours. That looked pretty sweet. It’ll definitely keep vodka cold.
How would you characterize Slide’s cocktail menu? The primary music format here is mash-ups. The club itself is a mash-up. The menu is really classic cocktails into the modern menu.
Who is your favorite gangster? There’s something about a guy who earns the name Lucky. This was an actual speakeasy. That’s what the slide is all about. It’s how you got into the club.
What would your secret password be if this was still a speakeasy? Well, you can’t do Rosebud, New England Clam Chowder. Hmmm. “I don’t know the owner.” That would be my password.
What’s your bank password? Good luck with that.
Going back to mash-ups: How about this one playing with Justin Timberlake? Are you a fan? I stopped hearing him. I don’t hear Top 40 anymore.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Owning my own design studio.
Will it be here? Depends on the girlfriend.
Wow. This girl’s really a catch. She’s a keeper. I mean, I named a drink after her.
» 1.5 oz. Grey Goose vodka
» ½ oz. St. Germaine elderflower
» ¼ oz. peach brandy
Shake ingredients with ice in shaker. Strain into a martini glass. Add a floater of Laurent Perrier Champagne. Garnish with a pear slice.