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.
In a galaxy that enjoys prime real estate on the corner of Laguna and Market streets, we touched down at the Orbit Room with 28-year-old Ron Vigh, who’s been in rotation at the eclectic neighborhood bar for three years. He’s young, but Vigh knows his way around a bar better than a Rover knows its way around Mars. OK, we’ll stop. This mixologist’s knowledge might be the most impressive since we’ve begun The City’s most comprehensive bar-crawl. We flipped over the Peachy Queen, a kicky little number thanks to the ginger, with a bit of spice from the rose geranium, balanced perfectly by the sweetness of fresh nectarines and cucumber. Meanwhile, after a few Continental Gimlets, we were more than ready to fly the friendly skies!
Orbit Room Café
1900 Market St., San Francisco, (415) 252-9525
Tell us about the drinks here at the Orbit Room. They’re kind of famous for being stuffed with things right? Yes, we have a rich tradition of serving unusual cocktails by unusual people. I get people in here who want me to make them a drink according to their day. Just the other day I had a woman who said: “I just got off a plane, it was 12 hours long, I had the middle seat, I have to wake up for work in five hours, make me a cocktail.” People like to throw scenarios.
And you don’t mind that? No. It’s a game of 20 questions. … I don’t mind if you come in and tell me what kind of alcohol you want and what kind of taste, but don’t ask me what I should make you.
Would that be your pet peeve? No, it’s not really my pet peeve, it’s just that I’m more likely to drink old man drinks, like Campari and soda, so I need to know what you like.
How long have you been bartending overall? I started in New Jersey at 18 at the very prestigious Charlie Brown Steakhouse. I used to ask them if I could be a bartender and they said, “No.”Can I be a bartender? “No.” So they hired a new guy as a bartender and I asked why, and the boss said, “Cause I’m the boss that’s why.” Then the new bartender asked me what was in a Dewar’s and water, so I asked, “CAN I BARTEND NOW?” I got the job.
So you’ve been doing this ever since? I do stand-up comedy. I’ve been doing stand-up for eight years, but it doesn’t always pay the bills, so that’s when I perform in this fishbowl here. People shouldn’t be in a rush. It’s usually 10 minutes for prep and 10 minutes for a story. The only time I haven’t bartended was when I was a flight attendant.
Do people think they’re funny when they’re not? Oh yeah. I have people come in here all the time who write me jokes.
Since this is called the Orbit Room, do you have a favorite planet? You’re trying to get me to say Uranus aren’t you?
What did you think about the whole Pluto thing? Well, I miss Pluto. It was here for so long. It’s kind of like when I go to a bar and order a Negroni and no one knows what it is. I love Negronis. I love old World War II drinks.
» Muddle fresh slices of grapefruit and cucumber in a tall glass
» Add a dash of homemade bitters and sugar
» Fresh-squeezed lime
» Fresh ginger
» Healthy pour of vodka
» Fill to the very top
» Garnish with fresh mint (and any other herb you can fit in the glass)