Meet your mixologist: Sabawun Kakar

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.

Bubble Lounge

714 Montgomery St., (415) 434-4204, www.bubblelounge.com

How’s this for luck: Sabawun Kakar, wine manager and bartender at Bubble Lounge, serves, buys and tastes the world’s finest champagnes. He’s been doing it since 1998. Not bad for your first-ever bartending gig! Kakar, originally from Afghanistan (via San Diego), ventured up to San Francisco to visit his brother, then a student at venerable Hastings Law School. He happened to have a friend working over at the well-reputed Bubble Lounge. After spending some time bar-backing and serving, he’s now the guy who makes the executive decisions over the lounge’s super-posh inventory. Kakar tends to lean toward the overlooked vintage champagnes and sparkling wines, one of his faves being those champagnes produced out of the Delamotte house. The best thing about Kakar, though, has got to be the fact that he knew barely a thing about bubbly before Bubble Lounge, which means he’s all about teaching and guiding newbies through the intimidating menu.

How many kinds of champagne do you have kicking around here? A little over 260 selections, bottlewise. It’s a little intimidating, which is a big thing for us — to make it less intimidating.

What’s the most expensive bottle you have here? For a 750 milliliter [bottle], the 1985 Tattinger Art Collection for $850. We also have a magnum that sells for $3,000.

Have you ever sold a $3,000 bottle? No.

Clarify for us once and for all the difference between champagne and sparkling wine. It’s the region itself. What’s more important is the soil (the terroir), region, weather patterns. Champagne can only be from Champagne. There are actually French sparkling wines.

In your lifetime, how many bottles of champagne do you think you’ve consumed? Over 200, that’s for sure.

<b>How many bubbles are in a typical glass of champagne? I believe the average is 2 million in a glass.

Is there any kind of cocktail out there that just absolutely disgusts you? When somebody is doing champagne cocktails with Dom Perignon or Cristal.

There’s kind of a rivalry between Dom and Cristal. Which do you think is the better of the two? Dom is a little bit more overpowering, more body. Cristal is richer and smoother. I like the older Doms and the newer Cristals.

And what’s the deal with Asti Spumante? It’s a sweeter sort of sparkling wine.

Is that a good or bad thing? I think depending on the occasion it’s good, like a warm, sunny day.

If you could serve a cocktail to anyone, who would it be? Jennifer Connelly.

Does it bother you when you see someone recklessly pouring champagne over a person’s head? If it’s my team, it’s OK.

What’s your team? The 49ers and the Giants.

What’s the best tip you’ve ever gotten? I think some guy gave us $1,600 once. It was his birthday and he kept putting $100 bills in my pocket. But that was during the dot-com days!

What’s the proper technique for uncorking champagne? Hold at a 45-degree angle. As you are unwrapping the cage, make sure your thumb holds down the cork. Then very slowly twist the cork.

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