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.
2029 Market St., San Francisco
(415) 621-7000, www.sfmecca.com
New management and a new executive chef have proved to be the perfect cocktail for Mecca mixologist Steven Aleshire, who has shaken and stirred behind the famed eatery’s bar for 11 years. The consummate gentleman, he absolutely refused to share our foie gras tacos, or “foiecos,” or our Sex on the Beach: pineapple Bavarian cream, cranberry granite, pineapple carpaccio, orange vodka sherbet, drizzled with a Peach Schnapps reduction. We didn’t force the issue.
How’d you get into bartending? I used to be a social worker many years ago. I got a job hanging coats at a bar 30 years ago and found I liked it. Then I got a job bouncing and then bartending.
Where was your first gig? Rainbows in Philadelphia, an after-hours bar. And it was one of the most terrifying nights of my life. It was 2 a.m. and all I know how to make are gin and tonics and that not’s what they were ordering.
What kind of social work did you do? I worked with runaways at a shelter and the mentally delayed. I was running group homes.
How’d you get to San Francisco? It was time for a change. I was having a midlife crisis. I’ve been out here for 14 years.
What’s the hot drink at the moment? TheBlackberry Crush. And it’s still the Mojito and still the Cosmo, but there are all these variations.
And your favorite? The Blackberry Crush.
How’s the clientele here? It’s a pretty swanky place. It is the most wonderful mix you can imagine. Gay, straight, young, old, and it just mixes really well.
Is that what’s kept you here 11 years? I’m treated well. It’s kind of like I get paid to have a good time.
What’s the strangest drink request you’ve ever taken? Years ago, I was at a restaurant back east and I had someone order Chivas and Yoo-Hoo. I said, “We don’t carry that here.” And she said, “What about Dewar’s?”
If we were to eat here, what would you recommend? The crab, the mac and cheese, and the ribs. If you like oysters, during our Happy Hour [5-7 p.m.] the oysters are $1, cocktails are $6 and miniburgers are $2. We get these skinny people in here who will eat 36 oysters. Where do they go? Where do these oysters go?
What have been some of your most memorable moments here? When Ledisi is performing. Halloween is always fun.
What’s been the best costume? There’s this one group that comes in very year. There’s eight or nine of them, and one year, the whole group came in as Esther Williams, wearing bathing suits and heels. This year, the group came in and everything they wore was recycled. Richard Cocker had attached plastic remnants all over himself and he was “Used Carlotta.”
Has anyone told you their life story over drinks? Yes.
Will you share it? No.
Why not? Because it was in confidence. And I told them things that I don’t want to get back either!
If you could get one drink with anyone, who would itbe? My dad. He died four years ago. Both my parents are very gracious cool people.
The Blackberry Crush
» In a 16-ounce mixing glass, combine three fresh blackberries with the juice of one whole lime and a small splash of simple syrup (about half an ounce).
» Add ice and pummel with a muddler until the berries are completely crushed.
» Add one and a half ounces of Ketel One vodka.
» Transfer all the ingredients into a bucket glass and garnish with lime and more blackberries.