Meet Your Mixologist: The Cosmopolitan, Katrine Alendal

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.

The Cosmopolitan

121 Spear St., San Francisco; (415) 543-4001; www.thecosmopolitancafe.com

When we met up with Katrine Alendal, a bartender at The Cosmpolitan, we were a little concerned. The poor girl was sporting a black eye and a busted lip. Then we learned that this pretty blonde from Norway is a fighter — the kind you see on televisionusing a blend of martial-arts styles to kick the absolute life out of their opponents. Her fighting career has allowed her to accomplish some pretty amazing feats: She was one of the first women to fight in the ring that once featured Muhammad Ali in the Philippines. Don’t let her brute force intimidate you, though. Not only is she full of interesting conversation, she sure knows how to shake up a cocktail. You’ll leave wanting more of both.

How long have you been in San Francisco? Since the mid-’90s.

What brought you out here? The San Francisco Art Institute. I got my degree there in photography.

And you’re a fighter? Yes, I started with Muay Thai, and my instructor thought I should enter a smoker [a competition for amateur fighters]. It’s a full-contact fight. And then my Jiu-Jitsu instructor said I should do a tournament.

Do you not have to wear a helmet? Is your face protected? Yes. Your face is fully covered, that’s just from training. I train with some really talented girls and they definitely go hard, which is good, so when I go into a fight, I’m not shocked.

Do you ever drink before a fight, to take the edge off? No, no.

How’d you get into bartending? Since I was at the Art Institute, I thought, “How can I make enough money to pursue my passion?” So I started cocktailing and then eventually bartending. It’s a small establishment and my bosses are really caring.

Do your co-workers come see your fights? Well, my last fight was in Manila [Philippines].

Really? Isn’t that awesome? I’m fulfilling my dreams. My goal is to live an extraordinary life, and I’m doing that so far.

You’ve chosen to make us a drink that’s inspired by your homeland, right? I am going to make for you the Northern Lights. It’s made with aquavit.

What’s that? I think every nationality has a liqueur that means “water of life.” There’s a strong caraway flavor, so you either love it or you hate it. In this drink, it’s not that strong. It’s a nice way to introduce Americans to it.

What do you typically drink? I don’t drink. I’ll do a shot for birthdays, or some good wine for sure with good company. When I’m with my mom, I’ll definitely enjoy a bottle, maybe two, of delicious red wine. But [alcohol] interferes with my training, so I try to stay away.

Since this is The Cosmopolitan, has the demand for Cosmopolitans been insane thanks to “Sex and the City“? Oh my gosh. When we started, we were making Cosmo after Cosmo.

Which of the “SATC” girls would you have a drink with, and which one would you fight? Probably [drink] with Samantha; she’s the one who is the most independent.

So, given that reasoning, you’d probably want to fight Charlotte? Yeah, I’d take her on.

Featured drink

Northern Lights

½ oz. Aalborg aquavit

¾ oz. ginger-infused cognac

½ oz. Amaretto

Fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Squeeze the juice from half of a lemon into a pint glass filled with ice. Add aquavit, cognac, Amaretto, and shake. Strain into a frosted martini glass. Garnish with a lemon zest and peel.

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