Mixologist: At Le Colonial, rapport with customers comes first

Le Colonial: Tucked away in an alley near Union Square and known mostly to locals, Le Colonial truly transports patrons to French colonial Indochina with its lush, romantic setting. The inner courtyard, which once housed the legendary Trader Vic’s, has been transformed into an oasis featuring mosaiclike tile floors, a vaulted ceiling, tropical plants and rattan furniture. “It really is a sexy room,” bartender Philip Pinsley said. The drink Pura Vida (pure life) was invented by manager Jorge Palacios, who explained that the term is used as a greeting in Costa Rica. “I’m a bartender first and the art of mixology is second,” Pinsley said. “I can mix a bazillion cocktails, but rapport with my customers is the most important thing.” 20 Cosmo Place, off Taylor Street between Post and Sutter streets, San Francisco, (415) 931-3600, www.lecolonialsf.com

What’s your favorite drink? Irish whiskey. I like pickle brine with a shot of Jameson’s. I’m also a big gin drinker. I like Aviations (gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters) and Ramos fizzes. And, I’m a big martini fan.

Who makes the best martinis? Besides me?

What’s your favorite thing about bartending? All the people I know, all the interactions with a bazillion people. It’s just really cool meeting all the different people. It’s mostly locals, a lot of regulars. The most memorable incident happened when I worked at the Gold Dust near Union Square. A woman had been drinking all afternoon and when she asked for another, I told her she’d had enough. She got really mad and started cursing at me, and when she yelled [an expletive], her false teeth fell out on the bar and she threw them at me. I ducked and they hit the back bar and broke. We couldn’t stop laughing. We kept them in case she wanted to get them back, but she never came back.

Who are some famous people you’ve served? Matt Damon and Ben Affleck came into the Gold Dust and wanted to hang out with me after work. Al Gore and Dame Edna have come into Le Colonial. It’s trippy the people you meet. Dale Earnhardt came in and I put a bottle of Miller beer in front of him. He races for Budweiser, so he looks at it and said to me, “You better take that away before I piss in it.” Willie Brown has come in, and he’s super chill. I met him at Tosca, and he didn’t even know me but bought me a drink.

Pura Vida

  • 2 oz. La Pinta pomegranate tequila
  • ¼ teaspoon diced jalapeno pepper
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ oz. simple syrup
  • Fresh mint

Shake ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a martini glass.

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