Mixologist: Leticia’s bartender exudes joy and warmth

Leticia’s: If you have spent a fair amount of time in bars and saloons throughout the country, you know it’s not easy to be impressed by a bartender. Many lack enthusiasm for their otherwise noble profession, and some suffer from an outright lack of personality. Not so at Leticia’s in the Upper Market-Castro neighborhood. There you will find Alejandra Sabbatella. This Argentina native exudes joy and warmth, and imbues the small bar with a celebratory and convivial tone. Perhaps more importantly, as a Thursday-Friday bartender at the Mexican restaurant, she makes a mean margarita. Leticia’s, a venerable name in the Castro, has been open for four months in its newest incarnation. 2200 Market St., San Francisco, (415) 864-5384

So what brought you to the United States? I moved here from Buenos Aires because I met someone. Before that, I was a journalist for seven years with the Clarin, which is one of the biggest daily newspapers in Argentina — sort of like the New York Times there. I studied journalism at the Universidad Abierta Interamericana and I wrote about social issues, like poverty, education, health and basic needs. I really liked to travel throughout my country, but newspapers don’t pay reporters well in Argentina like they do here. When you are working here as a bartender, you don’t have the pressure you have when you are working for a daily.

How long have you been a bartender? When I got to San Francisco, it was the first job I got. Leticia [the owner] is a friend of mine and I started learning how to do it every week at Roccapulco [on Mission Street]. I like to meet people and there was live music. I met so many people and saw so many bands.

What do you like to drink? I like to make cucumber martinis with basil. I use cucumber vodka infusions. I also like red wine and single malt scotch.

When you are going out, where do you like to go? I like to go to Gitane on Claude Lane. They make awesome drinks with different liquors. Carlo, the bartender, is Italian and very charming.

What’s the crowd like here? The clientele is gay and super-nice. I have my regulars and there are no tourists. Obviously, it’s very different at the Tunnel Top and the Boom Boom Room.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen as a bartender? The things people tell me in the bar — personal things. There are so many, I need to write them down because afterward, you forget. I need to get a little notebook because so many funny things happen.

If you could have a drink anywhere in the world, where would you go? Barcelona because they have nice tapas. I also like the ambiance in Spain.

What’s the biggest tip you ever got? One guy gave me $80 for one $4 beer. I thought it was a mistake because he gave me four bills. He said no and to keep it. That was amazing — the most for just one drink.

Alejandra’s Classic Margarita

  • 1 fresh lime, squeezed
  • 1½ shots of Herradura tequila
  • ½ ounce of Grand Marnier
  • A splash of sweet and sour mix to taste

Shake the margarita in a martini shaker and strain it over fresh ice. Serve on the rocks. Add salt on the rim, if you prefer.

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