Qi’s cocktails channel serene philosophy

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerEarthy elixir: Mike Calalay crafts drinks inspired by the concepts of water

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerEarthy elixir: Mike Calalay crafts drinks inspired by the concepts of water

It just might represent the new face of a South of Market beset by construction. Los Angeles-based interior designer Yasmine Farahani and the lounge’s owners spent three years renovating the space long occupied by Annie’s Social Club, a divey karaoke bar. Inside, you’ll find a chic interior carefully sculpted around the concept of four elements that make up qi, or the energy and balance of the universe. Massive underwater photography murals, blue-light projectors and flowing lines of white leather couches are evocative of water; torches suggest fire; flocks of 2,500 cranes folded in gold paper suspended from the ceiling signify air; and low, cylindrical sculptures with serene faces represent earth. Modern from top to bottom, Qi has a clear goal of attracting a young, urban clientele. We spoke with bartender Mike Calalay.

Qi takes the four-elements concept to the cocktail menu. How does that work?

#link_box { width: 150px; height: auto; margin: 0; padding: 0; margin: 10px 20px 10px 0px; padding: 10px; background-color: #fbfade; /* ecru – light yellow */ border: 1px solid #343a25; /* green – for summer arts */ float: left; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; } #link_box img, #link_box a { border 0px; border-style: none; outline: none; } #link_box h1 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #8A0808; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 12px; text-align: center; } #link_box h2 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #000; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; text-align: center; } #link_box ul { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; border: none; } #link_box li { margin: 0px padding: 0px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; } #link_box li a { display: block; padding: 5px 5px 5px 15px; /* Padding for bullet */ /* border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; */ color: #000; width: 100%; width: auto; /* height: auto; */ /* border: 1px solid blue; */ margin: 0px; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 14px; text-decoration: none; } #link_box li a: before { /* background-position: top left; */ } #link_box li a:hover { background-color: #ddd; color: #000; }

They’re broken down into each group with a common theme. The fire drinks are spicy or smoky while the earth drinks are robust and strong. We use fresh ingredients — organic whenever possible — and make a lot of our own mixers. These days, it’s almost like being a chef behind the bar. I’m kind of vain when it comes to making drinks. You have to take pride in what you do because it represents you. May as well be good at it.

What is the scene like here at the lounge?

It’s a mixed crowd, mostly young professionals after work. Depending on the promoter on weekend nights, they can be from all over the Bay Area. We hope to collaborate with the Yerba Buena art walk and the gallery at 111 Minna. It’s an amazing space that isn’t so loud as a club, where you can come in after work. You’re able to talk and hopefully it sparks creativity.  

That makes sense — you said that you are an artist as well as a bartender.

I’m a painter. Surrealism, portraits … I’m very independent. And I’m also a father. I have three girls — 11, 16 and 17. Dad told me it’s karma. I love ’em.

How long have you lived in The City?

For 15 years. I worked as a bartender at the W for five. I love this city, it keeps me going. I lived in the Philippines for 27 years —  it’s so hot there you sweat in the shower.

FeaturesFood & DrinkFood and WineMeet Your MixologistSan Francisco

Just Posted

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, pictured in July at Oracle Park, says team members simultaneously can be “measured and calm” and “looking to push the accelerator.” (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
How Gabe Kapler sets the tone for Giants’ success with strategy, mindset

‘There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the hands-down manager of the year’

Artist Agnieszka Pilat, pictured with Spot the Robot Dog from Boston Robotics, has a gallery show opening at Modernism. (Courtesy Agnieszka Pilat)
Screenshots of VCs, Kanye and tech parties by the Bay

In this week’s roundup, Ben Horowitz’s surprising hip-hop knowledge and the chic tech crowd at Shack15

If he secured a full term in the Senate, Newsom would become the most powerful Californian Democrat since Phil Burton at the height of his career, or maybe ever. <ins>(Kevin Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Firefighters extinguish burning material near Lake Tahoe on Sept. 3 in the wake of the Caldor Fire; environmental scientists say the huge fire is bringing to light deficiencies in forest management. <ins>(Max Whittaker/New York Times)</ins>
Cal Fire, timber industry must face an inconvenient truth

We are logging further into the wildfire and climate crisis

Changing zoning in San Francisco neighborhoods where single family homes prevail is crucial in the effort to achieve equity. (Shutterstock)
To make SF livable, single-family zoning must be changed

Let’s move to create affordable housing for working class families

Most Read