Take a page — or a sip — from Two Sisters Bar and Books

Beth LaBerge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerCool customer: Michael Cecconi’s Harvest Manhattan was born out of frigid Northeastern winters in which he confronted slim pickings at the market.

This narrow and dimly lit tavern in Hayes Valley offers bibliophiles and connoisseurs of classic cocktails a chance to chat about literature over drinks. Its monthly book club, which meets the last Wednesday of every month, revolves around novels relating to either San Francisco or booze. And if you want access to the $5 specialty cocktail associated with said book club, you had best bring the book. You do that, and Michael Cecconi will serve you a cocktail with a twist — a drink you aren’t likely to get anywhere else. Oh, and they cater, too.

BAR info: 579 Hayes St. • (415) 863-3655 • www.2sistersbarandbooks.com

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You studied dance at New York University. Are there any similarities between dancing onstage and sidestepping behind a bar?

There are absolute similarities. There’s an awareness that I have hammered into my body through years and years of studying dance. So when you talk about a tight bar in a tight space, this is the quintessential tiny bar. And we’re actually working as efficiently as possible and choosing the right paths … having awareness of where everyone is at any given time. And that comes from dancing.

There’s a monthly book club. How does that make Two Sisters different?

Well, one, it’s less formal than most other places I’ve worked, and I adore that. It’s much more in tune with who I am. And within that informality, it’s more like I’m hosting a cocktail party, a get-together. So it’s not like we’re wearing lampshades on our head and having a raucous time, it just means we all have to be happy. And that’s my job. And so specifically when it comes to the book club, it’s kind of nice to facilitate an intelligent conversation about a book. Because lord knows in this city especially, tech is king. And every day, book club day included, I get to come in here and strip all that away.We can get back down to a more foundational way of interacting, which is face to face.

You bartended your way through school at NYU. What ever happened to dance?

Oh, cliche of an artist. Yes. I took a two-week bartending course, and we’re talking like 1994. And to this day I still remember drinks from that class. That is still my foundation. Two weeks, that’s all it took. But the main gist of it was I was funding dance with the food-service industry. But there was no money in dance. And yet every day I would go back to the bar, three-deep people would be clamoring for, in those days, not particularly good cocktails.

Those were the days of making a thousand cosmopolitans a night. No creativity. So I thought, “What if I could channel my creativity into this and just let dance go?” It fulfills me almost in that identical way.

Tell us about how you came up with your specialty cocktail, the Harvest Manhattan?

In the Northeast, where I originally configured this cocktail, working seasonally is a lot more difficult. You have winter, and you’re forced to trudge to the market and it’s below freezing, and all you’ve got is beets, apples, onions and squash. It takes a little creativity to liquefy that. But I was hell-bent further on doing that.

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