Thrillist recently posted a list of “14 San Francisco Bartenders That You Need to Know.” This very subjective list (as all lists usually are) has bartenders from establishments that I either don’t know, or is “impossible to find” (a compliment, I guess), or that I won’t be visiting in the foreseeable future. That all said, their list inspired me to make a list of “9 San Francisco Bartenders You Need to Know (or Wish You Could Have Known)”.
BAR: Ray’s Hearth, Inner Richmond
One of the funniest people on Earth and a fantastic bartender, Meredith is the reason to make a trip to 11th and Geary. And she’ll herd your elephants if needed.
BAR: Gino & Carlo, North Beach
Now retired, Frank and his brother Donato left a legacy for everyone to enjoy, Italian or otherwise. (Current partners Marco Rossi, Frank Rossi, Jr., Frank Colla, and Ron Minolli are no slouches, either!)
BAR: Where DIDN’T he work?
The most surly, funny, incredible, profane and perfect example of Irishman ever to pour a drink. He is missed.
BAR: The Bell Tower
The nicest bar owner ever. Ask her employees. And anyone that has had the pleasure of hanging with her at The Bell Tower. Simply one of the all-time best.
BAR: Tommy’s, Outer Richmond
“El Rey de Tequila”, Julio took over where his late father, Tomas, began. No one knows more about Tequila and making the perfect Margarita than Julio.
BAR: Gino & Carlo
The great Sil gets his own place on the list, simply because he is one of the good guys, and he makes the perfect Negroni.
BAR: Molloy’s Tavern, Colma
Sure, it’s not officially San Francisco, but it’s where every Native goes when visiting a dearly departed loved one. Pat will make that trip worth your while with an excellent Irish Coffee and a bit of the blarney.
BAR: Tony Nik’s, North Beach
Amazing energy and personality, and poured a stiff cocktail, made to perfection. Tony Nik’s hasn’t been the same since she left. Period.
BAR: The Gold Dust Lounge on Powell, Union Square
This urbane gentleman held down the opening shift at the original GDL location. Made great conversation and a superb Bloody Mary. Gone, but not forgotten.
BAR: Mr. Bing’s, Chinatown
The coolest bartender in Chinatown, or any other town, for that matter. Master of Golden Tee. Besides the wall painting of the tennis playing gal baring her ass, he was the reason to stop at Bing’s.
BAR: Fahey’s, Sunset District
For 40 years, Snooky held court at his bar on Taraval. Fahey’s was conveniently open (like most good San Francisco bars back in the day) at 6am, always served free hot dogs. Nicest man ever.
BAR: Perry’s, Cow Hollow
Perry Butler has hired some to the greatest bartenders of all time to work his saloon on Union Street. One of the best was Mike English, mainly for 2 reasons: his cocktail skills and his storytelling. I was lucky enough to be there as he shared, from behind his pink-framed reading glasses, some of the funniest, booziest tales ever heard.
BAR: Balboa Cafe, Cow Hollow
Walk in the door and there he was in his white coat and that big smile. He was the self proclaimed “world’s nicest human”. He’s got competition for that title right here on this page, but Marty wasn’t far off base.
BAR: Cookie’s Star Cafe, Portsmouth Square
Digging into the depths of my dark mind, but I had the privilege of being served by this legend back when I was a 17-year old Lumper hauling restaurant supplies into the sidewalk delivery chutes of Chinatown. The old Hall of Justice was already gone, but Cookie was still running things from behind Kearny St. bar. Did I say “legend”?
Honorable Mentions: Casey at Sodini’s Green Valley, Rick at the Tee Off and Pittsburgh’s Pub, Leila at Italian-American Social Club, Mike Roddy at LaRocca’s Corner, the late great JimBob Morey at the Question Mark (Dr’s), the late Ronnie Cotter at Cotter’s Corner, Michael McCourt at Washington Square Bar & Grill