9 (check that) 14 San Francisco Bartenders You Need to Know (or Wish You Had Known)

Thrillist recently posted a list of “14 San Francisco Bartenders That You Need to Know.” That 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)”. (and, yes, my list is very subjective as well…)

Meredith Godfrey
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.
Frank Rossi
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!)
Seamus Coyle
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.
seamus coyle
Barbie Tice
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.
Barbie Tice
Julio Bermejo
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.
Julio Bermejo_Fotor
Silvio Maniscalco
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.
Silvio Maniscalco
Pat Lane
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.

Victoria d’Amato
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.

Chuck Klein
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.

Michael Chan
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.

Snooky Fahey
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.
Snooky Fahey
Mike English
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.
Marty Lindstrom
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.
marty 2_Fotor
Cookie Picetti
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”?
Cookie Picetti_Fotor
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


  1. John 'Spec' Heaphy · July 7, 2015

    WOW, Dennis. You Nailed it!

    This is a WAY better list.

    I have tales to tell especially about the Rossi family, Julio and (of course) Mere.

    Well done, my friend.

    See you on the radio!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chloe · July 7, 2015

    Best Bartender List EVER! Especially Meredith and the guys of Gino & Carlo. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris Winter · July 7, 2015

    This SF list missed one of the most obvious. The City mourned the loss of Erik Dean. Flamboyant mixologist of several of the City’s best bars. Erik’s life was celebrated by over 300 mourners who led a parade in his honor through the financial district to Broadway.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. K · July 7, 2015

    Lest you forget;
    John “SIG” Sigman, originally spent years bartending at The Cliff House, then moved to
    Churchills @ 6th & Clement for just under 2 decades, finally bartended at The Bus Stop…..Maker of the Best Bloody Mary’s in the City!
    Everyone loves Sig. ❤


  5. Megs · July 7, 2015

    This list is perfect! I love Barbi!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rick von Pingel · July 7, 2015

    Barbie is one of the best, and an amazing person. Yay, Bell Tower!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Eileen · July 7, 2015

    You nailed it with Barbie Tice and Pat Lane! Pat can be found at The Marina Lounge on Friday afternoon shift.


    • Eileen · July 7, 2015

      I mean Wednesday afternoon shift!


  8. Justin gray · July 7, 2015

    You forgot “one” of thee greatest ever!

    Peppermint Patti Gray
    “Silhouettes Fishermans Wharf”
    “Silhouettes North Beach”
    “Rockin’ Robins”
    And many more!!! One of the first female bartenders in the city!
    And even Willie Brown made March 1st Patti Gray Day! Frisco History

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bob Bride · February 28, 2016

      Yep, she was more than special.


    • Dennis McKay · December 3, 2016

      Spent many pleasurable evenings at Sihouettes on the Wharf from 1991-1995. She had opened another bar in North Beach she called ‘Pazzi’s’, saying she had to be crazy to open another bar. I always drank Baileys and coffee and when I was leaving for Chicago in 95 she gave me a bottle of Baileys as a going away gift. Totally unexpected, I actually cried. She was a great woman.


  9. Leslie · July 7, 2015

    Ronnie .. Sil to most … La Rocca corner… Before that The North Star


  10. Frankie · July 8, 2015

    Anybody ever met Mark Elzie at the North Star? He’d be on here if you had.


  11. dave · July 8, 2015

    Two words, “Uncle Whack”!


    • K · July 8, 2015

      One more “great one” to add;
      Eric, who is bartending at Izzys Steakhouse from the day it opened in the 80’s and he’s still there!! …! He’s one of the best bartenders…evah!


  12. Francine · July 8, 2015

    Cookie was legendary, he had a Sumer home next to ours at the Russian River. Loved him a good man, every year he had a big party with many people from the city. It was a big deal on the street, my mom and dad loved going! Always remember his cigars and his friendly face:) a good man😍

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Lance · July 8, 2015

    Spent too many years and too much money watching Carl Kickery throw people out of the Ha Ra!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. jennine · July 8, 2015

    Jimmy Morey was one of a kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Bill Arney · July 8, 2015

    Rory Moore (Penny Farthing Pub, Cresta’s 2211 Club). RIP, one great bar tender. Gone but not forgotten.


  16. lexipandell · July 8, 2015

    “Michael John” (McCourt) is only “Honorable Mention”! F–k that! Zeus

    Liked by 2 people

    • dc1517 · July 8, 2015

      This list is a total IMHO. McCourt is a total San Francisco legend. He’s the most notable bartender on my list. I agree, “honorable mention” doesn’t do justice to him. But it’s a personal list and I only had the privilege of drinking with him once, in the short-lived reincarnation of WSBG. Thanks for the feedback.


  17. Ang · July 9, 2015

    Don’t forget Joe “Buck” from Dolores Corner! Also bartended at The North Star, Gino & Carlos, and LaRocca’s Corner.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. dwayneindividual · July 9, 2015

    Where is Johnny Davis?!?!?!


    • dc1517 · July 10, 2015

      Good call! I think I remember him from Toronado (?)


  19. Franz Meis · July 17, 2015

    As a bartender myself for over 25 years in this city there is no question that McCourt should be on the top of this list. I had the honor of working alongside him at Perrys and he was perfection. Second is Erick Dean..he worked for me at a few locations I had and to my mind is not only the best story teller of all time, but the most entertaining man that ever stood behind the plank. the 300 plus that came to his memorial proof of that…

    Liked by 1 person

    • dc1517 · July 17, 2015

      I enjoyed having a few with McCourt one afternoon at WSBG, plus chatting with him one day while he was going to play cards with Vince LaRocca.

      I have heard from friends and loving patrons of Erick. I wish I had the pleasure of knowing him.


  20. mike3k · July 21, 2015

    Bruno from Aub Zam Zam, if you like the grumpy type. He’d throw you out for ordering the wrong thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. dc1517 · July 21, 2015

    Yup. A gin martini, period. That PITA Bruno kicked us out for laughing. Sent us to “the fern bar down the street”. Haha!

    If we’re going to talk about quirky, that list continues with the late C. Bobby of Owl Tree fame. I saw him tell 3 people who walked into the FULL bar at around 11:45 “We’re closed”. “But, but, but…” “No buts. Out!” And he finished serving the drink he just made.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Chris E · July 28, 2015

    Sudsy at the 500 Club, Xan and Sal Paradise in the glory days of Zeitgeist, Brian Savage at DV8, Ernie Lagomarsino at the North Star, Butch at Tony Niks, Mac at Dick’s on Sanchez, Vise Grip at Club Deluxe, Shawn at DNA, – and of course Paget Brewster at Andy Boy’s Drunk Tank. There’s probably a pile whose names I can’t remember. I was only kicked out of the Zam Zam once, when I mistakenly brought an indecisive friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • dc1517 · July 28, 2015

      That damned Bruno. He 86’ed us because we were in one of the back cubby holes, and pulled off the sin of laughing. Prick. He said “I think you will like the fern bar down the street- which, like Zam Zam is still there!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. CW · May 7, 2017

    Second for Sal and Vise. Both Underground Punk Royalty.


  24. ameliatoporovich · April 23, 2022

    Lagomarsino at North Star
    Butch at Tony Nik’s

    Both for sure in the early 70s


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