A Dog in San Francisco

Our dog Monty is pretty good with 75% of dogs and 99% of people.

However, there are just some people whom he doesn’t like, he’ll lunge and snarl. For the record, largely stocky Hispanic men and old people in dark clothes and hats.

I assume this is some artifact of his life in shelters, a bad experience he hasn’t yet learned to overcome, but it means we can’t leave him tied up outside a business or restaurant, as many other people do with their dogs.

If we’re out walking I have to get something at our local grocery store, I’ll some times carry him in with me, even though he isn’t a registered “service animal”.

The last time I did this, a gentleman commented, “In my next life, I want to be a dog in San Francisco, and you can be my owner.”

Yeah, Monty does have it pretty good.

From Feb 1, 2012

Life in the Service Industry

Server A: “I finally got my best friend to send me my albums.”

You mean vinyl albums or CDs.

Server A: “Yeah, vinyl albums. I have a bunch more at home, but she sent about 40. It was surprisingly cheap to send them as media mail.”

Cool!

Server A: “Yeah, I don’t buy CDs any more. If I can’t find it on torrent, I’ll maybe buy it from apple, but I haven’t bought a CD in a long time. Plus, when you buy vinyl, they usually give you the digital version for free.”

Nice! Yeah, I got a turntable for Michele for Christmas. I have a really excellent turntable I’ve had since college, but it’s belt drive, so you have to track down new belts every couple years. It’s just gotten harder to find the belts over the years.

Server B: “I buy vinyl and have a Crosley turntable, but I don’t really use it too much. I just mostly listen to digital.”

Life in the Service Industry

What do you think of my new black shirts? I kind of like them, but they’re a little odd in the yoke to iron.

“Iron? What is this IRON you speak of? I don’t iron my shirts, I just hang them in the bathroom while I take a shower.”

Huh, good idea, I’ll have to try that. It’s just I don’t like to tumble dry my cotton clothes. I find they wear longer if I line dry them after washing. Then they’re too wrinkly to not iron them.

“Laundry?! I hate doing laundry! I just drop my clothes off at Laundry Locker in the Lower Haight, it’s a dollar fifty a pound for wash and fold, a dollar a pound if you sign up for a laundry plan.”

Clearly, I have a lot to learn about life in the service industry.

What’s Up, Winter 2011

I guess you might have noticed that the Savoy Stomp has been slightly stalled of late.

The long and short of it is I have been a bit too busy to find much time for leisurely making, photographing, and writing about drinks.

Full time job, Bartending shifts at Heaven’s Dog, Holidays, Travel. They’ve all contributed to a slight stagnation of content creation for the blog.

And to be honest, I don’t imagine there will be much else happening until 2012.

On the plus side, there really are very few Savoy drinks left to make. A couple more Fixes, Juleps, Smashes, Punches, and Cups and we’re DONE. Kaputt. Outta here.

What happens after that, with the Savoy Project and the blog, I really don’t know.

We’ll just have to see what develops.

As far as Savoy Cocktails go, you can always get your real world Savoy fix at Alembic Bar the last Sunday of the Month, when we hold Savoy Cocktail book Night.

Though, do note, as the last Sunday falls on December 25 this month, we’ll be holding it a week early, on Sunday, December 18.

And if Savoy Cocktails aren’t your thing, you can find me at Heaven’s Dog on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, when I can make cocktails with ingredients which weren’t included in the Savoy Cocktail Book.

Hope to see you around!

Omakase

From the wikipedia entry about “Omakase“:

“Omakase is a Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it to you” and it comes from the word for “entrust”.

“The expression is used at sushi restaurants to leave the selection to the chef. It differs from ordering à la carte. The chef will generally present a series of plates, beginning with the lightest fare and proceeding to heaviest, richest dishes. The phrase is not exclusive to service of raw fish with rice, and can incorporate grilling and simmering as well. Customers ordering omakase style expect the chef to be innovative and surprising in the selection of dishes, and the meal can be likened to an artistic performance by the chef. Ordering omakase can be a gamble; however, the customer typically receives the highest quality fish the restaurant currently has in stock at a price cheaper than if it was ordered à la carte. From the restaurant’s perspective, a large number of customers ordering omakase can help in planning for food costs.”

The other day, while I was working with him at Alembic, Danny Louie asked me what bartenders I admired in San Francisco.

I went through the litany of respected bartenders I admire in San Francisco and why.

But later, I was thinking about it, and another candidate for my favorite tender of a bar doesn’t make drinks at all.

Tim Archuleta and his wife run Ichi Sushi in my San Francisco neighborhood.

Tim runs his Sushi Bar more like a neighborhood Sushi Tavern, greeting guests as the come in. Asking them about their families or dogs. Keeping track of the progress of the various diners’ meals at his sushi bar. Pacing people’s meals so they don’t get too full or wait too long. All the while, cutting and serving some of the freshest sushi I’ve ever tasted.

I really admire the spirit he brings to the restaurant and to his guests.

Every time we go in, I usually just say chef’s choice and tell him how much we’d like to eat and what we are in the mood for.

It’s really fun, the way he paces the meal, starting with lighter fare, throwing in a few cooked dishes, and finishing again with lighter, almost dessert sushi.

Watching him work has made me think about how to properly pace and what order to serve people drinks. What drink is best first, what to follow with, what to finish with. If a guest asks you what to pair a dish with, what do you tell them?

Some of the best experiences I’ve had being served by a bartender have been at the Slanted Door, when my wife and I are lucky enough to be served by Mr. Erik Adkins*.

Like Omakase, we give him a framework of what we are interested in, how hungry, do we have food allergies, do we like oysters, etc, and he fills it out with what food is currently best at the restaurant and pairs it with wine, beer and spirits. His knowledge of both the food and drink is amazing but it is his apparent joy at serving us, as guests, with the best he has to offer, which is truly inspirational.

I don’t really have a moral to this story, other than to to point out the self evident: As bartenders, it is important to be aware of the larger context of the guests’ experiences.

I REALLY enjoy making great cocktails and impressing guests with them, but sometimes you have to put away the desire to impress a guest with your cocktail making skill and respect the trust they have put in you, whatever that means, on that on that night, for that particular guest, at that exact moment.

*I will note that I do work for Mr. Adkins at Heaven’s Dog. This is in no way meant to suck up to him, he already gave me a job afterall, just an honest expression of my admiration for his talents as a host and bartender.

Mootoorheed

Overheard on the 22-Fillmore, just after passing the California Culinary Academy.

“Dude, I totally mastered Spätzle today.”

“Wow, cool! What’s in Spätzle?”

“It’s pretty much just noodles: flour, water, eggs, salt.”

“You know, you don’t pronounce it that way. Any time a letter has an umlaut over it, you pronounce it like the letter.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, so Spätzle is pronounced spate-zell. You know the band Motörhead? They have like 3 umlauts in their name, so it’s really hard to say right. I think it’s like, “Mootoorheed”.”

Ex-Lion Tamer

For several years my wife and I have shared a single car.

Unfortunately, a recent job change has increased the time of her commute, leaving me stranded on the outskirts of San Francisco most weeknights.

I’ve been thinking it might be nice to have independent transportation.

But what?

Motorcycle? Scooter? Mod? Rocker?

After some consideration and consultation, I decided I was a Mod, not a rocker. (Also, in case you were wondering, a reluctant Vampire, not a Zombie.)

But scooters turned out to be kind of expensive, plus I’d have to get a permit and pass a test.

Most recently, I saw this ad for a car:

Veggie Mercedes Vegetable oil converted 1977 240D . (bernal heights)

I have put 80k on vegetable oil with this vehicle. It has been reliable and inexpensive to repair. I have put in a windshield, transmission, muffler, hood release cable,motor mounts, CV boot, door lock knob, seats and many other parts. Has a Plantdrive conversion which I did myself as I’m an installer. I converted the glow plugs to manual 10 second system. Original system was 30 second. Runs synthetic oil in the engine & transmission. I’ve taken it from Seattle to San Diego & it never left me anywhere except the transmission did fail in San Francisco where I live. New transmission shifts smoothly. I will sell with or with out the vegoil system (about 500 dollars more)which is single tank & will supply 15-30 gallons a week of veg oil indefinitely. Radio is a loaner and not for sale. We found a wagon after looking for years. Keeping our other 240 which got totaled. We can not afford insurance on three vehicles.

About the same price as a scooter and I wouldn’t need a new license, plus I could drive it in the rain.

I’d seen it around the neighborhood, and it is a really nice looking tank of a car. I was also just a bit taken with the idea of being able to run it on used kitchen oil.

So I called the guy and arranged for a test drive.

I sort of thought it was someone up the street from us, but when he mentioned his address, another house immediately came to mind.

It’s a house I’ve seen and wondered about. There were always big 5 Gallon Cooking oil containers stacked up in the entryway and the whole house smelled like Chinese food. Our dog certainly liked the smell of it every time we walked by. I guess I always thought maybe there was some sort of illicit catering operation going on, that they would use that much cooking oil.

So I met the guy at his house, as I suspected it was the one with the drums of cooking oil, and took the car for a drive.

I was a nice looking tank of a car, but the whole interior felt like it was coated with a dirty film. As if it was a Wisconsin Supper Club, serving a fish fry every Friday for the last 50 years.

Having worked in exactly that Supper Club, one summer in my Twenties, I just couldn’t hang with having my car and myself permanently reeking of used cooking oil.

I guess biodiesel isn’t for me.

Maybe a Scooter isn’t such a bad idea, after all. Monty would look really smart in a little dog size helmet and goggles.

Small Talk

“When I was 15 I started working as a busser in an Olive Garden and worked my way to server. When I watched the bartenders, I thought it was the coolest job in the restaurant, making drinks and schmoozing with people.”

“When I turned 21, I told the manager I wanted to be a bartender. He said, if I was the best salesman in the restaurant, he would make me a bartender.”

“I became the best salesman in the restaurant, and got the job as a bartender. I was really good at the upsell.”

Unclear what to make of this, coming from a Doctor while performing a, errrr, uh, sensitive operation. 6 years in an Olive Garden? Maybe I should ask to see his diploma?

Kidding, I was probably working in a Brat und Brau when I was 21, setting up the salad bar, filling condiments, and making popcorn.

This guy was already a bartender. I don’t really understand it, but I admire people with drive. That’s probably why he is a Doctor now and I just got around to being a bartender a few years ago.

Tipping Hints

“A bartender gave me some free stuff. Was I a douche for not tipping?”

Well, first off, you’re not a douche. Being a “Douche” is a binary thing, you either are, or you aren’t. The fact that you are feeling guilty and even wondering about not tipping, indicates to me that you are probably not a douche. If you were a douche, you would feel perfectly comfortable and deserving of every free thing that came your way.

However, you should have tipped. One thing someone said to me once, which has always stuck in my mind, “If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to drink.” I know you had some excuse about only having a credit card and not getting a bill. The thing to do, in that case, is to ask the bartender, “Could you charge me for something, so I can leave a tip?” Most likely the person will waive you away and tell you to, “get me next time,” but at least they know you weren’t stiffing them. In any case, even if you did forget, you’re not a douche, and there was drinking involved, so likely they’ll figure it will all come out in the wash eventually.

Some handy reading…

10 Rules of Drinking Like a Man #6 Use Cash, the Etiquette of Dollars

Ask Your Bartener: Buybacks

At all the places I’ve worked, a certain amount of free drinks or discounts are allowed (and accounted for) per shift, at the bartender’s, or manager’s, discretion. Further confounding the individual joys and benefits of “buybacks”, everywhere I’ve worked is a pooled house. That is, everyone working receives a certain amount of shares of the night’s tips, including waiters, bus boys, and naturally, bar backs.

As a customer, the rule you should go by, is: You must tip on the full value of services or products received, end of story.

How much?

The phenomenon of celebrity and star bartenders aside, in California, bartending is a minimum wage service job, Period. Very few benefits, no paid vacation days, and no sick days. You were wondering why so many of your favorite bartenders quit the job for “Brand Rep”, management, or consulting gigs as soon as they accumulated enough credibility? The only way for bartenders (and waiters) to make any sort of decent money is through tips.

In my opinion, you should apply the exact same criteria to tipping bartenders, as you do towards waiters. 15-30% of the total goods and services received, based on your feeling about the quality of service and the drinks received. Anything less, unless you are really trying to make a statement, is kind of cheap. Anything more, and we kind of feel like you’re trying to buy our attentions. Though, sometimes, when a huge credit card bill is looming, I don’t mind feeling bought…

And as regards credit or debit cards, yes, small businesses pay fairly hefty fees on each credit or debit transaction, so if you truly want to support the bar or small business, and give them 100% of the dollars you spend, pay in cash. Do you really want to give Wells Fargo, Bank of America, or Chase any more of your money than you already are? Are you concerned about your favorite bar going out of business or your favorite bank? I think the Fed has your bank’s back, it’s up to you to support the restaurant or bar. However, if the only way you’re going to go out, is if you use a card, then, please, by all means, pay and tip with the card.

I hope this helps!

Suffering Mixologist

You know what, the Suffering Bastard just isn’t really a very good drink. Bourbon, Gin, Lime, Angostura, and Ginger Beer?

Sounds about as bad as the hangover it was supposed to be curing.

But, as mixologists, I think we can do something about this, but we’ll need to plan ahead a bit.

I think we’re looking at about a year process, from start to finish.

First begin by aging your own Whiskey. Purchase a case of unaged whisky (White Dog) and a charred barrel. Both of these items are now for sale, conveniently, at many of your better liquor stores.

About 6 months in to your whisky aging process, you’ll want to start your gin. You can either go the infusion route, like Jeffrey Morgenthaler, or you can purchase a still and distill it yourself. Instructions for distillation are beyond the scope of this article, but there are many online forums which should be of help. You’ll be able to find all sorts of interesting spices and herbs at witchery stores and upscale groceries.

In either case, infusion or distillation, I suggest you discard the common knowledge about what a gin should be and feel free to improvise with whatever catches your fancy. Elderflower, go! Rangpur Lime, go! Lemon Verbena, why not?

Once your gin is ready, you’re going to want to pull your whiskey from the barrel, blend it with the gin, and return it to the barrel. The additional months, or years, you allow these spirits to marry will produce a truly superior end product.

About a month out from when you want to serve your cocktail, you’ll need to start the infusion for your bitters. Check any number of articles on doing this, from Jamie Boudreau to Robert Heugel. Once you’ve made your bitters, of course using a Buechner Funnel to vacuum filter them, you’ll want to again pull your gin and whisky from the barrel, add the bitters, and return the mixture to the barrel. I suggest erring on the side of generosity. Really, if it isn’t bitter, it isn’t a cocktail.

About this time, you’re going to want to start promoting your genius new version of the Suffering Bastard. I would suggest hiring a full time publicist and hitting the local bars. Maybe even take out a few ads in national papers or magazines. Of course you’ll want to attend the major trade shows, Tales of the Cocktail, Manhattan Cocktail Classic, etc. just to press the flesh and give that personal touch to your presence. You’re not just a brand, after all. Don’t forget to sponsor a few panels at these conferences. That kind of exposure, a bunch of drunk people in a hotel conference room, is worth its weight in gold.

After doing some publicity, you’ll probably have come onto the radar of the original creator of the drink, Trad’r Vick, and his organization. Be sure to ignore any and all communications from them. You are a drinks artist, not a business man, there’s no reason to talk to those suits.

Next you’ll need to make your Ginger Beer. After distilling your own gin, making ginger beer is a snap. Check this recipe from Good Eats: Making Ginger Beer 48 hours? Pah, most of that is just sitting around in your cabinet.

Why do Trad’r Vick and his lawyers keep calling you? Just ignore them.

You’ll want to start the last minute publicity for your drink unveiling. Be sure to rent a space of suitable gravitas and capacity for your needs. Invite everyone you know, sending simultaneous and identical tweets, facebook invitations, and email blasts.

Who is that knocking?

What? Trad’r Vick and a subpoena? Agh, they are trampling on your creativity! Saying they own the Tradermark to the Suffering Bastard! Not only that, but telling you your drink isn’t even a Suffering Bastard, the Suffering Bastard, they claim, properly contains: Trad’r Vick Mai Tai Mix, two kinds of Rum, and a cucumber peel garnish. Pah, don’t they know you are referencing the original Suffering Bastard, created by Joe Scialom during World War II at the Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt? Philistines!

Well, you’ll show them, change the name of your drink, it bears no resemblance to their crappy “original” Suffering Bastard anyway. In honor of your self, you call it the Poor Long Suffering Mixologist, or P.L.S.M., for short.

Aged Spirits ready, Ginger Beer on tap, you’re ready to go. The last thing you need to do is source the fresh ingredients.

Be sure and spare no expense finding the exact correct variety of mint for this. Thyme Mint, Bergamot Mint, whatever you think will work best.

Not to mention finding the most obscure variety of lime or citrus. I’d suggest thinking about Seville Oranges or perhaps Rangpur Limes.

Nearly ready, all your friends have replied and are showing up. The bar or concert hall is primed for your 100% hand made, self aged, craft cocktail PLSM!

Oh, but we’ve forgotten the ice! Only the best! Be sure and only use the purest virgin spring water, and freeze it in such a way it is perfectly clear! Then hand carve it to order!

Last minute details, last minute details!

Maybe you should try the drink?

Oh, bleah, this really isn’t a very good drink. You know, the Suffering Bastard wasn’t very good to start out with, and it tastes like you’ve actually made it worse. What were you thinking?

Notify your publicist, stop the presses, call off your event. Well, when life hands you lemons, it’s time to, to… Write about it. You’re going to write a book (or blog) about your cocktail adventure, instead of actually serving drinks. That’s where the REAL money is!

I think that qualifies as a post about Niche Spirits, don’t you?

Thanks to Adventures in Cocktails for hosting!

MxMo LVIII: Favorite Niche Spirit

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