21 Fizz Salute

It must be happy hour, I’m alone behind the bar and a long order comes in.

“21 Gin Fizz Tropicals for the Lounge?”

“Everyone in that group wants the same cocktail?”

The server assures me this is the case.

“Well, that will be a while, Egg White drinks and all. I can only make 4 at a time.”

I set about making them…

“What the!?”

Someone seems to have swapped out my measuring jiggers for others I don’t recognize.

Ack! I fumble around, trying to make sense out of the equipment.

Suddenly, for some reason, I’m also having a hard time remembering the recipe… Is it apricot liqeuer? How much Gin?

I awake with a start and quickly run through the Gin Fizz Tropical in my head, 2oz Plymouth Gin, 1oz Lime, 1/2 oz Orgeat, 1/2 oz Pineapple Gum, 1/2 oz Egg White. Dry shake, shake with ice. Soda.


Brunch Hell

Somehow I am working as a line cook during brunch at the Slanted Door.

The printer start chattering away and foot upon foot of tickets starts rolling in: large parties of people, huge numbers of entrees, items that are unfamiliar.

I ask my coworkers about the bizarre items on the tickets and they don’t really know.

Erik Adkins appears from somewhere and tells me, don’t pay any attention to the food, you just have to pick out the drinks.

I try to sort through the feet of orders, looking for drinks, but still, the items are unfamiliar.

“Where’s the Whey for this drink?” I ask, “I can’t find it in the reach in.”

He says, “Who ordered that drink? It’s been 86’d.”

Funny. It has been over 15 years since I worked as a brunch line cook, yet it is still the touchstone for my unconscious mind to express fear and anxiety.



One of the first comments I got regarding my playlist post was the following from SFPaul.

I’m always surprised when it appears that music falls low on the priority list for a restaurant. Don’t they understand the roll of music is to the human experience and how it has accompanied us for thousands and thousands of years.
To have it be an afterthought tells me a lot about the management and how little they care about the dining experience as a whole.

As far as I can tell, the combination of music and intoxicating substances goes back as far as both have existed in human history. However, since many animals have been known to consume spontaneously fermented or naturally intoxicating substances, maybe longer. Who knows what those drunk Cedar Waxwings in the berry tree are saying to each other?

Music in bars would have first started, I presume, as spontaneous communal entertainment and drinking games.

Soon after, someone who was better at performing or singing than average probably received a drink, (or chicken,) for their stellar efforts and realized there were some goods or services which could be received for their efforts.

A couple centuries pass and soon the technology for performing songs without actual human musicians becomes possible. First clockwork bands and player pianos, then audio recording and playback. The iconic Jukebox of the 1950s diner and eventually the iPod.

Restaurants are trickier. I really am not sure when music started to become as ubiquitous as it currently is, as background music for dining. I tend to think, rather recently.

All the same, here we are, and restaurants, along with bars, are very nearly required, unless they are very, very fancy, to have some sort of background music for dining.

The Playlist Dilemma

Lately, I have almost become more obsessed with creating the ultimate playlist for our restaurant, than I have with cocktail recipes.

Some points:

  1. Almost all restaurants (and bars) have some sort of background music.
  2. The music has two audiences, primarily those who dine in the restaurant, but also those who work in the restaurant.

To the first point, the selection of music is important for the mood and feel of the restaurant. The management typically makes the call on what sort of music they want to hear in their restaurant.

A lot of restaurants these days are choosing to leave this choice to services like Muzak or Pandora.

As a music nerd, I prefer, and hope, that someone in the restaurant has enough vested interest that they have gone to the trouble to choose the music. One of my pet peeves is when you hear an awesome song in a restaurant, ask a server what it is, and they say, “I dunno, it’s the Morrisey Pandora Station.”

Or even worse, when you hear an awful song you never wanted to hear again in your life, and they say, “Eh, it’s the Flock of Seagulls Pandora Station, sorry about that.”

The question is, “How do you please the management, the staff, and the customers?”

Erik Ellestad Drinks Through Savoy Cocktail Book

The Savoy media blitz continues with an article on eater!

Erik Ellestad Drinks Through Savoy Cocktail Book

In addition to everything I say there, I’d like to thank the lovely Mrs. Flannestad for her love, support, and frequent late night pick ups at sundry bars, restaurants, and random locations.

I really couldn’t do anything without her and her support!

Don’t Your Arms Get Tired?

Early evenings at Heaven’s Dog, especially when there is a show on at the Orpheum, we get a lot of families in to the restaurant.

The other night the restaurant was booked, so a family of 6 sat in front of me at the bar.

The young man who sat directly in front of me, probably about 8 years old, seemed to be completely fascinated by my activities making cocktails. I made some small talk with him, and eventually he asked the following question and made an observation which I thought was just the cutest, most innocent comment ever.

“Don’t your arms get tired? Because, I know when I’ve been skipping stones all day on the lake, my arms are tired the next day.”

Some People You Should Get a Drink From Before They Die

Who To Drink, Virginia Miller for the San Francisco Bay Guardian

Or, as Steven Liles put it, “4 Old Guys, and a Young Gal, You Should Get a Drink From Before They Die.”

I was honored to be included in the list of awesome bartenders! Here are the questions Virginia sent and some expansion on my answers.

Erik Ellestad first landed on the cocktail map in 2006 with his blog, Savoy Stomp — during his off hours as a tech engineer he began working his way through the classic Savoy Cocktail Book, one recipe at a time. This led to monthly gathering and demonstration Savoy Cocktail Book Nights at revered Upper Haight cocktail hotspot the Alembic since 2008, and bartending at chic SoMa Chinese restaurant Heaven’s Dog since its opening in January 2009. He’s an expert on classic recipes; his technically-minded side informs his precision and sense of balance.

I started getting involved in online cocktail related forums, including DrinkBoy and Webtender, in the early 2000s. Joined eGullet.org in 2005. In June of 2006, I started the Savoy Stomp topic in the Spirits and Cocktails forum on eGullet, documenting my efforts to sequentially make every single drink in the Savoy Cocktail Book. For a while in this period, I also served as one of the hosts of that forum. Later in 2006, I started a personal blog with similar content to the Savoy Stomp on eGullet.org. Eventually, keeping both in sync got to be too much of a drag, and I moved the Stomp entirely to my personal blog, savoystomp.com.

1. Please list for me what bars you’re tending at currently and how many years you’ve been bartending.

I work at Heaven’s Dog and help host Alembic Bar’s monthly Savoy Cocktail Book Night. However, I am most well known for the blog project I began in June of 2006 to make and document every cocktail in the Savoy Cocktail Book. The Alembic staff and I have been doing the Savoy Nights together since November of 2008 and I’ve been bartending at Heaven’s Dog since we opened in January of 2009. I also work part time for the University of California, here in San Francisco, as a Unix Systems Administrator.

2. Where are you from and how does that influence your bartending style and taste?

I’m an honest hard working boy from a small town near Madison, Wisconsin. Other than developing my taste for beer, cheese, and Old-Fashioned Cocktails, I don’t think growing up in Wisconsin particularly affected my bartending. However, the 10 years I spent as a line and prep cook while living in Madison, definitely affected both the way I approach cocktails and how I prioritize tasks while bartending.

3. What is your area of expertise or obsession: a spirit, cocktail style, category or region of drink?

Pre-prohibition American beverages, bars, and taverns. Almost all my real favorite cocktails go back to the 19th, early 20th Centuries, or before, and most of the books I most enjoy reading are about that period as well.

4. What do you drink most during off hours?

To be honest, now that I’ve nearly finished the Savoy Cocktail Book Project, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from drinking cocktails. You’ll most often find me drinking beer or wine. I have a special interest in small producers and natural process products.

5. What cocktail are you making lately that is exciting you, whether your own or someone else’s, recipe?

Inevitably, people ask regularly for “bartender’s choice” or “something you have been working on”.

Since you can’t say, “Well, I’ve been working on being a more engaging host,” or, “I’ve been working on my wine service and knowledge,” I try to learn a new or classic cocktail a week, so I have an easy answer to the question.

This week I was inspired by Leopold’s Navy Strength Gin to perfect the Inca Cocktail.

Inca Cocktail

3/4 oz Leopold’s Navy Strength Gin
3/4 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
3/4 oz Carpano Antica Itailian Vermouth
3/4 oz Manzanilla Sherry
teaspoon Small Hand Foods Orgeat
1 dash Orange Bitters

Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a small cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.

6. What are your current favorite off-hours hangouts for food or drink?

There are many awesome cocktail bars in this city, too many to list really. But, since I live in Bernal Heights, the places I get to most often are in my neighborhood: Gialina for pizza, Papalote for Burritos, Front Porch for Soulful American food, and Ichi Sushi, for, well, awesome Sushi. If my wife and I are splurging, we’ll go out to Bar Tartine, Bar Jules, or Commonwealth. Other than the bars I work in, you’ll find me at Rock Bar waiting for a table at Front Porch, Glen Park Station waiting for a table at Gialina, St. Mary’s Pub or Royal Cuckoo on the way to Ichi Sushi, and Wild Side West.

7. What musical style or band/musician keeps you pumped and motivated during those late bartending nights – or most encapsulates your bartending style?

I need to write up a whole post about how obsessed I’ve become about restaurant playlists! But the core of the playlist I’ve come up with for Heaven’s Dog is the box set of Stax/Volt Soul singles from 1959 through 1968. In addition, I like to throw in some Ska, Reggae, African, and Brazilian music.

I wish there was some way, though, that you could say pick from a certain set of songs from 5-7, another from 7-10, and a final one from 10-midnight.

Don’t You Get Tired of Pouring?

The other night, one of our regular guests asked me, “Don’t you get tired of pouring things?” which kind of amused me.

But it also reminded me, I never did a round up of the writeups I did for ‘Cocktail’ Boothby’s “Ten Commandments for Bartenders” a couple years ago.

So after working as a bartender 3 nights a week for the last 9 months or so, has it afforded me any added perspective for these ‘Commandments’?

Boothby’s Ten Commandments for Bartenders

I. Always be on time to relieve the other watch. It is a good plan to make a practice of arriving a few minutes early so as to arrange your toilet and step to your station on time.

I stand by everything I said in the previous post, but will also add, you should not only be on time, but also have eaten before your shift. Seems a little odd to say you should eat before going to work at a restaurant, but the fact of the matter is, if the restaurant is busy, you may not get to take your break until nearly close. There is nothing uglier than the freak out caused by a lot of caffeine and a little booze on an empty stomach.

II. See that your finger nails are always clean and your person presents a tidy appearance.

Nothing new to add here, bartending is a minor adjunct to the performing arts, your appearance and carriage is as important as your ability to make drinks.

III. Always appear pleasant and obliging under all circumstances.

When I arrived one night, my boss called me to say that the other person who normally worked couldn’t make it. I would be on my own for the course of the evening. His comment was, “You’ll probably go down in flames, but the most important thing is to go down in flames gracefully.” The ability to keep your composure and grace under just about any situation is one of the most important skills you need to develop as a bartender. If you lose that, you lose the people on the other side of the bar.

IV. Avoid conversations of a religious or political nature.

As a performer, you don’t always get to choose your own lines. Something I might say to my wife, or language I might use with my friends may not be appropriate, or may even be offensive, to some random person who has come in to the bar for a drink. Gauge your situation and choose your words carefully. As a bartender you are setting the tone for the room.

V. When going off watch always dry and polish all the glassware and tools which you have used on your watch, and see that everything is in its proper place, so that your relief can work to advantage as soon as he arrives at his post.

You are part of a team, even if you never see the person who works the next day. Show them the respect they deserve by doing your job completely.

VI. Sell all the liquor you can, but use as little as possible yourself.

Different bars have different rules and cultures regarding drinking on the job. In some states, it is even illegal to have drunk within hours of going to work, let alone on the job. In San Francisco, there is no such law, so we are left to make our own choices. One of my coworkers said, “I don’t like to drink while I’m working, it messes with my time management skills,” which totally makes sense to me. If you are serious about the job, you need to know your limits and stick to your own rules.

VII. If you are troubled with sore feet, bathe them regularly. Avoid patched or ragged hosiery, and wear a comfortable shoe with a heavy sole. Light soles, low cut shoes or slippers should never be worn behind a bar.

I’ve gone through a bunch of different shoe and sock choices since I wrote this up originally. The above still makes sense, you definitely need a shoe with good arch support and a non-slip sole to be on your feet for 8 hours a day several days a week. I’m currently wearing Red Wing 607 6″ Boots and Woolrich 10-Mile Over-The-Calf socks.

VIII. Keep the floor behind the bar as dry as possible. It not only looks better, but you will find your health greatly improved by following this rule. Many bartenders contract rheumatism, neuralgia and many other serious complaints through carelessness in this report.

As far as health goes, still not sure about the wet floor, but you do need to keep yourself flexible and in pretty decent shape to avoid injury. Lower Back, Shoulders, Elbows, and Wrists are definitely the pain points. Keep those muscles flexible and in shape.

IX. After using a bottle or tool always replace it before doing anything else. Make this a rule that should never be broken; and, when you are rushed with business, you will never be compelled to hunt for this or that, but you will always know just where it is.

I still don’t have much to add to Andrew Bohrer’s eloquent post, “Get your fucking mise in order!” Go read it again.

X. After a party has finished drinking, remove the glassware from the bar as soon as possible, and dry and polish the bar top immediately, never allowing a particle of moisture to remain. This is a very important rule.

Again, I don’t have much to add to my previous post, but this quote from Philip Duff sums up much of what I have learned in the last 6 months, “I love taking care of people in a way that goes beyond drinks.” ‘Nuff said.

It was the best of times…

With apologies to Charles Dickens.

It was the best of times…

Technology jobs booming like no other industry, Heather Perlberg, Bloomberg News

“Among U.S. technology companies with a market value of more than $100 million, almost 50 increased employment by more than half in the most recently reported two-year period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Some small and midsize businesses boosted payrolls by almost fivefold, underscoring the resilient demand for Internet services, software and electronics.”

…It was the worst of times…

Old Techies Never Die; They Just Can’t Get Hired as an Industry Moves On, By AARON GLANTZ

“While Web-based companies like Facebook and Google are scouring the world for new talent to hire, older technology workers often find that their skills are no longer valued…Kris Stadelman, director of NOVA, the local work force investment board, which released a survey of human resource directors at 251 Bay Area technology companies last July, said that in her experience, candidates began to be screened out once they reached 40.”


“Dog,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The dog trots freely in the street
and sees reality
and the things he sees
are bigger than himself
and the things he sees
are his reality
Drunks in doorways
Moons on trees
The dog trots freely thru the street
and the things he sees
are smaller than himself
Fish on newsprint
Ants in holes
Chickens in Chinatown windows
their heads a block away
The dog trots freely in the street
and the things he smells
smell something like himself
The dog trots freely in the street
past puddles and babies
cats and cigars
poolrooms and policemen
He doesn't hate cops
He merely has no use for them
and he goes past them
and past the dead cows hung up whole
in front of the San Francisco Meat Market
He would rather eat a tender cow
than a tough policeman
though either might do
And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
and past Coit's Tower
and past Congressman Doyle of the Unamerican Committee
He's afraid of Coit's Tower
but he's not afraid of Congressman Doyle
although what he hears is very discouraging
very depressing
very absurd
to a sad young dog like himself
to a serious dog like himself
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant
to him
The dog trots freely in the street
and has his own dog's life to live
and to think about
and to reflect upon
touching and tasting and testing everything
investigating everything
without benefit of perjury
a real realist
with a real tale to tell
and a real tail to tell it with
a real live
		  democratic dog
engaged in real
		free enterprise
with something to say
		         about ontology
something to say
		about reality
			        and how to see it
					      and how to hear it
with his head cocked sideways
			        at streetcorners
as if he is just about to have
			  his picture taken
				              for Victor Records
		         listening for
				His Master's Voice
	and looking
		       like a living questionmark
				       into the
			               great gramophone
			           of puzzling existence
           with its wondrous hollow horn
	      which always seems
               just about to spout forth
			         some Victorious answer
				     to everything


Document URL: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/dog.html
Last modified: Wednesday, 18-Jul-2007 16:25:37 EDT