Empty Bar Syndrome: 'Tenders Evacuate the City for New Orleans


San Francisco bars are going to be lonlier places this week. That's because a sizable proportion of our city's most prominent bartenders are heading south and east to the annual Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans this week. Yes, they will be networking, taking in seminars, lectures, participating in discussion groups. But, well, even more time will be spent consuming Pimm's Cups, Juleps, Daiquiris, Dixie beer, shots of Chartreuse and about every other form of alcohol you can imagine. And in sweltering heat too! But it's a lot of fun, if you can survive it. I went last year to this bibulous event, and my liver has yet to forgive me.

But it does leave SF in precarious position to have so many top notch bartenders gone. After doing a little phoning around, here is a list--no doubt incomplete (please let me know if I've missed someone)--of most of the bartenders who will be gone all week.

  • 21st Amendment - Chase Williamson
  • Alembic - Daniel Hyatt
  • Americano- Ronaldo Colli
  • Beretta - Ryan Fitzgerald and Vince Lund
  • Bourbon and Branch/Rickhouse -- Joel Baker,Owen Westman, Ian Scalzo, Ali Tahsini, Amanda Washington
  • Cantina - Duggan McDonnell, David Nepove, Pete Gugni
  • Conduit - Reza Esmali
  • Elixir - H. Joseph Ehrmann
  • Heaven's Dog - Jackie Patterson, Jon Santer, Jennifer Colliau
  • NOPA - Neyah White
  • Range - Brooke Arthur
  • Romolo - Scott Baird, Josh Harris
  • Rye - Amanda Washington, Lauren Steele
  • Slanted Door -- Tamir Ben-Shalom, Jennifer Colliau
  • Smuggler's Cove (opening in November) - Martin Cate
  • Thirsty Bear - Alex Smith (also of Ramblas)
  • Others -- Borys Saciuk (formerly of Michael Mina), Marco Dionysus (formerly of Clock Bar), Jacques Bezuidenhout, Victoria D'Amato (formerly of Tony and Nick's)


Over 30 strong, the list is impressive; a lot of talent is vacating the city for the next 5 days. So where to get a fancy cocktail in SF this week? Well, you should obviously start at Absinthe, as Jeff Hollinger--GM there and author of the great book The Art of the Bar--writes decisively that "there will be zero Absinthe representatino at Tales this year." Head barman John Gasparini will be staying put at Rye. Also, despite the large crew from B&B and the brand-new Rickhouse (my first look at that bar is coming on Thursday), top 'tenders Erick Castro and Andrew Mitchell will be staying home and getting that place up and running.

But, seriously, let's not look at this week as a loss. Let's see it as an opportunity. It's the moment for all those hardworking bartenders who don't get all the press to get a chance to shine. I know I'll be out on the town this week, seeing what the loyal, hardworking types who didn't go to party in the Big Easy have got.

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