For many years you went to a bar to get drunk with cocktails made with recipes designed to completely mask the taste of liquor. People didn't want to taste it; they just wanted to feel it. From there we transitioned to a revival of the craft that, at its peak, successfully celebrated the difference quality spirits and skill could have on a cocktail, but also succeeded in alienating the folks who just wanted a drink.
What makes the bar at Heaven's Dog distinctive isn't the care taken in making cocktails, the selection of spirits, or the repertoire of classics available -- it's the ability of Chris Lane and Dion Jardine to satisfy both groups. They can make you a Charles Baker classic, but drinks like the Kamakazie, Slow Comfortable Screw (with homemade Southern Comfort-style liqueur), and Pink Daiquiri Jello Shots make also make guest appearances on the list. You can tell they're having a good time and they have the ability to broadcast that fun to their customers.
In our continuing series of bartenders to watch, we caught up with the duo for a little insight.
SFoodie: How did you guys end up working as bartenders?
Dion Jardine: I started working in kitchens, fancy places like Denny's, and I did that for years. When I moved to S.F., my old boss said he knew a guy who could "hook me up." I thought he was full of shit like usual, but his high school buddy was [Bar Agricole's] Thad Vogler. Thad introduced me to Erik Adkins, and they tried their hardest to make a bartender out of me. I owe those two everything.
Chris Lane: I was 22 and working in a coffee shop. A regular of mine approached me and said, "Hey, do you want to be a bartender?" I needed a second job so I accepted somewhat sheepishly and a week later found myself working the morning shift at one of the nastiest dive bars in downtown Oakland. All of my customers were punks, junkies, longshoremen, war vets, and prostitutes.
What kinds of drinks do you like making best?
Jardine: I love the classics, when people ask me for suggestions on drinks I automatically turn to the Savoy, Jerry Thomas, or Patrick Gavin Duffy. It's always fun to see people's eyes light up when you make the simplest things, like a whiskey cocktail.
Lane: Total paradox at the moment. On one end, I like making stirred, spirit driven cocktails with minimal ingredients, and on the other I love a good, strong tiki drink. There is just a great sense of play in that whole style of libation that lightens up the mood at a bar. I love to create new drinks, it's part of what we do as bartenders.
Do you think bartending has changed you and where do you hope to go from here?
Jardine: I'm hoping I'll get noticed by a big time Hollywood agent, and my modeling/acting career will take off. If that doesn't happen, I really just enjoy what I do. Having a gig that I love is all I want for my work life.
Lane: So far, I've done really well by it. I've made some amazing friends, learned some tough lessons, and generally feel like it's made me a more confident, grounded person. Can't really ask for much else ... except for maybe a few more high fives. We can all use those.
Heaven's Dog, 1148 Mission (at Seventh St.) 863-6008