Cocktails, cuisine share equal billing at Maven 

click to enlarge Jumping in with both feet: Bartender Andrew Calisterio started working at Maven after a friend set up the interview for him before even getting his approval. - EVAN DUCHARME/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Evan DuCharme/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Jumping in with both feet: Bartender Andrew Calisterio started working at Maven after a friend set up the interview for him before even getting his approval.

The Lower Haight is better known for divey beer bars than finely crafted cocktails, but this bar and restaurant has made an effort to offer just that. The cocktail list gets equal billing with the menu and beer selection, and each drink is thoughtfully paired with a corresponding small plate. As the menu changes, cocktails that were particularly popular make it to the semi-permanent B-Sides list of drink offerings. Visually, Maven is certainly an of-the-moment San Francisco establishment: There is an element of industrial chic in the décor, an exposed kitchen, long communal tables and three large wall-planters suspended above the bar. The flora looks lush and happy since the bar gets good light, something that bartender Andrew Calisterio quite likes. "I have nothing against speakeasy stylings, but I like that everything doesn't feel like it's in sepia tones here."

Honor Amongst Thieves -- is this a drink you created? It is, although we have four bartenders and Kate Bolton is the bar manager. She's amazing at what she does, but we all make contributions. This one was initially paired with braised short ribs, so the red wine profile made sense to me. Since then, it's been paired with beef brisket and I tweaked the drink, but the idea is the same. I wanted it to be big so it will stand up next to these meaty, flavorful dishes. I was pulling my hair out about it for a while, tried a lot of different concoctions. We get geeky with it without trying to be gimmicky.

Cardamaro -- I can't say I've had a drink that uses it before [Cardamaro is a wine-based amaro, or bitter liqueur, flavored with cardoon, a relative of the artichoke].Yeah, we're amaro fans here. Amaro is really popular right now. It's kind of the current flavor of The City.

True, when you think about how many places have Fernet on tap. So how long does a cocktail stay on the menu? There are incremental changes and there's a seasonality about it. Peaches just came in so the White Peach Southside is a result of that. You've got to change it up. Nobody wants to eat meatloaf for dinner every night.

How long have you bartended in San Francisco? I moved here from Sacramento seven months ago. I visited with two friends of mine that have pretty successful careers in the industry and one of them set me up with an interview here before I even agreed to it.

It appears to have gone well. It did, but definitely not the way I expected. Walking in, I thought I'd have to sell myself, but it was a two-way street. The people I met wanted me to be happy here and were asking me questions like, "Do you think you'd like to be here?" If I eventually own a bar or any kind of business some day, that's an approach I want to take.

Honor Amongst Thieves

1½ oz. Jefferson Rye Whiskey

1 oz. Cardamaro

½ oz. house-made cabernet sauvignon reduction

Spritz of Smith & Cross traditional Jamaican rum

Stir first three ingredients with ice then strain. Finish with Jamaican rum.

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Rob Goszkowski

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