Jake Cornell’s stay behind the bar at Madrone will be temporary — the owners of the Divisadero Street “art bar” knew the South Bay native wanted to eventually open up his own drinking establishment before they lured him away from 12 Romolo to become Madrone’s bar manager. But Cornell’s tenure will be memorable, for reasons above and beyond the Burberry-colored rifle — with golden banana clip — hanging near the bar’s 300-plus bottles of whiskeys, tequilas, gins, vodkas and other spirits. While the old ownership’s trademarks of infusing vodkas and hosting a “locals night” with discounts for the right ZIP codes on patrons’ IDs have been phased out, the bar is still hyper-local — with a drink named after the local Popeye’s location — and is now hyper-hip. Monday’s soul nights have expanded from a sleepy, 20-person, $400 in sales crowd to a line-out-the-door, $5,000-a-night be-seen-scene, and the monthly Prince vs. Michael Jackson night is a citywide draw.
MADRONE: 500 Divisadero St. • (415) 241-0202 • firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s your background? I’ve worked in the bar industry for 12 years — since the month after I turned 21 — and I’ve worked in every type of bartending imaginable: fine dining, nightclubs where you pump out drinks nonstop, cocktail lounges. I always knew it was my calling. Kind of a romantic thing, I guess.
How did you end up here? My roommate bartends at Tony Nik’s. I was working at 12 Romolo when Mike [Krouse, Madrone’s owner] asked my roommate if he wanted to pick up some shifts. He offered them to me. I’ve been bar manager-beverage director now for five months.
What’s different about the cocktail menu here? The drinks here have to strike a balance between a cocktail that’s unique to Madrone, something that shows off the craft and something that’s not extremely complicated. We can’t have an eight-ingredient, three-step drink when we’re at capacity. We need to pump them out. So it’s finding a balance, and finding something that’s under five ingredients and not complicated. Rum gets some love here too.
That isn’t something you see too often. Rum is a misunderstood, underutilized spirit. There’s much more out there than the oversweetened spiced rums. We have a drink [the Asian Pear-suasion] that is an homage to the drinks in Tiki bars. We have another, the Spanish Harlem, which is a sort of a rum Manhattan.
You’re an “art bar.” What is that? Simply put, a bar with art in it, but it’s more than that. Our philosophy is to break the mold of a traditional art gallery and expose people to art they might not otherwise see.
Divisadero’s changed drastically since the bar’s been open. What’s the crowd like here? We have wonderful neighborhood regulars, but on our busier nights, it’s really from all over the map. On Friday and Saturday nights, we get the Marina, we get the bridge-and-tunnel crowd. On Mondays, we get more of a service crowd.
Does anyone ever order the Ike Turner [a shot of Hennessey and “a slap on the face”]? Yes! All kinds of people too — even women order it.
How hard do you hit them? Depends on the customer.
Pour ingredients into mixer over ice. Shake and strain into a tamarind-salt-rimmed Champagne coup. Garnish with a dry chili pepper and serve.