The Butterfly Lounge a calm and romantic respite 

click to enlarge Sweet drink: Instead of dessert, try Butterfly Lounge bartender Michael Hugo Calalay’s inspired after-dinner drink, the Mochatini. - BRIAN MOLYNEAUX/SPECIAL TO THE EXAMINER
  • Brian Molyneaux/Special to The Examiner
  • Sweet drink: Instead of dessert, try Butterfly Lounge bartender Michael Hugo Calalay’s inspired after-dinner drink, the Mochatini.

The Butterfly Lounge Nestled just off the lobby of the 109-year-old Hotel Majestic, neighbors and out-of-town visitors favor The Butterfly Lounge for a calm, romantic respite from the busy commuter corridors that are Franklin and Gough streets. Named for the exquisite collection of mounted, rare butterflies, the lounge has just launched a new cocktail menu under head bartender Michael Hugo Calalay — a veteran of much larger downtown hotels. 1500 Sutter St., San Francisco, (415) 441-1100,

How long have you been here? I started here on June 14 and started in the hospitality business at the Ritz-Carlton. Then I went to the Hilton and then the W. I started as a server, assistant, then barback and then bartender.

What’s it like here?
The bar is basically old-school with all of the ambiance. It’s very Edwardian. Very San Francisco. It’s very calm and intimate. It’s more engaging.

What’s the clientele like? We get a lot of regulars and locals. Our customers are about half European and half from the United States. The ages are very mixed and because we serve food we sometimes get kids. The bar developed as a family bar itself. We know everyone’s names, their kids’ names.

What’s the cocktail program like? We developed it a couple of months ago. It’s an evolution of one cocktail to another. All of them are made from fresh ingredients. Some are influenced by other menus and some are my own creations.

What’s the history of this place? The Hotel Majestic was built in 1902 and used to be a private residence. It was converted in 1904 into a hotel. It survived the earthquake and it has one of the largest collections of rare butterflies outside of a museum.

What do you like about bartending?
I like talking to people. Service for me is not just serving drinks, but talking to people and knowing their names. You need to give great service, have a good knowledge of what you are doing and be engaging at the same time. I like pleasing people and putting a smile on their face. I like to decorate the drinks. And I love this bar because of the freedom. There’s no corporate thing and the boss trusts me and my drinks.

Is this place haunted? It is. On my third day, I was in the back of the house, where we put the liquor. I didn’t know it was haunted. All of a sudden, I felt this closeness at my back, like someone was looking at me. Then I went to the other side and the temperature was normal, while the side I was just at had a strange draft.

Who is the ghost?
The daughter of the first owner. Lisa. There’s a lot of urban legends about her, like opening windows and putting sheets on people while they are sleeping. She’s really a friendly ghost. I believe the painting in the lobby is of Lisa.

Is there a particular room she likes best? Yes. Room 407.

Where did you get the butterflies? The owners bought them in an auction 30 years ago and they’ve been part of the hotel ever since.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving? We will have three flavored mimosas, and you will have a choice of wine or a special cocktail. We will be open from noon until 8 p.m. on Thursday and we will serve a choice of soup and salad, turkey, cornbread and the fixings, and pumpkin pie. The chef wanted to do something simple because people concentrate on the turkey.

Featured recipe


- 1½ oz. Vanilla Stolichnaya
- 1 oz. Godiva liqueur
- Shot of espresso
Combine in a shaker and strain into a martini glass with a chocolate rim. Garnish with grated white and dark chocolate.

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Erik Cummins

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