Get yourself a Harvey Milk Punch at Level III 

Three years ago, JW Marriott embarked on its first “lobby reinvented” project and turned the third floor of its Union Square hotel into a restaurant, bar, living space and nightclub called Level III. The centerpiece is the Joie de Danse sculpture and fountain by Elbert Weinberg, and it features a multistory atrium. The luxury hotel turned to H. Joseph Ehrmann, the local mixologist and proprietor of Elixir (3200 16th St.), to create several San Francisco-themed signature drinks for the bar menu, including the Harvey Milk Punch, the Shanghaied, Cable Car No. 2 and the Dirty Harry. Bartender Sarita Romero has added her own concoctions to the bar, including six Valentine’s Day cocktails like the Cherry Bomb, El Passion Margarita, My Blood Orange Valentine and Kiss Me Honey! Level III, 500 Post St., San Francisco, (415) 929-2087,

How long have you been a bartender? I started seven years ago at another Marriott and transferred up here three years ago from Ventura County.

What did you do before bartending? Accounting, other waitressing jobs, pest control. I was an aesthetician.

What do you like about bartending?
I like how you get to talk to people and you get to be creative. It’s fun.

How do you come up with drink recipes?
I’m inspired by yummy ice cream places. And the chef inspires me, too. He tells me what’s in season and what flavors go together. The other bartenders are great, too.

Where do you like to drink and what do you like to drink?
I’m kind of a homebody. If I do go out, I go to music venues. As for drinks, I get picky. So, I’ll just get a vodka and soda.

What’s the concept of this place?
It’s about social food and modern cocktails. It’s an open space and you can take your drink anywhere. And there is no set area for the restaurant.

What’s the clientele like?
I bartend mostly during the day, and we get a lot of business people and people on vacation. A few people come in who work around here in the theater district.

Tell me about the drink menu.
We try to use as many fresh ingredients as possible. We have a few infusions and sometimes we do experiments and seasonal drinks, like the jalapeno lemon drop. And we make our own cocktail onions and can get any ingredients that we want from the restaurant.

Any crazy stories about this bar? This place was originally the Portman Hotel and the owner [John Portman Jr.] was the architect. It was a very high-class place, with Rolls Royces outside and butlers on every floor. The owner’s son worked for Sony, so there were a lot of musicians and big parties. One time, Ozzy Osbourne jumped in the fountain. We still have big parties, as people rent out the space. Recently, we had clowns on stilts and fire breathers.

Who would you like to make a drink for?
Tom Waits. I’d make him a virgin as he doesn’t drink anymore. He’s a great storyteller, and he’s my husband’s favorite.

Where in the world would you like to have a drink? Paris. I’d like to have a Grand Marnier at The Ritz. I bet it tastes better there. I don’t know why.

Who do you admire?
My favorite is Jon, who works here. He’s unflappable, friendly and he always makes a good drink. He grew up here so he knows everything and can tell you where you can eat. I pass all my creations through him.

Strawberry and Balsamic Martini


  • 1.5 oz Stolichnaya vanilla vodka
  • 1 oz strawberry puree
  • .5 oz DeKuyper strawberry pucker schnapps
  • Splash of lime juice
  • Balsamic vinegar reduction

Combine ingredients with ice in a martini shaker and shake. Strain into martini glass lined with balsamic vinegar reduction.

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Erik Cummins

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