Meet your mixologist: Bryan Ranere 

About the series: In a saloon town such as San Francisco, the bartender plays a crucial role. Confessor, friend, sounding board — the man or woman behind the plank sees to it that our needs are met with elegance, grace and often wit. They see humanity at its best and most convivial, but also offer a nod and a welcome to the lonely. But what do they see when they look at us? What are the tricks of their trade? And what lessons have they learned along the way? In this new Examiner weekly feature, we talk to some of our local bartenders to find out.

When most people hear the words "foreign cinema," the words Fellini and Bergman come to mind. San Franciscans think Moroccan duck breast and Hog Island oysters. Bryan Ranere, 38, helped open Foreign Cinema more than seven years ago. Now, he oversees the restaurant’s extension bar, Laszlo. His legacy lives on in both establishments with two specialty cocktails the mixing maestro originated that remain on each drink menu.


2526 Mission St., San Francisco, (415) 401-0810,

What are the two drinks? They still exist today, though we changed the name of one to be more mysterious. One is the Heat Seeker. It’s sort of based on the same concept as a gimlet or a margarita, but I use pepper-infused vodka. So there’s a sweetness to it; then there’s a burn. If someone is bold enough to try it, they’re going to love it. The other is the Mephisto. It has the taste of blood orange, but while it’s really juicy, it’s bitter at the same time. It wakes up your palate. It’s one of those things that over seven-plus years, I’ve seen it appear on other menus.

How’d you get into the biz? I think I started in Philadelphia. I grew up there; but really I learned the trade in San Francisco at this really old-school bar called The Pub on Geary and Masonic. It had been around since 1906. It was an old speakeasy. ... I also worked at theMatador. It was right next-door to The Stone. They shot this old G.C. Scott film there called "Hardcore" and it was the same people who owned the Condor. So it was these seedy but colorful types of bars. Then my friend opened Foreign Cinema and I’m a filmmaker so it was my dream. I’d get to come to work and see a spectacular movie and mix a great drink.

How long have you been making films? For many years. Bartending is a great trade for that. It really allows you to have another life, creative or otherwise.

What kind of films are you into? I’ve done some narrative. A few years ago, I shot a 35 mm and I had a feature in development for 5 years. Last year, I started a documentary about a clothing designer. I’m still finishing it. I was just interested in his design and then I discovered this personality. And he’s a really important designer that people like Lagerfeld and Galliano have said is influential.

Is that your iPod? Yeah, every bartender here has an iPod and people come in to hear it. We play it every day from 6 to 9 p.m.

What’s in your iPod? Kings of Leon, The Roots, sad to say, but Amy Winehouse. I just put on Bloc Party. I found this really great compilation of a double disc called ’70s Gold. It was like 30 tracks of classics I didn’t have.

So what’s up with all the Russian propaganda posters around here? The secret behind Laszlo is it’s named after Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character in "Breathless." It’s also a name Fellini used when he checked into hotel rooms. It’s always been modeled after a stark, minimalist design and then a few years ago, we wanted to inject a little color into the place and we found these great propaganda posters online. People ask: Is this a Russian bar or a Hungarian bar? It was just sort of about color and design, and it gives some kind of graphic iconography.

Featured Recipe

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

» Muddle 4 lime pieces in a shaker glass.

» Fill with ice and a splash of Simple Syrup.

» 2.5 ounces of Cachaca.

» Shake vigorously.

» Strain into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass.

» Pour ½ ounce of Chambord into a glass.

» Garnish with lime.

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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