Meet your mixologist: Lars Hildebrandt 

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.

Trader Vic's

555 Golden Gate Ave., (415) 775-6300

Germany-born bar manager Lars Hildebrandt, 27, recently took top honors at the annual Battle of the Bartenders. He taught us the secrets to mastering the elusive Trader Vic’s jigger (a little bit of finger gymnastics, if you will) and talked politics. Hit him up for conversation next time you’re there — its his favorite part of the job.

How long have you been working here? A little more than two years.

Where were you before that? I was working at the Trader Vic’s in Hamburg.

What’s surprised you most about this industry? What a vast variety of people there are and all kinds of tempers, moods and attitudes.

How do you handle all that? Just keep it cool. More is less. Treat every new person as a new chance. You also learn what not to say to people. I learned to avoid the traps I sometimes set up for myself.

What’s a Trader Vic’s like in Hamburg? It’s the vintage Trader Vic’s style. Dark, intimate. It is pretty popular; one of three in Germany.

Were you familiar with the drink menu when you started? No, it was completely new to me. In fact, it was the first bar I worked at. That’s how I got hooked into this bar thing. That’s the first time it caught fire and then I wanted to be a bartender after that.

So tell us about this award you won. It was for the Battle of the Bartenders [a contest sponsored by] Recording Artists [Actors & Athletes] Against Drunk Driving. I think it was started by, like, Bon Jovi or Paul McCartney.

Do you like Bon Jovi? I think I was 9 years old when that guy was around.

So what was the winning drink? Non-alcoholic drink? It was derived from an alcoholic version. Fresh fruits and cucumbers always work together. To make it less sugary, I put in iced tea and a splash of ginger ale. [Called the Trader Vic’s Designated Driver, the drink also includes fresh squeezed lime and is garnished with fresh mint.]

Do you like mai tais? I do like mai tais. In fact, it’s a very classy and simple drink. Some of the best drinks are the simplest. It’s the perfect blend of rich aromas and sweet and sour.

What’s your drink of choice? Definitely mai tais, and the other would be a Navy Grog. It’s a drink with three different kinds of rum and a syrup — think of cardamom and cloves.

Who would you best like to pour a drink for? They can be alive or dead. In terms of being able to talk to them, since I’m so much into politics, I’d probably ask Mikhail Gorbachev. That guy definitely had a big impact with the decisions I’ve made because I can be here today. I used to live behind the [Berlin] wall and 17 years later, I’m here today.

The original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai:

» 2 ounces 17-year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum

» ½ ounce French Garnier Orgeat

» ½ ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao

» ¼ ounce Rock Candy Syrup

» Juice from one fresh 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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