Mixologist: Artist bartender mixes creativity into drinks 

Fellow Waldorfians, meet Erika Johannsen. Not a Waldorfian? Let us explain. It means any graduate of the Waldorf School, an arty school whose alums identify as Waldorfians for life. Johannsen is the lead mixologist at Roe, the South of Market club that has vacillated between being a full-service restaurant, lounge and club for sometime. The latest news is the nightclub will still go strong on weekends, but the lounge is scheduled to convert to a restaurant again very soon. We’re guessing it’s Johannsen’s art school background that motivates her to create so many unique drinks, like the Briar Bourbon Julep (Stoli blackberry, Bulleit bourbon and blackberry liqueur) or her Bloody Mary that muddles together cherry tomatoes and Thai chiles. Hats off to that. 651 Howard St., San Francisco, (415) 227-0288, www.roe-sf.com

What is Roe these days? Are you a lounge? A nightclub? We’ve been through so many different incarnations. When I first started, we were a restaurant. We had full dinner service. Now, we’ve done happy hour for a while where it’s just small plates and appetizers, and then we’re a nightclub on the weekends. But now we have a new chef, and she wants to bring us back into the dinner scene. We’re going to redo our cocktail menu again, and we have an excellent menu that she’s bringing out.

What cocktails on your menu would you say really speak to your mixing style? I like to play with the classics. I think everyone does because that’s what you have to work with. But I myself am a scotch drinker, and I’m not afraid to mix it with the right ingredients. So we have a Speyside Sazerac. It’s with a smoky Speyside scotch, 12 year. It’s like the regular New Orleans Sazerac, but it’s done with scotch.

You’ve told us you have tasted every spirit stocked on your bar. Are there any overlooked or challenging spirits you’ve come upon? I think the most challenging has been Drambuie.

And what’s that? It kind of has like a honey-spice profile. It’s made with whiskey and heather. It’s got like a stand-alone flavor. It’s one of those spirits where nobody orders it. We’ve had this bottle up here forever.

If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? I totally would serve a drink to Dumbledore.

Who is that? Harry Potter? His character is so attentive and critical and so supportive of everyone, and I think it would be really cool to get some feedback from him.

What are three things you can’t live without? My close friends, well, I’m an artist, so paper, and oh, my top hat.

Your top hat? That’s just because when I’m not dressed for work, I like to wear a top hat.


Madagascar Orchid

  • 1½ oz. of Grey Goose pear vodka
  • ½ oz. St. Germaine liqueur
  • ½ oz. Navan (vanilla-infused cognac)
  • 1 oz. white grape juice


Shake ingredients together with ice. Strain and served up. Serve with a lemon twist.

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