Mixologist: Natural born bartender eschews the hoity-toity 

Elite Cafe: The Elite Cafe’s Fabian Oregon may be the best bartender in The City, but don’t call him a mixologist. “I refer to myself as a bartender, not a mixologist,” he declares emphatically, eschewing the hoity-toity title. Oregon, who hails from Napa County, says he was born into the breed. “Being from Napa, I came out of the gate drinking,” he said. “My goal is to try every bar in The City.” His last gig was tending bar at Perry’s downtown, but Oregon’s extensive restaurant experience includes everything from sous chef to dishwasher. His Mexican heritage, coupled with Elite’s New Orleans-inspired menu, provided the inspiration for his fiery specialty cocktail made with habanero and jalapeño peppers. “I’m actually quite proud of this drink,” said the peripatetic Oregon. “I wanted to do something kind of fun and exciting with a hint of spices that’s appropriate for a Cajun restaurant. It’s totally in the style of Tex-Mex. And the owner, Peter Snyderman, gives us the opportunity to be creative.” 2049 Fillmore St., San Francisco; (415) 346-8400; www.theelitecafe.com

What are your favorite drinks? Beer and Jameson shots. For sipping, I like Woodford Reserve bourbon. Gin and tonics made with No. 209 gin, which is made in San Francisco. I really like Angostura bitters [44 percent alcohol] with soda and a twist. It’s great for hangovers; it eases stomach tension and stops the shakes.

What do you say if people ask for drink recommendations? I like to learn about my guests before I make suggestions. I’m gunning to make my guests happy — I love turning people into regulars.

What are some of the more unusual ingredients you’ve used in cocktails? Basil in martinis; lemon grass in Lemon Drops. I came up with them one day when I was bored and goofing off.

What are the most popular drinks at Elite? Pimm’s Cup, Manhattans with Maker’s Mark. We do a lot of classic cocktails but with our own spin. Brandy Alexanders with vanilla ice cream; it’s sinfully delicious and fun. Women love it. Something I call the Elite-arita, a margarita made with Herradura tequila, fresh sweet and sour, lime juice and Patrón Citrónge liqueur. They’re nice and citrusy instead of being super-sweet. Once you have one, you’re probably gonna have another.

What are some of your favorite bars? Pizza Orgasmica in the Richmond district — they have great cocktails, couches and a fireplace. The Bitter End, also in the Richmond. It’s hard to get out of there sober because I know the staff and trivia night is fun. The Madrone Art Bar because it feels like a house party. Beretta on Valencia.

 

Fabian’s Hot Shot

  • 1½ oz. vodka
  • ²/³ oz. habanero mixture
  • ¹/³ oz. jalapeño mixture
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ¹/³ oz. simple syrup

Combine habanero slices with a little olive oil and water in a food processor or blender for about 30 seconds; do the same for the jalapeno mixture. Strain through cheesecloth to remove pepper bits. Mix ingredients in a shaker with a little crushed ice and serve in shot glasses. Serve with cucumber slices.

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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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