Mixologist: When Shokolaat bartender is handed fresh lemons, he makes awesome margaritas 

Shokolaat: We guessed that Shokolaat, the chic dinner and brunch spot over on Palo Alto’s University Avenue, probably meant chocolate, but we hadn’t a clue the language was Farci, nor that it’s named for Shekoh Moosavi’s father. She is one of the restaurant’s owners and shokolaat was her father’s pet name for her. We also didn’t realize the restaurant was aptly named for the restaurant’s resident chocolatier, Mark Ainsworth, who is incidentally Shekoh’s husband. As if that’s not sweet enough, there is Leonardo Alarcon, who has been bartending for 10 years on the Peninsula. He moved here 15 years ago from Mexico. That’s where he learned bartending from his dad, who once owned a bar. Alarcon learned a few tricks of the trade back then, but he has also developed a style of bartending all his own. The drink menu at Shokolaat averages 20 unique and inventive cocktails and changes often to reflect seasonal ingredients. How sweet is that? 516 University Ave., Palo Alto, (650) 289-0719, www.shokolaat.com

Where are you from originally? Mexico. I’ve been in the Bay Area now for 15 years. I live in Redwood City.

What tricks did your dad pass along to you for making cocktails? He taught me how to make drinks like mojitos and sangria, but then later on I just started making my own stuff.

You made us the Persian Fling and the Sour Honey Bee, but what’s your favorite drink on the menu? The margarita. Other restaurants might try to use the sweet and sour that they’ll buy at the store, but here we only use fresh lemons. And then I’ll add a little orange juice to cut the tartness of the lemons. It’s very well-balanced. It can be dangerous! People will be like, “Give me another one! Give me another one!”

Do you have any drinks that are chocolate-inspired? We used to have on the menu a chocolate martini garnished with a little piece of chocolate at the bottom of the glass.

What’s your favorite thing about your job? I like to have fun with people. People come early just so they can see me, so I have a lot of regulars. I don’t always know their names, but I always know what they drink. I don’t even bring them the menus because I know exactly what they are going to drink.

Do you ever try to sell them on anything else? I always try, but they order what they always get.

Do they tell you all their secrets? Oh, yes. I hear everything.

If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? I would serve it to my dad. My dad passed away about two months ago. I don’t think he ever had really seen me working as a bartender.

What would you serve him? The margarita.

What is something you’ve brought to the U.S. from Mexico that speak to your cocktail-­making skills? Well, I try to bring a lot from my culture, like fresh fruit and fresh ingredients. That’s what they do over there. They don’t buy things from the stores; they do everything from scratch. So that’s what I try to do here. 

What are three things you can’t live without? Food, my car and my pet ... my Chihuahua. Chinche. It means flea in Spanish.

Uh-oh. Does the dog have fleas? No.

 

Mike Koozmin/Special to The Examiner


Persian Fling

  • 1 shot of Hangar One mandarin vodka
  • ½ oz. homemade sweet and sour (Meyer lemons and agave syrup)
  • Champagne

Shake sweet and sour and vodka together with ice. Strain into a Martini glass and add a splash of Champagne. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

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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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