Orson takes its namesake seriously by showing movies 

This industrial-chic spot in SoMa takes its name from Orson Welles, a further homage to the film star that über pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner’s other restaurant, Citizen Cake, is named after. A former foundry, the massive bilevel space conveys a warehouse-style feel. A huge U-shaped bar is the centerpiece beneath a large glowing geometric chandelier floating overhead, with an adjoining lounge furnished with Italian-style couches. Films projected on the back wall provide a backdrop for the urban-chic crowd. High-concept cocktails have reached a fever pitch in The City, noted bartender Ian Adams. “Everybody in San Francisco seems to be fighting to be the most creative,” he said. Orson, 508 Fourth St. (at Bryant St.), San Francisco, (415) 777-1508, www.orsonsf.com

How did you get into bartending?
I was going to school for jazz performance so I haunted the venues on the Sunset Strip. A friend worked at the Viper Room in West Hollywood where I performed with my band and he got me a job as a bar back. It was so much fun. I saw a lot of stars, including Juliette Lewis, who played there with her punk-rock band. She was really cordial and friendly, but [actor-comedian] Andy Dick was obnoxious and groped everybody — men, women, kids.

Why do you like bartending? After working in a lot of high-volume nightclubs, I wanted to change from quantity to quality. I became interested in the history of cocktails and bartending. There’s no end to the possibility of what you can do.

What kind of films do you show here?
“Ratatouille,” “Star Wars,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” old Fatty Arbuckle movies. It’s better than a static painting and gives people something to talk about.

What bartenders do you admire? There are so many incredible bartenders doing phenomenal things. People are willing to share what they know, especially the bartenders at 15 Romolo.

What are your favorite bars?
15 Romolo because it has great people and a relaxed atmosphere. Rye on Geary, the Bloodhound on Folsom, the Cantina on Sutter. They’re all relaxed, neighborhood bars. They make incredible hand-crafted cocktails.

What’s your favorite drink? Negroni; there’s millions of potential variations based on a simple, perfect formula.

What makes a good bartender? The ones who find more satisfaction in helping customers than taking home a wad of bills. The ones who do it for the sheer joy of spending time with people.

What famous people have you served? Jerry Brown had a fundraiser here before the election. He was fantastic. Heath Yigitpurra, who won on the “Top Chef” show for his desserts, is a regular customer. A lot of chefs and industry people come in. It can be intimidating.

What famous bars would you like to have a drink at? Harry’s in Paris. I’m hoping to go this summer. I’d also like to visit the Chartreuse distillery. I went to Death and Co. in New York because there were no seats. I prefer standing at a bar anyway.

What people would you like to have served? Ernest Hemingway, a writer and well-known alcoholic; Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra.

Ginger and the Professor Are Up To No Good


  • Fresh muddled ginger
  • Handful of mint leaves
  • ¾ oz. ginger syrup (peeled ginger cooked down in simple syrup)
  • 1 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 oz. Reposado tequila
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Mix well in cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into Collins glass, add soda, ice and garnish with mint sprig.

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Donna Domino

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