Going 10 Rounds with Top Bartender Christopher Longoria
The bar director at Che Fico in San Francisco, tackles our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “Depends on if I’ve eaten well that night. But, typically, a lighter style beer and glass of whiskey on the rocks. Or a really clean and dry Martini with a lemon twist.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? ““I Wanna Be your Dog” by The Stooges. That guitar and drums do it for me every time.”
After all these years bartending and creating drinks, do you still enjoy going out to bars? “I absolutely do! Though I’ve refined how I drink at them. I like to taste the bartender’s more interesting stuff but rarely will I finish them all. Just enjoy tasting new flavor combinations. I also drink lots of water in between visiting different bars when I have a night out.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “Blackberry Caipirinha by Duggan McDonnell at his old bar Cantina. It truly blew my mind. It was the first cocktail I ever saw that combined red wine and citrus. It was citrusy, dry, complex and it was freaking delicious!”
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource? “The Art of the Bar by Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz or The Bar Book by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. The Art of the Bar was the first real cocktail book I studied. It still provides me with lessons I can use over and over again. I also have all my new young bartenders pick up a copy and study it when they join my team. The Bar Book is so complete and covers so much ground. I use it much like an encyclopedia. It’s a good one.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “Hotel Nacional and Che Fico’s Kampachi Crudo. The passionfruit of the crudo and the apricot combine perfectly for me. I also secretly like the combination of turnip and pineapple.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “Probably Che Fico’s Milk Punch. It achieved for me the amalgamation of ideas I had in my head at the time about being clean, not abandoning the use of fruit while still being spirit forward. Also, learning the technique and creating a flavor combination that is unique and original. I feel like it’s very balanced, elegant and humble.”
Is there one person (dead or alive) you’d like to make a cocktail for? “Bourdain. I always secretly daydreamed he would come into one of my bars while he was visiting San Francisco and I would check out his expression after I made him a cocktail. After he’s had his Martini, of course. And if it was a positive reaction, I would feel pretty good about myself.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Guinness and Highland Park. Perfect combination for me.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “My paring knife. It’s not particularly very special but it’s mine and it’s rocked with me for a long time. It’s obviously very useful but I look at it more as my lucky charm!”
Christopher Longoria is the bar director at Che Fico in San Francisco.
Interview has been condensed and edited.