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A Day In The Life Of Locanda's Bartender

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Bar Manager Gabe Lowe
Bar Manager Gabe Lowe

Here now, another episode of A Day in the Life, wherein Eater goes undercover with a professional in San Francisco's food scene.

[Photos: Eva Frye]

Today we follow Gabe Lowe, bar manager at Locanda, on a typical night behind the bar. This is what Gabe did on Thursday, May 24th.

2:45 p.m.: Gabe strolls into work long before service begins to make sure there's enough liquor, and to assess any other potential issues that could affect the night ahead.

3 p.m.: Since the back bar is fully stocked, it's time to start setting up. Gabe hauls up two different kinds of ice from the freezers downstairs. Large king cubes are for Old Fashioneds or Churches. Smaller cubes can be used whole or crushed by hand with a spoon.

3:30 p.m. Gabe makes a quick batch of ginger syrup: he purées fresh ginger with brown sugar and water, leaving the skin on for earthiness. This spicy, bright concoction is really useful in cocktails or mixed with seltzer in spritzers. He also takes some time to beat and strain egg whites, making them fluid and easy to work with for future foaming.

4 p.m.: Break for family meal. Today's dinner— cubed head cheese and greens. "Questionable," he smirks, and pulls an El Toro burrito out of his bag.

eggwhites.jpg4:50 p.m.: Lineup. GM Alison Arth goes over the books for the evening (a slow 140), and describes VIPs and repeat guests coming in, even down to the guests' preferences on salt-rimmed margarita glasses. Chef Anthony Strong emerges from the kitchen with several steaming dishes: a chicken liver pate special, and two menu staples: tonnarelli cacio e pepe, and bucatini all'Amatriciana. Meanwhile, Gabe shakes up several drink specials, like the gin and violet spiked "purple haze," for everyone to taste.

5 p.m.: Doors open for service after a pump-up group slow-clap. Time to get to it!

5:30 p.m.: The restaurant and bar are pretty full already. Gabe works the bar with two other tenders, Alex Phillips, and former Ubuntu chef Aaron London (who is a "fast learner"), shaking and stirring the night away. How does he know when a drink is done being shaken? "You can hear it. The ice breaks up when you shake it, diluting the drink and making it frothy. It changes sound when it's icy and perfect."

6 p.m.: A guest orders an Amaro flight to end a meal. Gabe pours three varieties in antique Amaro glasses he finds on his days off in thrift stores around the area.

11 p.m.: Closing time is coming up at midnight, now it's time to start breaking down the bar.

12:30 a.m.: Gabe is out of there! Time to wind down from the service buzz in whichever way a bartender can at this hour. And it's not with tequila. A lot of bartenders like to save their drinking for special occasions.

Thanks to our friends at Locanda who were great sports during the shoot. No livers were permanently damaged during the making of this piece.

· All Locanda Coverage [~ ESF ~]


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