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How Christopher Longoria buys spirits for his bar

Photo for: How Christopher Longoria buys spirits for his bar

22/08/2021 Christopher Longoria, bar director at Che Fico in San Francisco shares with us 21 years of his bartending journey.

For Christopher Longoria, bartending has been something he always wanted to do. In our conversation with Christopher, he recalled his time during college, when he would turn his bookshelf, stack it with a few bottles, and make drinks with pre-mixes for other students on the floor. “They were really terrible,” said Christopher. 

While Christopher was still in grad school, he coincidently got into the bartending world at a birthday party for the painter Doze Green. “I noticed the bar manager was slammed. I looked at him and asked if he needed any help, so he tossed me an apron and I started picking mint and pulling drafts. After the party died down he asked me if I wanted to come back tomorrow. I said yes, and then my path behind the bar in San Francisco really began there.”

Today, 21 years later, Christopher continues to grace the city with his delicious cocktails at Che Fico, where he is currently the bar director. 

What do you do at Che Fico on a daily basis?

Currently, I am the Bar Director at Che Fico. Right now there is a lot going on given that Covid hit our industry so hard. A lot of what I'm doing there is coordinating all the admin and infrastructure that will allow the bar to function tightly and efficiently once we open our doors again. I'm also a founding partner in my consulting team called West Bev Consulting. We're currently working on a number of projects we're excited about and much of the first half of my day is working on the numerous tasks it takes to stay on top of our clients' needs.  

According to you, what are some of the most important skills for a bartender to have?

I think a few skills every bartender should continue to develop is articulation; knowing how to speak to your team and guests while under heavy pressure is a highly nuanced skill and it takes a long time to learn to be a clear and exact speaker.  Awareness; always be aware of your guests, their experience, their energy, and the overall restaurant/bar space.  A sense of how best to prioritize; by prioritizing the right things at the right time you can save yourself a lot of work as well as a lot of time.  And of course, be calm under pressure; that only comes with experience I feel. 

Christopher Longoria

Christopher Longoria

What is your favorite cocktail to make?

I take a lot of pride in everything I make. But if I had to pick one to call my favorite, it would be the French 75. It's such a tight balance but when executed properly it really makes an impression.

In a cocktail tin add:
1.5oz Cognac
0.5oz Fresh Lemon Juice
0.25 simple syrup
1 dash of orange bitters

Add ice, shake for 8sec, and double strain into a Champagne flute or coupe.

In the champagne flute or coup add:

2oz of champagne or high-quality bubbles. 

Dip the bar spoon gently into the glass and give it one very light stir. Garnish with a clean lemon twist.

The funniest story you heard at the bar?

Oh geez, I'm literally rehashing 20 years of being in bars and the countless stories! Well, I don't know how funny this is, but I once had a guy telling me his whole plan while sitting next to an off-duty police officer. Poor guy couldn't take the hints I was trying to give him. After a while, he left and the off-duty cop left quickly after, who knows what became of that. 

What has been your most bizarre client request?

That's a loaded question ha! Let's just say, I've had a lot of secrets shared with me.

How can suppliers work with you to drive sales?

Help work in tandem to create interesting, approachable programming. Stay communicative about deals, price changes, and delivery updates.

How do you increase footfall at the bar?

I'm very fortunate to have the platform I do and the reputation of quality our team at Che Fico produces. One thing I focus on is staying healthy and positive because that always resonates with guests and encourages them to share the experience with their friends.

How has your journey as a bartender evolved through social media in the past year?

Interesting question. I actually created a second Instagram account that focuses more on my cocktail stuff and classes I teach called My Palate, Your Hands (@mypalateyourhands). I like to keep my primary account somewhat private because I have many more interests that I like to entertain other than just cocktails like writing, photography, music, art, philosophy. And I don't like feeling obligated to represent all things cocktails and spirits. Truth be told, much of the inspiration for my menus comes from things outside of the bar world and I try to keep that lens of the world open to me.

Can you give us an example of a good bar/restaurant drinks menu?

I think what Lolo is doing is a great example!

What do you look for when selecting a spirit for the bar?

Typically what I look for is quality first. Then I consider its versatility and how many ways can I get a guest interested in the spirit. I also consider its price point and is it a smart pick to include in my spirits list. It's a unique balance because it needs to be approachable, affordable, be of good quality, yet also, is it necessary? That's the tricky part.

According to you, what’s the most underrated cocktail ingredient/spirit?

Dry Vermouth.

What are some drinks trends we should look out for?

Low ABV cocktails, Ube, and high-quality Soju.

What have you been drinking lately?

I've been studying and researching a number of scotches the last couple of months, so that has been on my table.

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