Christa Manalo

San Francisco hot-spot Beretta is quiet save for a few clinking bottles being wiped down at noon on a Wednesday afternoon. In just a few hours, a line of patrons and parties will wait patiently outside the door for a healthy dose of nightlife. There is a good chance that every decadent cocktail infusion will be created by New Jersey-born and Bay Area-based mixologist Christa Manalo. Known for her unique recipes and innovative taste, the bartender is a part of the blossoming scene in the city. Whether she is starting a pop-up restaurant in the Mission or mixing delectable drinks, Manalo is truly shaking up the way people experience a night on the town. SOMA took a moment to ask the mixologist a few questions before Beretta got packed.

What is it about this profession that you enjoy?
Well, there is this revival and evolution of bartending that is really interesting. At first I came into this profession as just a side gig, as I was considering what I was going to do. I was a journalism major in college and creative as a kid, so I always felt I would do something artistic, so I was surprised that I was working within my medium the whole time.

What kind of clientele are you reaching out to? That touches on my philosophy. Most of the drinks I make have a seasonal, homemade element. Anything that is local. As far as clientele, anyone who is interested in that aspect is whom I am trying to reach out to.

What is most gratifying about being behind the bar?
I really enjoy the fact that these days people are really interested in what you are doing behind the bar. It’s not slinging drinks anymore. People sit down and ask questions about what you are making and technique. It is a little more respected than it was in the past.

What is your drink of choice?
It depends. I don’t mind having a shot and a beer at a dive bar. I’ll certainly try anything new at a cocktail bar, especially if it has any kind of bitter quality to it.

What direction would you like to see the industry take?
I think it is on a great track. I would like to see bars become a more integral part of restaurants and establishments. Places have their kitchen and front of the house and wine program. Nowadays, it is important for the drinks to accompany the feeling that a restaurant is going for as well.

The Recess Fizz

2 oz Beefeater 24 gin
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz lime juice
½ oz egg white
¼ oz yellow chartreuse
¾ oz homemade concord grape syrup

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Dry shake for 10 seconds. Add ice. Shake again, extensively and thoroughly (at least 20 seconds). Add a splash of cold seltzer water (about 1 oz.) Double strain into
a tall ice-filled glass. Garnish with grated lemon zest

Concord Grape Syrup

4 Cups concord grapes
1 Cup water
1 ½ Cups sugar

Destem grapes. Add water to grapes and set on high heat in a pot. As they soften, mash grapes with a potato masher. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Strain out grapes and skins and return the liquid to a pot over high heat. Allow to boil. Turn off heat and whisk in sugar. Whisk until completely dissolved. Allow to cool and refrigerate.

– Patrick Knowles

Photography by Aeschleah Demartino