Aaron Gregory Smith and his crew at North Beach neighborhood bar 15 Romolo like to have fun and know it is part of the reason they have garnered such a big following.
Bar manager Jared Anderson and bartenders Ian Adams, Jill Weiner and Matt Fleeger carry that same attitude into work everyday, no matter if it’s making up the latest bar menu or trying to remember what went into a drink they made up on the fly the night before.
“We each have different palettes that compliment each other well. So we can go around and get different opinions about whether a drink will work or not.”
Those collaborative efforts have made up some of the most unique cocktails in San Francisco. 15 Romolo, hidden down an alleyway off of Broadway, has an old-school charm as Smith wanted to honor the history of the building while also maintaining a neighborhood feel. And while the less adventurous are free to order a Martini or Old Fashioned, it’s always more fun to order a “Troubled Waters, Socialites And Cigarettes or Arsenic and Old Lace.”
“We love to talk about the taste of cocktails. From there, we adapt and tinker with each recipe. It’s really a group effort.” And while many of the drinks on the menu are popular, the crew loves coming up with items on the fly. “Customers will come in and tell us a spirit they like or tastes they are looking for. We make things up as we go. Some are great and others we just throw down the drain. It’s funny because we’ll see our cocktails posted on Twitter and people come back in asking for the same thing and it’s really hard to replicate.”
All five have had years of experience behind the bar and have noticed a trend in the Bay Area. “The people who go out to bars in San Francisco are just so educated about cocktails now. And it’s great because in the City, every bar has it’s own style. But here (at 15 Romolo) we really want the cocktails to take center stage.”
Smith said the bar menu is ever-changing and the group gets together all the time to come up with different ideas, many times after a few drinks and tastings themselves. That collaboration and almost “family atmosphere” is really seen in everything they do as they always seem to be having lots of fun behind the bar. “We want to have fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Any successful business has to have fun and that’s what we try to do every day and night.”
The cocktails at 15 Romolo are strong and very creative. And their brunch is pretty killer too; if you don’t like the waffle shot, I’m not sure I can help you out.
Honestly, a true testament to the bar is the fact that Smith wanted his whole crew to sit in on the interview with me. This is a cohesive group, they enjoy life and enjoy making drinks and are true “bar and cocktail savants” in every sense of the word.
15 Romolo is located at 15 Romolo Place in North Beach. They are open Monday-Friday from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m.
Photo Credit: Valter Fabiano