If the mustache is the measure of a bartender in San Francisco, then the mustache on Craig Lane is the one that every old-hand and newcomer has looked up to since he graced Bar Agricole with his dapper presence in 2010. Ok, maybe it's not so much the mustache, but rather, his near 20 years of cocktailing experience that's the real reason behind his behind-the-bar prowess...but we all know the mustache certainly doesn't hurt. In all sincerity, it's not the mustache or the experience that really separates him from the other distinguished talent in this city. Nor is it the impeccable quality of every drink that he pours - quality is clearly a given here. It's his personable persona, his depth of knowledge, and the way in which every move he makes shows the pride he has in his chosen profession. With many a mixologist in this city, Craig Lane is truly an industry all-star.
I've known Craig from across a bar for roughly 4 years now, and no matter how busy it gets, or how silly drunk or loud the crowd may be (i.e., me), he always meets your gaze with a smile and, if wanted, a story. The man knows how to make each and every person feel special, whether that means remembering the cocktail you ordered only once before, displaying (and leaving you with) the bottle of brandy you had questions about, or simply spending that extra 30 seconds to make your passing exchange slightly more meaningful. The man is nothing if not attentive; I've knocked over my drink only once in my countless visits, and despite being wrapped up in a conversation, it was no longer than one minute before another Monkey's Gland was safely in front of me. He is an excellent host. With an excellent smile. Which only accentuates the second thing that sets him apart.
He knows how to leave a conversation in order to do his damn job. The second someone sits at his bar, he will graciously wrap-up, or simply pause, any conversation that he may be caught up in so that he can hand the newly-arrived customers a menu, look them in the eye, and give them a cheerful welcome. No matter how friendly you are, or how busy he gets, he never forgets that he is a professional and the people surrounding him are his guests. This is probably the quality I admire most in him - his ability to leave and take the time necessary to do his job right. It may leave you hanging, but you're also left with a sense of respect for a man working his ass off, and a sneaking hope he'll return to pick up exactly where he left off.
Finally, I could write a novel about the flare he puts into every move he makes. Each motion, no matter how slight, has something a little extra, a little more dashing; there's simply a bit more pizzazz to his shake, and you can't help but smile. His movements are those of a man who takes great pride in his profession, despite it being one that he likely mastered long, long ago. There's a clear elegance to his focused demeanor, which is accentuated, of course, by his fine mustache.
It's been over a year since I've been motivated to write, but tonight I finally found the inspiration I've desperately needed. Craig, thank you. For all of the years of Monkey's Glands, personal stories, and smiles. You, sir, are truly a class act.