The owners of Range Restaurant announced that they'll be closing at the end of the year after 12 years in operation. Let's talk about how important this restaurant was for the world of San Francisco cocktails.
This little restaurant was a surprising nexus of talented bartenders. I've been making mental notes of "nexus bars" for a while as I find it fascinating- the bars that see the most important bartenders come through them. Sometimes it's because those were the hottest venues in town, sometimes it's because everyone wanted to work with the bar manager, sometimes like at Range, well, I just don't know. Which makes it interesting.
In San Francisco, some of those bars include Stars (from way before my time), Absinthe, Bourbon & Branch, Heaven's Dog, and certainly Range.
When Range first opened, the cocktail scene (as well as all of the bartenders compared to now) was fresh and young. Muddling and infusions and using fresh juice were still news.
Heck, I was still writing about nightlife as well as cocktails, still learning about them, and soon to move to full-time coverage of them by 2006. In a lot of ways, I came up in my career too learning from the bartenders at or from Range.
Let's look at where some of those bartenders are now:
Carlos Yturria - Has since consulted on many different Bay Area bars and now is a co-owner of The Treasury in Downtown SF. When Range first opened, I was obsessed with a (now embarrassingly simple) drink that was a Gin & Tonic with a splash of Lillet Blanc. Turns out Carlos created that one. We've each come a long way since then.
Perhaps Yturria's most-loved drink from his time at Range was the Sungold Zinger - a simple and exquisitely delicious cocktail with gin, lemon, and heirloom tomatoes that they'd bring back every year during tomato season. I'm not positive, but I think his drink Flash (kiwi, cucumber, gin) may have been created in that era and it's on his current menu at The Treasury.
Camber Lay - Has been the longtime lead bartender at Parallel 37 at the Ritz-Carlton in SF. I remember she was using a food dehydrator to create dried fruit rims on drinks and I was all, "What will those crazy mixologists think of next??" Ha!
Jon Santer - Now owns the much-loved/respected Emeryville bar Prizefighter. Kind of a big deal.
Jeff Lyon became co-owner (along with Range chef Phil West) of Third Rail, a jerky and cocktail bar, in San Francisco's Dogpatch district.
Enrique Sanchez - San Francisco's omnipresent bartender, currently often working at my local-local ABV.
Brooke Arthur- Came up through the ranks at Range and was the face of the bar for a long time. Later ran the programs at venues including Prospect and super-favorite Wo Hing General Store. She is now a brand ambassador and vice president for House Spirits out of Portland, OR.
Thomas Waugh - Moved to New York and is doing incredible things as the cocktail king of Major Food Group. You might have one of his drinks at a half dozen places in town.
Dominic Venegas - After working pretty much everywhere great in SF, moved to New York and was bartending at the every-award-winning Nomad before taking a brand ambassador job with Pernod-Ricard. Way back just post-Range, Venegas and Yturria were awarded the SF Chronicle's "Bar Stars" as a team.
So... Yeah a lot of great people went through that bar- and more than just these folks I'm sure. Respect. Range is/was one of the most important restaurants in San Francisco's cocktail history.