Ryan Fitzgerald is a bartender’s bartender. At San Francisco’s beloved Mission District restaurant Beretta, he can be found slinging drinks, dishing banter and generally holding court. Passionate and concise, humble and pointedly truthful, he’s committed not only to the craft of mixology, but to genuinely connecting with his customers.
When talking about cocktails or spirits, Fitzgerald speaks with the same clarity that defines his mood outside of the bar. There’s wit and honesty that comes with what is all too clearly an expert’s knowledge, but also an ease that makes none of it precious.
A native of Southern California, born to parents who met working in restaurants, Fitzgerald grew up surrounded by the sounds, flavors and culture of restaurant life. After a move to San Francisco in 1998, it was no surprise that traditional 9-to-5 jobs left him feeling dissatisfied and bored. He soon found a position as a barback at Little Baobab, working his way up to bartender, while also taking shifts behind the bar at the Foreign Cinema. Those early jobs, Fitzgerald explains, “were a great education—wine, food, service. I learned a ton and soon I was hooked on learning more.”
Fitzgerald’s career really took off in the fall of 2005, when he had an opportunity to join the opening staff of Tres Agaves. He then left to tend bar at Bourbon & Branch, where he worked for a year and a half before joining Beretta. He’s quick to give credit to those he has had the pleasure of working and drinking with. “I’ve learned nearly all I know from them,” he says.
Erick Castro, the former general manger of San Francisco’s Rickhouse, practically glowed when asked about Fitzgerald. No matter the occasion of your visit to Beretta, Castro says, “you can always rely on him to whip up something that precisely suits your mood.”