2019 San Francisco Rising Star Bartender Nicolas Torres of True Laurel

2019 San Francisco Rising Star Bartender Nicolas Torres of True Laurel

From neighborhood bars to craft cocktails and fine dining, San Francisco native Nicolas Torres has been bartending in his hometown for more than 12 years. His early days of dives and karaoke haunts are light years from the double Michelin-star bar program he would create at Lazy Bear.

Among his influences, Torres sights such cocktail heavyweights as San Francisco’s own Nora Furst (Uma Casa), and Brooklyn’s Claire Sprouse (Hunky Dory), as well as his older brother Nathaniel for his rigorous work ethic. In pursuit of flavor and balance, Torres embraces the technical aspects of mixing, perhaps inadvertently becoming the Clarification King of San Francisco, employing such techniques at David Barzelay’s two-Michelin-star Lazy Bear. In 2017, Torres left his daily duties there to open True Laurel in partnership with Barzelay and with Anthony Parks as general manager. There, Torres has assembled a staff that reflects and welcomes the diversity of the city.   

Torres has already gone through two centrifuges, creating cocktails with softer edges for a “crushability factor” no matter how complex or esoteric the ingredients—a call back to his early dive days. He highlights both wild and farmed local produce alongside small-batch spirits and wines. Torres’ collaboration with the kitchen has led to a hyperseasonal bar, championing preservation and sustainable techniques.

With its cozy, Peach Pit-esque booths and chef’s counter in addition to the main bar, bright and airy True Laurel was named Esquire and Eater SF’s “2018 Bar of the Year,” and the San Francisco Chronicle named Torres a “2018 Bar Star.”