By David Ransom
Ask Duggan McDonnell how he ended up where he is now, and he’ll invariably launch into a sermon (quite literally) on how to take the long way to getting into the bar business. For Duggan, one of this country’s most respected bartenders, owner of Cantina – one of San Francisco’s most beloved bars, and most recently, producer of one of the hottest spirits out there these days, Peruvian Pisco (with his brand Campo de Encanto), there never had been a plan to get into the business at all. He actually (really!) wanted to be a minister.
Born in San Francisco and raised in San Jose California, Duggan was brought up in a very religious household. Originally raised Catholic, he took religion very seriously, and when his mother became born-again, Duggan went along for the ride, eventually majoring in theology at college in Seattle. “Religion is nothing if not a great story,” he says, “and for me, the story is what’s important in everything, whether it’s teaching the masses about the ways of the Lord or about the ways of the bar.”
However, it was the scholarly pursuit of writing that most captivated Duggan, and he eventually left religion behind to focus on that, receiving an MFA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco before moving back to Seattle to write “full-time.”
Of course, writing the great American novel full-time doesn’t pay much, so Duggan had to work other jobs to pay the rent while following that dream. Some of the more interesting jobs he took were as an elevator operator at Seattle’s famed Space Needle, an apartment building manager, a customer service rep at Amazon.com, and a busboy at the Scooby Doo Café.
Maybe it was his stint with Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, Freddy, and Velma that sparked a flame, or maybe it was his job selling wine at Costco Continue Reading…