Friday, October 23, 2015
I don't know about you, but I cannot believe that it is already October (pumpkin spice ramos gin fizzes, anyone? Anyone?). I've been rushing around working on a bunch of articles for other publications, which is why you haven't seen as much on here lately. This fall has brought a flurry of exciting openings, not to mention the annual Eater Cocktail Week (it was my third year contributing to it, if you can believe it).
If you read my Eater articles this month (including some Hawaii tips), you might have seen a few of our shots from our photo session with Anthony Parks, who is newly stationed as bar manager of Mourad (read more about it here). Mourad—which was awarded its first Michelin star Wednesday after less than a year of opening—is a gorgeous, modern space, and Anthony's new drinks are just as elegant. So I'd thought I'd share the rest of our photos. Take a look!
Anthony pours out the new cocktail flight—2.5-oz servings of three different cocktails on the menu for $27.
Making saffron vodka.
Umami and Mint - One of my favorite cocktails on the menu. It's a savory, yet refreshing, blend of Blanco tequila, lemon juice, toasted sesame oil, raw agave, cucumber, and mint. It'll remind you favorably of Korean food, specifically zhajiamian (chewy noodles with black bean sauce, cucumber, and sesame oil). I know it sounds weird, but trust me.
Anthony sprays pipe tobacco moonshine over the Coffee & Clove. The drink is made from the ever so popular Japanese blended whisky (Nikka Coffey Whisky), fino sherry, creole shrub, and clove tincture.
Carrot & Spice comes with everything nice: VSOP cognac, cynar (artichoke amaro), carrot juice, lemon juice, coriander nectar, and egg whites.
140 New Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
We didn't set out to try cocktails in Florence, but we weren't about to pass up an opportunity. The guys at Ditta Artigianali raved about Fusion, and especially a guy named Marco. After a brief stroll on the river, Noelle and I made our way to Fusion Bar and Restaurant at the Gallery Hotel Art.
It's a bit surreal to walk into the hotel. You're immediately bombarded with enormous portraits of American celebrities and a luxury interior. As you enter the restaurant, you find yourself in a nice Asian fusion restaurant with hip jazz music playing. Not what you expect in a medieval city, to say the least.
We arrived early, so it was entirely empty. Over time, though, people began to trickle in. Australians, Americans, and lots of Italians of course. It was never loud, and felt like any luxury hotel bar should feel: easy, relaxed, and comfy.
Marco is an absolute beast behind the bar. Watching this guy move is mesmerizing. He's got a kind of natural flair to his movements that you don't see very often. Each motion seems choreographed, but without appearing ostentatious. The casual drinker probably wouldn't even notice.
He's more than just moves, too. His execution is spot on. His stirred drinks were never too watery or too boozy, and his shaken drinks were perfectly frothy. Even as orders came pouring in, he never lost his composure. He knocked out drink after drink and still had time to chat with us without breaking a sweat.
Fusion Bar, he explained, is a rarity in Florence. Most Italians aren't used to drinking in hotel bars, he said, and those who did were used to Aperol Spritzes.
Despite the craft part of this craft cocktail bar, lots of Aperol Spritzes still went out.
But Fusion had been around for over a decade, and in that time they'd built up a huge fan base who appreciated the bar's craft approach to cocktails. They were doing fresh juices before it was even catching on in the States.
Marco himself was trained as an architect, but his deep love of cocktails put him in a bind. Should he do two things acceptably, or excel at one thing? He chose the latter, and fifteen years later his mastery is apparent.
I had an Americano twist, something Marco recommended for a warm afternoon in Florence. Instead of Campari, he used Cynar. This helped dry the cocktail out a good deal, and the lemon lingered long after swallowing. Like many Italian cocktails we tried, this was sweeter than the American cocktail drinker would normally experience, but it was by no means cloying. All in all, perfectly executed and delicious.
We ended with a drink Marco made for a perfume launch party. The perfume was heavily scented with grapefruit and rosemary, so the cocktail matched it by using both a grapefruit infused vodka and a rosemary infused vodka. It was sweetened with a rosemary simple syrup. This drink was dry for the Italian palate, but absolutely perfect for the American palate. Just sweet enough to bring out the rosemary and cut the bitterness of the grapefruit, but one would never call it sweet.
As usual in Italy, Fusion serves snacks with cocktails. They change every day and fit in with the Japanese theme of the restaurant. We had some edamame and kappa maki.
Fusion Bar and Restaurant
Vicolo dell'Oro, 3, 50123 Firenze, Italy
+39 055 2726 6987
Snack: every day, 12.30 - 15.00
Dinner: every day, 19.30 to 23.00.
Cocktail bar: every day, 15.00 to 00.00
Thursday, August 13, 2015
I imagine that it is within every reasonable person's fantasy to sidle up to a long wooden bar, lean over to the bartender, and whisper hoarsely, "I'll have the secret bird menu." Because honestly: 1) Secrets! 2) Birds. 3) Cocktails. I don't see much not to love here.
Well, it's your lucky day because this can be you, too. Bar manager Dominic Alling offers this illustrated Field Guide to the Birds menu at the much-loved San Francisco restaurant and bar Beretta (which I wrote about a little while ago for Eater). This selection of 11 drinks is not advertised, but if you ask for it in a low, sly voice (OK, maybe not that part), the bartenders are happy to share it with you.
Just what are you getting yourself into? We took a few pictures to tide you over until you can visit yourself:
[Spoiler alert: Dominic does in fact serve something called a Fernet Branca Jelly. You're welcome, San Francisco. See the last photo.]
Dominic's menu celebrates every detail including this leather-bound menu. Each drink features elegant, intricate bird drawings, illustrated by former Beretta host Melissa Getman.
Dominic (shown below) thought the additional menu was a nice way to introduce some new cocktails without removing some of the popular drinks already on the menu, which have over time become hallmarks for Beretta.
Sage Sparrow. Mint-flavored mezcal, lemon, creme de menthe, velvet falernum, egg white.
Kiskade. Tequilla, lemon, vanilla almond milk, cinnamon, and toasted fennel.
California Thrasher. Rum, bacanora, olorosso sherry, chocolate barley, bitters.
Strange Weaver. Gin, rum, lemon, Campari, Cocchi di Torino, orgeat foam.
Siamese Fireback. Rum, lime, ginger, banana, prosecco.
Bohemian Waxwing. Gin, lemon, Campari, aloe, egg white, rose.
Magnificent Hummingbird. Pisco, popcorn, lemon, candied sour apple syrup.
And, yes, the perfect SF menu item:
Fernet Branca Jelly. Made into a silky solid and served in ginger syrup with orange zest. SF, you are ready for this jelly. (Hashtag obligatory Beyonce reference.)
1199 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Star chef Dominique Crenn opens her highly anticipated sophomore restaurant, Petit Crenn, tonight in Hayes Valley. Unlike her other avant garde two-Michelin restaurant Atelier Crenn in the Marina, Petit Crenn will focus on dishes from Crenn's home in Brittany. This means the kitchen will serve up mostly vegetables and seafood, using local California produce with French techniques inspired by her mother and grandmother's cooking.
There are no cocktails at this cozy new spot, but the menu will feature a curation of French and local ciders, as well as natural wines from France. You can see the menu here and here.
More photos from the media preview:
609 Hayes St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Thursday, July 30, 2015
I went to Florence because it was the birthplace of the Renaissance. I wanted to see Brunelleschi's famous and world-changing dome. I wanted to walk the medieval streets and take in some art. But then I stumbled on Ditta Artigianale: a coffee roaster and, for some reason, an epic gin bar. Sorry, Michelangelo's David, I've got some gin to imbibe.
The funny thing about Ditta Artigianale is that, on the surface, it seems like any speciality coffee place in San Francisco or Austin. They roast their own beans and sling pour overs—the works of which you'd find at any self-respecting hipster coffee shop in the States.
And while we might find that every three blocks in San Francisco or Austin, it's extremely rare in Italy. In fact, it's the only one we saw in the 12 days we spent in the country.
From the outside, the place reminded both me and Noelle of our favorite coffee shops back home, so we rolled in primarily for espresso. It was bustling and smelled delicious, full of coffee accoutrements, and staffed by know-it-all but friendly baristas—just how we like it in the States.
We ordered our espresso and took a look around. The usual hipster markers laid in place: a turntable, big open windows, community advertisements pinned to the walls, and shiny, glass Hario coffee accessories for sale on wall shelves. The wooden seats were crowded with people sipping artisan coffee and chatting.
That's when we noticed the gin.
And oh, such gin. Entire shelves of gin. Gin from America, from Italy. Gin from France and England. The shelves were laden with labels that are not currently distributed in our parts of the States.
It was a bit early for alcohol, but when in Florence, right? We awkwardly approached the barista and asked about the gins. Surprisingly, the fellow was more than willing to recommend his favorite gins and even pour us a few samples.
This Old English Gin by Hammer and Son was more than your average gin. It tasted of a perfect, text book London gin: heavy juniper, good bite, tiny bit of citrus, and of course delicious.
G'vine is a French gin (that a French producer would create what's classically British? Miracles!), and the cute name comes from what the liquor is made of: grape spirits. The result is a more viscous gin, which can be off-putting if you're used to a London Dry. It might give you the illusion that the gin is sweet, even if it's not. Just give yourself time to get used to. It's worth it.
Drink more gin, indeed.
It seems the shop was just as proud of their gin collection as they were of their coffee. It makes sense, too, why shouldn't coffee people also be booze people? This coffee shop / bar showed us the potential of such combinations in the states. It is easy to imagine that the place is packed from open to close, the crowds gradually shifting from morning coffee drinkers to evening G&T sippers.
The entire gin list.
On the way out, the barista recommended we try Fusion, Florence's one and only craft cocktail bar. Check that out in a future post coming soon.
Via Neri, 32R Firenze, Italy.
8am-2pm from Monday to Thursday