With only two weeks left in San Francisco, Noelle and I decided to check out one more bartender on Don Lee's list: "Erik at Slanted Door." Some time ago, we went to the Slanted Door, only to find that Erik had left, and was now doing the cocktail program at Heaven's Dog. We were told the Dog was in Oakland, which neither Noelle nor I were particularly excited about. As we explored other bars in the city and talked to other bartenders about places to go, the Dog was always mentioned. Last week, when Noelle had the bright idea to actually check where it was, we were pleasantly (kind of?) surprised to see that was actually in SOMA, right smack in the middle of the city! So last night, we decided to go.
To be frank, we weren't expecting much, as we've realized most of the people on Don's list are now in management, and thus no longer mixing drinks. The Dog was pretty crowded, but we headed down to the end of the bar, where servers usually congregate and drinks get trayed and shipped off to tables. Usually this bit of real estate is jealously guarded by the wait staff, so when a giant man walked up to us, looking not unlike a bouncer, I got a bit worried. Don't judge a book, I guess; he turned out to be one of nicest guys we've ever met, let alone met at a bar. He asked us what we wanted, gave us some suggestions, and handed our order off to one of the bartenders. We both got items off the menu at first. Both drinks were highly spiritous. That's usually an early indicator of a pretty damn good cocktail program; the higher the proof, the better the recipe.
I went for a Remember the Maine: Rye Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Cherry Brandy, Absinthe, Bitters. This drink comes from Charles H Baker's The Gentleman's Companion, and was excellently crafted, apart from being a just bit too heavy on the absinthe for my taste.
Noelle opted for a Bittered Sling: Armangac, sugar, water, bitters and nutmeg. I'm not sure the origins of this drink, but it is very, very tasty. It warms you all the way down, that's for sure. The nutmeg was a really great addition, though I think nutmeg bitters would be a better addition, since that may be preferable granules of nutmeg in the drink. Otherwise, it was an excellent way to put the armangac through its paces.
In case you're wondering, yes, that's one giant chunk of ice. It's quite clear, even if it doesn't come through in the picture. They use a rather ingenious method of making the ice clear, but it's top secret!
When we got the drinks, the man who took our order came back to ask how they were. After hearing that Noelle - who is all of 90 pounds and, as an tiny Asian girl, probably shouldn't be drinking so much liquor in such a concentrated amount - liked her drink, he admitted that he was a bit worried about recommending such a strong drink to such a small girl. We laughed about it, then we chatted about how cocktail culture is really spreading, and 21 year olds today are drinking much better than he drank at that age. He told us that when he started getting into the scene, there were only a handful of places to go. "I would go to New York and hit a couple of bars, and when I would tell my friends, they had no idea what I was talking about." He gave his card, and o the joy! his name was Erik.
Although he didn't mix for us last night, we asked if we could come back to see him. So, be ready for another post on Monday!
One more note: I absolutely cannot say enough about the customer service at Heaven's Dog. Each bartender had every aspect of their craft down to a T. Gary Regan could have written The Joy of Mixology from watching these guys. They're all pros, they're incredibly nice, and they won't be there too much longer, so GO! Go now!