Wednesday, September 26, 2012
I have a rule about cocktails: anything over $13 is going to suck. I have a similar rule about spirits: anything over $20 probably isn't worth it.
After reading about LA's "luxury whisky bar" £10, I think I'm making a new rule: anything with a five-digit price tag is just stupid. Granted, I haven't tried the 64 year old, Sherry oak aged Macallan Scotch that fetches $64,000 per pour, so I may owe £10, and Macallan, an apology. Until our little blog finds a patron to sponsor a pour of that nonsense, I'm sticking with my $11 San Francisco cocktails, thanks.
PS: Note the Cocktail Kingdom barware in the article's picture. I have that at home. Not so luxury now, LA.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
A warm summer’s day. A cold winter’s night. Spicy food. Seafood. Chinese. Dessert. What can’t you pair with some nice rieslings? So we were very excited to try Chateau Ste. Michelle’s rieslings—a beautiful trio of dry riesling, riesling, and sweet.
The winery was good enough to send us a box of the wines to try, and it was a sight to behold when we carefully opened up the box to see the three bottles for the first time. What better way to enjoy these wines, we realized, was with good friends and good food? And so we thought it was a great occasion to have a riesling party.
Rieslings are celebrated as an extremely versatile wine that is easy to pay with a wide range of flavors. In light of that, each of our friends brought over one type of food that we thought would be fun to pair with the rieslings. Common suggestions for the sweet white wine often include the likes of spicy thai food, sweet desserts, salads, and pork. But we thought we’d eschew these common suspects and try different types of every day food to see which flavor paired with each wine.
Here are the results of our tasting:
The wine: Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling
The taste: Partiers noted vanilla, pear, and apricot flavors. The light drink was lovely way to ease into the meal on a hot summers day.
Most successfully paired with: Salmon, salami.
The wine: Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling
The taste: A bolder, more buttery, low-acid riesling that was citrusy and sweet. Great as a table wine and main course accompaniment.
Most successfully paired with: Spicy hummus, pickled garlic, bleu-cheese-stuffed olives, quiche.
The wine: Chateau Ste Michelle Harvest Select Sweet Riesling
The taste: The sweetest of the trio and the richest, though in the grand scheme of rieslings, it still ranked as medium sweet, making it a great main-course accompaniment. The flavors were warm, like peaches, and fresh, like we were sitting in the vineyard.
Most successfully paired with: Dubliners Irish Cheese, brie, black pepper chicken pate.
The verdict: The Chateau Ste Michelle rieslings are nice wines to have on-hand at home to accompany with your dinners or to cool down on a summer day. Despite their name, most of them sit in the mid-sweet range, making it accessible for many.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Here were the yummy cocktails featured today:
Savannah Planters Punch
A fruity and refreshing cocktail served over a beautiful bed of crushed ice. This is the dream of a drink you'd love to drink poolside—or at least when you're sitting at a bar wishing you were poolside. The delicate hearted, beware! The drink goes down easy, but it's backed with ironside Smith and Cross rum (114 proof, kids!). Appleton V/X, Delord Armangnac, Smith and Cross, pineapple, lime, Angostura bitters.
Son of a Gun
A bright but also warm and spicy cocktail, thanks to a heavy dash of angostura bitters (enough to make the drink burn dark pink!). Appleton V/X, Angostura Bitters, Lime, Orgeat.
Will P. Taylor Hotel Nacional Special
Another vibrant cocktail, almost creamy from the pineapple gum, brand, and egg whites, despite the absence of any dairy. It's like drinking summer clouds. Appleton V/X, lime, pineapple gum, apricot brandy, Angostura bitters.
Happy summer, all!
Saturday, April 21, 2012
The decor is perfect. Big reminds me some of Chicago's Violet Hour, since both strategically use heavy, velvet curtains to absorb both noise and light. The result is a cool, quiet atmosphere in which you can actually talk to your companions.
It's got a very living room feel.
The drinks are incredibly fresh and very citrus forward. The bartender has come up with some pretty interesting concoctions, such as a nice smoked gin. They carry Rusty Blade Gin, a barrel aged gin that I'd be interested in trying side-by-side with Ransom. Both the smoked gin (homemade) and the Rusty Blade made darn fine, slow-sipping cocktails.
This was a nice number using Gin, lime, shiso, cucumber, and green Chartreuse.
This was whiskey, maple, lemon, and smoked olive oil.
The wait was quite long for us, so bring only a few companions and your patience. Big isn't the place to go if you're in a rush or if you want to get blitzed before your night out on the town. If, on the other hand, you have a friend in town and you want to give them the quintessential San Francisco experience, stop by for a drink.
In the interest of impartiality and fairness to the reader, I should mention that the drinks are $14 a pop, which, to me, seems a bit steep. Nevertheless, it's worth at least a try, especially for the atmosphere.
Big is on Post between Jones and Leavenworth, right across from Farm Table. If the light is on outside, you're good to go. If not, you're out of luck.
761 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Open: Tue-Sat 6 pm - 2 am
Monday, March 26, 2012
It really can't be said that San Francisco doesn't have seasons.
Sure, the city's east cost counterparts boast the full blusters of winter and dramatic fall displays of color and leaves. And even Midwest cities, like Chicago and Minneapolis, may claim seasons intense enough to freeze your tears and melt your skin and all of the earned bragging rights in leathered character.
But thin-skinned and soft-hearted San Franciscans may be, it cannot be said that the City on the Bay does not have seasons. You really only have to look to what San Francisco devotes so much of its pomp and circumstance: the food. In city that puts events like farmers markets at centerstage, eating with the seasons is an important part of San Francisco living. Home cooks and professional chefs kow-tow to fresh catches and seasonal harvests.
AQ Restaurant is the perfect example of this. The restaurant, which just opened in November to a flurry of accolades (including a nomination for the James Beard Award's best new restaurant), changes every aspect of its service with the seasons. The interior changes from the warm colors of fall to stark winter white. The staff rotates its garb from flannels to pressed whites. And, of course, the food and drinks shift every season to reflect the particular season's bounty.
If the concept sounds quaint, it is. But it avoids becoming gimmicky simply because, well, the cocktails are good.What's cool is that many of AQ's cocktails give a strong nod to the classics. In fact, a whole section of the drink menu is devoted to "seasonal classics," common drinks that are tweaked here and there to make it the restaurant's own.
AQ also features some of its own drinks, too. They're not cocktails you'll necessarily find in the gentlemen's companion—but they were definitely delicious enough to make up a modern cocktail book!
We went to AQ during its winter menu. I was particularly pleased with my Manhattan, which featured orange-peel-infused bourbon, sweet vermouth, winter bitters, and angostura bitters. It was a really lovely spicy take on the old classic. It managed to taste enough like the original but took on its own distinct mood—kind of like visiting the same place at different times of day.
Next I ordered a New Amsterdam Variant #2: raisin-infused bols genever gin, maple syrup, old fashioned bitters, topped with apple cider. It was a sweet drink that ran thick with the maple syrup. The taste of raisins and cider tasted familiar and made me feel warm on a cold winter's night. Completely appropriate drink for fall (apple season!), as well.
The drink somehow become reminiscent of raisins and of hot cider. It was the perfect spice to warm my insides on a cold winter's night.
Josh asked the bartender for a recommendation on a scotch drink, and she whipped up a super tasty Bobby Burns—a deep and smoky drink that usually includes scotch, vermouth, and Bendictine.
Our companion Kasey, on the other hand, ordered a Bison Rose, and it came in this really cool cup! (Standby for low-quality pictures in a dark, dark bar.)
Overall, we were most impressed by the drinks featured on the menu (opposed to ones whipped up off-menu), and the bar takes a really fresh take on well-loved cocktails. Drinks were really well-balanced and very accessible for food-minded folks looking for deep flavors in their cocktails. These are California cocktails at their best!
[For the interested, here are dark, dramatic photos of the AQ winter cocktail menu, which has since been swapped out for the spring menu.]
AQ Restaurant & Bar
1085 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94103 415) 341-9000
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Trevor Easter, over at Heaven's Dog, introduced me to Leopold's. He explained the totally bad ass origins of the "Navy Strength" category. In a nutshell, one deck of Navy ships was set aside for gunpowder–unless a liquid was over a certain proof, it was not allowed on this deck at all, since if it leaked, it would ruin the gunpowder. A liquor of high enough proof, however, would still ignite. Thus, Navy Strength, which weighs in at a whopping 57% ABV, or 114 proof.
You may think that Navy Strength gin would be unwieldy, but Trevor (the viking in the picture below) made me the best gin-forward drink I've ever had. Ever. Essentially, it's a gin old fashioned using gum syrup (not simple) and a tiny splash of angostura.
I know I could not replicate this drink at home. Crafting such a simple drink requires technical mastery. This is one of the reasons Trevor is one of my top three favorite bartenders in the city–he's a big geek. In a good way. I mean, the guy has an infrared thermometer behind his bar with which he checks a drink's temperature. Every tool he uses is chilled. Each piece of ice is selected and modified to fit the drink.
In other words, this is much more than a simple gin old fashioned. I'd put this on my list of cocktails I could drink forever.
I should also warn you, reader, that this drink, and this gin, isn't for people who like gin. It's for people who love gin.
1148 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Saturday, February 25, 2012
The list is finally out! Every year, the James Beard Foundation recognizes excellence in the food industry. But this year, this is an exiting new addition: This is the first year the James Beard Foundation is recognizing outstanding bar programs. Campari is sponsoring the new award category, which recognizes excellence in wine, spirits, and beer.
I should pause and note that this picture is actually somewhat significant.
Friday, February 24, 2012
In other words, the bar will serve lots of New Orleans style stirred drinks. We asked to sample and a few drinks of that style, and, holy moly, are we excited for this place to open up.
De La Louisiane
3/4 ounce Rye, Sweet Vermouth, and Benedictine
Stir stir stir, garnish with Luxardo Cherry.
I loved this drink. It was quite rich, syrupy and sweet as it first hits your tongue. Once the benedictine passes, though, the herbs from the vermouth and absinthe kick in, leaving a strong finish of rye and a lingering taste of herbs. This is a very rich, slow drink. Order it if you want to sit and enjoy the conversation for awhile, not if you're in a rush. It's best enjoyed slowly.
Erik described the Dixie cocktail as essentially a whiskey cocktail but with the addition of creme de menthe. This creme de menthe:
This drink really took us by surprise. It was lighter in texture and slightly brighter than the De La Louisiane but no less flavorful. Look how beautiful this drink is, especially with the perfect piece of ice:
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Learning about Charles Phan's and Erik Adkin's new Embarcadero restaurant had the curious effect of making Josh and me very excited and very thirsty. And so we found ourselves, only moments later, dashing down to The Slanted Door, one of Mr. Phan's and Mr. Adkin's tried, true, and institutionalized restaurants in the Ferry Building. After all, we wanted to end the three-day weekend on a celebratory mood.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Holy moly! San Francisco cocktail world, rejoice! We're about to witness a supernova.
Earlier I had mentioned that the super fantastic Erik Adkins was stepping back from managing the cocktail menu at Heaven's Dog to usher in the super talented Trevor, formerly of Rickhouse. And now I'm wondering whether it has anything to do with this happy piece of news: Charles Phan (famous proprietor of Slanted Door, Wu Hing General Store, Out the Door, and Heaven's Dog) is opening a new spot on Pier 3 on The Embarcadero—and the restaurant and its food are all centered around Erik's drinks, as Eater SF reports!
Details are few, but the restaurant is set to feature Creole food to compliment a "creative seasonal cocktail program," describes Eater SF.
I could not be more excited.
One of the distinguishing marks of San Francisco cocktail culture is that much of it is invested in food establishments. Restaurants, it seems, have an easier time acquiring liquor licenses or taking over places that already have them, and so you have a frequent interplay between food and cocktails. But I am incredibly excited to see what happens when cocktails take centerstage, and the food follows—and led by one of the most awesome bartenders.
It's going to be a great year for cocktails.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Josh and I have been going to the SOMA spot ever since it opened in 2009. Opened by Charles Phan of Slanted Door fame, the restaurant features some kind of Chinese American fare—fancy xiaolongbao, onion pancakes, spicy dumplings, and other “high-end” stir-frys. But what keeps us coming back are the cocktails. Originally managed by the incredible Erik Adkins—who is not only super talented but also the nicest guy in the world—the cocktails always took on his attention to detail, refined classics with high-quality ingredients. We recently learned that Trevor, former bar manager of Rickhouse, has since moved over to Heaven’s Dog, which is great since Rickhouse is another city favorite.
We noticed that Trevor had made a new cocktail menu. Looks yum!
I started with a Nothing But the Brave, a stiff cocktail featuring armagnac, lemon juice, All Spice, and Ginger.
And Josh had the Oaxacan Firing Squad. The drink really became the star of the night, with its savory, smokey mix of Mezcal, lime, Small Hands grenadine, and angostura. Delicious! (Sorry for the dim photo—the place was so dark at first.)
We ended our happy our by splitting a Yankee Clipper, a crisp way to end our happy hour with Beefeater gin, carpano antica, Luxardo, orange bitters, and absinthe.
1148 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94103