Thursday, January 31, 2013

Happy Brandy Alexander Day!

Today is apparently Brandy Alexander Day, the day we celebrate the early 20th-century cocktail made from a creamy mix of brandy, cognac, and creme de cacao. As our virtual cheers to you, check out this neat infographic about the drink and its history from "Hire the Barman." (notably, it misspells "preparation"—perhaps there were one too many Brandy Alexanders in there. :-).


Monday, January 28, 2013

Unnecessary awesomeness: Ice Spheres

How deep into cocktails are you?

If you had to pause to consider, then you're already down the rabbit hole. Why not go a little farther? When you venture deeper into cocktail-land, you can sip spirits out of glasses filled with giant spheres of ice––in the comfort of your own home. Even in cocktail-land, though, you just can't escape hipsters taking pictures with their iPhones:


These ice presses have been on the market for awhile, but they've only just become less laughably expensive. You can now buy them online for a few hundred bucks, as opposed to a few thousand. They're made of big chunks of aluminum, so they dissipate heat alarmingly fast. In less than a minute, you get a beautiful orb.


The handy-dandy tongs (included) pull out the ice. These spheres aren't just for looks, believe it or not. They keep your spirits colder while minimizing dilution, so you can even use them twice.


Of course this is a ridiculous device. But, but, it is pretty cool.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cold Day Remedy: Hot Buttered Rhum Cider from The Slanted Door

Man, the cold front really hit San Francisco hard last week. Temperatures dove down to the 30s and sent me diving for my gloves, scarves, and heavy coats. Luckily, one of my very favorite cold-day cocktails is still in town: Hot Buttered Rhum Cider at the gorgeous Slanted Door in the Ferry Building on the Bay.

The Ferry Building was in full glory that night. It was empty, mostly—the cold had probably driven everyone away.

Ferry Building on a Friday Night

We sidled up to the bar, and I quickly ordered my Hot Buttered Rhum Cider. Jennifer, the bartender, slid the steaming drink across. Straus compound butter, rhum, hot cider, with a cinnamon stick and clove? Oh, glory. I've become accustomed to finding the drink on the menu during Christmastime, and when holiday lights come out, I now look forward to warming my hands around a cup of the stuff. Given the cold night, I was so happy that the drink was still on the menu. It warms you up real quick.


Josh had a Green Point, a Manhattan variation of rye, yellow chartreuse, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters, and orange bitters, which Jennifer just killed. The chartreuse adds an herbaceous quality to the classic. So delicious.


And then we ended the night with Capsaicin Rum and Honey—a warm riff on the old fashioned. Perfectly viscous over a large, pure, perfectly clear block of ice.


Even Ricardo, one of the bar backs/bartenders, came over to admire the ice. "Now that's a good one," he said, smiling.  He and his brothers help the Slanted Door create the ice during the day—difficult work that produces amazing ice that's cold, dense, and slower melting. We lifted the glass to peer at it in light, and it was so completely airless that we could barely even make out that it was there.

We had to keep our drinks company with something—so we decided to order a chocolate soufflĂ© cake. And what a good idea that it was! It was soft, dense, and not too sweet.


I suppose there is always a silver lining to these cold days!

The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 861-8032

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Yummy Specials to Celebrate The Ice Cream Bar's 1-Year Anniversary This Week


One of the nation's only authentic 1930s-style soda jerk fountain and lunch counter, The Ice Cream Bar, turns 1 this week, and to celebrate, the Cole Valley shop is offering specials all week.
  • Tuesday, Jan 22 - buy a Russell's Sassafras Root Beer and get one free.
  • Wednesday, Jan 23 - buy any size scoop and get a free topping.
  • Thursday, Jan 24 - buy a hot chocolate or hot butterscotch and get one free.
  • Friday, Jan 25 - buy an angostura phosphate and get one free.
Josh and I have frequented the fountain since it opened—it's one of our favorite places to take out-of-towners (or is it just another excuse for us to go again?). But the history of The Ice Cream Bar started long before.


For the uninitiated, The Ice Cream Bar is an immersive lesson in history. The fountain itself is a real artifact from the 30s, found in and driven from the fountain's original location in Mackinaw City, Mich. When it came to making the drinks (our favorite part!), owner Juliet Pries called on the help of Russell Davis (winner of Nightclub & Bar's Bartender of the Year award, previously seen around San Francisco at Rickhouse and now at Rio Grande).

Russell, a fun-loving, born-and-bred Texan, who makes drinks with flair (literally and figuratively) took the task seriously, delving deep into bowels of fountain history. Soda jerk history is not terribly well-written about, and so he not only consulted the de facto authority on soda jerks, Darcy O'Neil's book Fix the Pumps, but also embarked on a quest for primary sources. This search led him to the depths of libraries and, eventually, to a collector of all collectors in Martinez, Calif. This committed curator of a wide variety of things owned orignal soda jerk fixtures—including unopened acids and phosphates, made radioactive by the early overzealous soda jerks who believed that exposing the ingredients to uranium would impart healing properties into the drinks (The Ice Cream Bar is not authentic to history in this way). This collector was not necessary a student of soda fountain history, but he allowed Russell to connect the dots for the bar—and buy a bunch of working equipment from the period, too.

The result is a splendid drink menu that borrows from days of yore and modern mixology.

Ice Cream Bar SF Menu

All of the ingredients are housemade, including a wide range of tinctures and extracts (such as anise, thyme, molasses, ginger, sarsaparilla, bitter orange, rosemary, lime, and tobacco), syrups, and ice creams.

Ice Cream Bar SF tinctures
They also make use of traditional soda acids that keep the cream from curdling and impart a dry or citrusy flavor to the sodas.


Soda jerks wear classic garb.


Though the original menu was all non-alcoholic, Russell recently added a new selection of "remedies"—drinks with a light kick of ports, bitters, wines, and beers. Check out the menu:


"The cool thing about it is that many of these drinks don't have alcohol in them," Russell said tonight. "It makes you think differently about them."

Josh and I have been to the Ice Cream Bar often enough over the past year to try everything on the menu. We highly recommend:

...the milkshake Too Good to Be True (rye-based butterscotch syrup, eggs, malted cream, blackstrap molasses). It's a rich, caramel, butterscotch delight.

Ice Cream Bar SF: Too Good to be True

...and the lactart Stalk in the Park (celery seed extract, fountain syrup, cream, lactart, soda, celery stalk, fresh mint), which is refreshing, light, airy, though also creamy.


Tonight, in particular, we indulged in the...

...the lactart Ode to Mr. O'Neil (chocolate syrup, lactart, and double-charged soda). It's the perfect drink for someone like me, who loves chocolate when it is dry and not too sweet or rich.


...and the Hamilton (fresh lemon, a spoonful of ice cream, malt, fountain syrup, and soda). Also light and airy, like a pleasantly carbonated lemonade with malt.

Ice Cream Bar SF: The Hamilton

For lovers of classics, we guarantee that you will order the best root beer float of your life.

Since we've been to Ice Cream Bar so many times, feel free to browse this slideshow of photos from the shop.

The Ice Cream Bar
815 Cole St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 742-4932

Monday, January 21, 2013

Where to Drink: Lots of meat, lots of booze at Lolinda

At Lolinda, nothing happens in moderation. If you order food, expect a huge chunk of meat to arrive at your table. If you order a cocktail, expect to order at least three more––they're that good. Recently, Chris Lane—who has previously been spotted at watering holes like Tradition, Wo Hing, and Heaven's Dog—took over as bar manager and incorporated some new drinks (or, in the case of the Devil's Backbone, old favorites) into the menu.

Lolinda is gorgeous—a great place for a spirited date night or party (in fact, the whole upstairs was reserved for a private party that night, so it is possible to do that).  Noelle thinks it reminds her of a modern castle's banquet hall with the vaulted ceilings, long tables, and large, round chandelier-like lights.


This weekend, some of us headed over to visit Chris Lane and enjoy some drinks. Chris was busy, but we got to meet a few new bartenders.


Every drink we had––an embarrassing number––was delicious. The drinks here are strong, bold, and rich with flavor, no doubt to stand up to the big cuts of meat on the menu. Without further ado, here they are:

Oaxacan Cross  mezcal, port, lime, pineapple, ginger, maraschino. A mezcal-driven, citrusy cocktail.


Carpenter's Hand brandy, sherry, Drambuie, The Drambuie and the brandy give this drink a nice sweetness, balanced by the sherry's herbaceousness


Cloak and Dagger  tequila, Cynar, apricot. I love bitter tequila drinks. This one knocks it out of the park. The abricot adds a nice bit of fruit on the finish.


Lone Palm – house spiced rum, lime, grapefruit, honey, The rum, citrus, and honey balance together to make this drink refreshing and but still interesting and spicy.


Devil's Backbone – rye, islay scotch, Averna, Gran Classico.


All the above drinks were delicious, but the Devil's Backbone was truly remarkable. It's deep and rich, a slow drink with a complexity that will keep pulling you in to explore its flavors.


If you'd like to make it down to Lolinda for yourself one day (which you should!), check out their wide ranging menu before you make it down.


2518 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 550-6970

Monday, January 14, 2013

Drink of the Season: Hot Chocolate and Chartreuse

It's winter in San Francisco, which basically means it's summer in San Francisco with shorter days. This season, many San Franciscans are warming their spirits with a mixture of hot chocolate and Chartreuse. If you haven't imbibed this drink, then your winter is far colder than it needs to be. Go to one of these places to find it:

AQ - CHARTREUSE HOT CHOCOLATE: house made hot chocolate with marshmallows
1085 Mission Street

199 Gough Street

Or you can make it at home, like I did:


I used Mexican hot chocolate. Add 3/4 to 1 oz of Green Chartreuse, garnish with nutmeg. Simple, easy, tasty.

1085 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 341-9000

Rich Table
199 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 355-9085

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Where to Drink: Opening Week at Trick Dog [pictures]

Trick Dog SF

It might be because the bar project has been three years in the making (that’s four human babies). Or perhaps because the bar brings some heavy design swag, even integrating Pantone colors into the menu. Or it could even be because the backers, the Bon Vivants, are among the darlings of the San Francisco bar scene. Whatever the case, Trick Dog has been one of the most anticipated bar openings this year—and it finally opened last week.

So Josh and I went there earlier this week to check it out—it’s a cool place! Nestled into the industrial border between Potrero Hill and the Mission, the two-storey spot attracted a small crowd of enthusiasts. Everything about the space is intentional—the latticed light bulbs, the stained floors, the elaborate light fixtures along the walls, and the namesake perched in an unassuming corner (a coin bank), to name a few. The bar offers a great addition to the small collection of watering holes in that part of town, like the Homestead and Dear Mom. It’s perfect for a lively nightcap (or starter!) before nearby Flour + Water, Central Kitchen, and Salumeria. Or a general night of food, friends, drinks, and fun.

Here are pictures of the new spot:

The outside of Trick Dog is clean and unassuming. Don't miss it! Inside, good times await.

Trick Dog Exterior

The bar—a bit brighter and emptier than usual, since I took this picture after last call. You can see the second floor of seating where you can sit at tables and eat above the bar.

Trick Dog: The bar

If you look closely, the design of the bar contains many details, like these wall lights.

Trick Dog: Light Fixtures

The bar staff measures drinks carefully with these neat custom beaker-like jiggers.

Trick Dog SF

There are also special beakers for stirring (see the vessel on the right)—a split from the Japanese Yarai mixing glasses that are so popular right now.


Peter makes drinks like a boss. What a pro!

Trick Dog SF

The drink menu at Trick Dog is designed like the classic Pantone color guide (the definitive folks for color and design), using the same fan booklet format. They even cite colors by number (which is how Pantone labels the colors) and then match it in the cocktail.

Trick Dog drink dog menu is like the Pantone color guide

I tried the Gypsy Tan (aka orange/2808), which contains Rittenhouse 100 rye, Mandarine Napoleon orange liqueur, Fernet Blanca, ginger, lemon, Erdinger Weissbier, and nutmeg. It's served long in a collins glass over ice.

Trick Dog SF: Gypsy Tan

Josh tried the Baby Turtle (Ocho tequila, Campari, grapefruit, cinnamon, lime, and egg white).


We also sampled the St Elmo's Fire — Denizen white rum, Amaro Averna, pineapple, coconut vinegar, all spice, and lime. It's served in a old fashioned glass on the rocks.


We finished off with a Witchwood (2803) — Torres ten-year brandy, Pampero Aniversario rum, Manzilla sherry, Pedro Ximenez sherry, Ron Miel honey rum, and Alhambra bitters. Served up. It's a great night cap for a cold evening—warm, dark, and rich, like cherries and stone fruit.


On a second research trip, I also got to try an Amaro and Moxie. Moxie is apparently one of the original sodas. It's much less syrupy and cloying than, say, a rum and Coke. A happy alternative.


For the hungry, there is also food. The front of the menu bears the bar's namesake—a coin box. The real thing actually sits in a corner above the bar.

Trick Dog food menu front & namesake

The food is not your typical bar food either. There are some unusual gems like the Sweetie McNuggets (sweetbreads dredged and fried) and the Fernet ice cream.


Three cheers for Trick Dog.

For more pictures you can go to our Flickr.

Trick Dog
3010 20th St.
(between Alabama Street and Florida Street)
San Francisco, CA 94110

Monday, January 7, 2013

Highlights from the Independent Spirits Expo in San Francisco [VIDEO]

Back in November, Josh and I were lucky enough to be invited to the Indie Spirits Expo in San Francisco by our friend Rick (of Cocktail Go-Go fame). Every year, the expo goes to a handful of cities across the country and brings together brand owners, importers, and artesian small batch distillers, often rare, for the public to go in, taste, and learn more. As you might imagine, it took a lot of arm twisting and hemming and hawing to convince us to go (not), and so we headed down to the Castro at the Swedish American Hall to check it out.

Josh and I are getting a lot more into video these days (stay tuned for exciting projects to come!), and so we made a short video to show you what the expo was like. Check it out:

It was probably one of the best expos we've been to. Why?
  • The distillers were fun, knowledgeable, eager to share their spirits, and generally unpretentious. 
  • The quality of ingredients was incredible. Josh and I found plenty of spirits that are rare and difficult to find at your typical bar—and they were some of the best spirits we've ever tried. Vivid, unique flavors both for sipping and mixing. 
  • You could taste everything. I hate it when I pay to go to these events, and it turns out that you just to get look at a bunch of delicious products and pay more money to actually try it. At this event, you actually got to try everything you saw.
  • There was delicious food! And copious amounts of it! So often have we gone to these events, starting off ambitious and leaving feeling green because there was no food. Not so at the Indie Spirits Expo. Theresa Dobbs, the caterer for the event, whipped up an amazing assortment of Asian fusion dishes, cured meats, cheeses, and breads. 
Definitely an event worth going to.