Saturday, February 9, 2013

Where to Drink: Cocktails and Atmosphere at Rickhouse


I get a little nervous when we have visitors in town, and we have to take them around. I love this city, and the thought of leading our friends to a disappointment bums me out. But if you were to ask us about a quintessential San Francisco bar, Rickhouse would definitely make the list: beautiful wood interiors (like the inside of a cask), stunningly tall liquor shelves (so high that they need a rolling ladder), solid cocktails, punch bowls, live music, a good crowd, and not to mention a fireplace. Which is why whenever we have visitors in town, Josh and I inevitably find ourselves at Rickhouse.


Good thing there was Rickhouse this past weekend on the glad occasion of hosting Josh's friend Ash. After a satisfying bowl of some of the Bay Area's best hand-pulled noodles (I had to get that in there somehow) and a nap to ward off the happy, post-noodle sleepiness, we all found ourselves once again in the magnificence of Rickhouse.


Most weekday evenings, especially Fridays, the bar fills up wall-to-wall with Financial District suits and startup hoodies who are whiling away relieved post-work hours. A bluegrass band will set up in the back of the space, near the second well, and enthusiasts can gather around or climb up to the second floor—a modest loft space—and watch the band from above, leaning on the railings and looking down. This night was no different, and the bar was crushing it with throngs of people congregating in the bar's dark corners, clutching their drinks with happy abandon.

Though you might not know it, Rickhouse is part of an ever-growing empire of watering holes in San Francisco called Future Bars. And it's a good thing. With Bourbon and Branch, Local Edition, Swig, and Tradition among its offspring, Future Bars excels at creating enchanting, innovative, and often elaborate bar atmospheres. The wells are high volume, and the cocktails are always solid, using great ice and fresh ingredients.


We ordered a few drinks. We were especially excited because Victoria was there to mix them with her expert hand. She has one of the best palates in the city! She is amazing.

The menu is made mostly of contemporary classics and punch bowls. They used to have a much more extensive book of cocktails as their menu, but I suspect it got too unwieldy. You can still ask for a wide variety of drinks, though, even if it is not on the menu. In one misguided moment of inspiration, for instance, Josh and I felt like we wanted some flips (cocktails with a whole egg, including the yolk) and sat at the back bar on a quiet weekday night. We got three between the two of us and promptly got stomachaches from the overindulgence in yolks—but we were happy that we could even order it.

Josh got an Old Cuban, which is a bright, sparkling, refreshing drink made from aged rum, fresh mint, fresh lime juice, cane sugar, bitters (often angostura), and sparkling wine. It's great for a summer's day (or when you wish it were a summer's day) and seems impossible not to like, so it's accessible for a wide range of drinkers. A contemporary classic first mixed by Audrey Sanders, the cocktail was one of our first favorites at Rickhouse (introduced to us by Trevor Easter, if I'm not mistaken).

Old Cuban at Rickhouse

Meanwhile, I ordered a Nemean Cup—a citrusy cocktail made warm and viscous by apple brandy and wildflower honey, served over a large cube of ice. In addition to the apple brandy and wildflower honey, fresh lemon juice and celery bitters are used to make this drink. Think about the 3.0 version of lemon tea.

Nemean Cup at Rickhouse

And the great news? Ashley loved the place!

The full Flickr set here.

246 Kearny St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 398-2827
Closes at 2 am. 

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