Monday, April 29, 2013

Where to drink: Prizefighter

It was 80 degrees in Oakland today, but BART cars had their heaters running. I fantasized about one thing as I stewed in the steel-on-steel petri dish: Prizefighter and its glorious patio. Prizefighter is Emeryville's greatest treasure (including Ikea), but too many San Francisco drinkers don't make it across the Bay. After taking a peak at the space, and they're gloriously simple three-ingredient cocktails, I hope more people make the trek.


The interior is spacious and typifies the neighborhood bar. There's a shufflepuck table inside, which you'll never find at a good cocktail bar in San Francisco.


Despite its low-key, neighborhood feel, Prizefighter is a serious cocktail bar.


The menu, though extensive, consists of simple drinks. What makes this place special is that it makes these drinks exceptionally well; it's hard to find a bar that consistently executes three-ingredient cocktails so well.


Note the section devoted to patio drinks.


The specials change from time to time.


Here's that Old Fashioned:


Ice nerds, notice the clarity of the ice. The main event, the drink, was fantastic. The whiskey was strong enough to hold up to the ice without losing some of its bite, but it wasn't overly alcoholic. The bourbon also maintained its richness, giving you the burned-sugar joy throughout the cocktail.

This is the Jack Rose (calvados, lime, grenadine), named after a famous boxer. The balance tipped slightly towards the citrus side, which made the drink all the more refreshing. It's perfect for a hot day.


Prizefighter is an excellent place to go hang out with some friends and have some good cocktails. Or beer, if that's what you prefer. These folks are genuinely nice, so they won't give you trouble for ordering beer. Oh, and it's dog-friendly.

6702 Hollis St
Emeryville, CA 94608

Prizefighter isn't easily accessible from BART, so make sure that you designate a driver.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Please Don't Tell's Jim Meeham was at 5th Floor! [photos]

This past week, Jim Meehan of New York's infamous speakeasy Please Don't Tell was in San Francisco. For one night, San Francisco's Fifth Floor (a bar in the Hotel Palomar) turned into PDT, and it was awesome. Here are some photos from the event:

It was packed and dark, so it was hard to get good pictures but we tried our best:




This bartender was a champ. There were so many people at his table, and he didn't even break a sweat.


This East India Negroni (Banks 5 Rum, Campari, Lustau East India Sherry) was from Meehan's own hand. I loved this drink. Switching the gin out for rum is brilliant, and subbing sherry for vermouth is sheer genius. Such an interesting flavor profile.


Smoked Potato Tots to fuel the tanks.


The man himself, Jim Meehan.


I love this image of him because while everyone around him is in motion and his hands are everywhere, his face is perfectly concentrated.


If you want to visit the normal Fifth Floor, it's at:

Fifth Floor
12 4th St
San Francisco, CA 94105

(in Hotel Palomar)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tony Devencenzi from Bourbon and Branch on How to Make The VOC Cocktail [VIDEO + PHOTOS]

Behind the Scenes: Wilson and Wilson

Happy Friday, you guys! Whew, what whirlwind a past few days it has been. Life is just go, go, go!

We have been very busy for the past few week creating a video for Tony Devencenzi (see dashing photo below). If you don't know Tony, you totally should! In addition to being a very passionate and talented bartender at the Wilson and Wilson Bar, Tony is also the Beverage Academy Coordinator at Bourbon and Branch, President of the NorCal USBG, co-founder of the Bartenders' Relief Fund, and board member of SF Cocktail Week—so just a tiny bit accomplished and involved in the community. :-)

Tony Devencenzi at Wilson and Wilson

This time, we did a video spotlight on Tony who shows you how to make his original drink, The VOC—a malty, bright, and airy Bols-Genever-based cocktail with the very innovative ingredients of curry syrup and saffron tincture. Mouth watering yet?


The video was for Tony's third round in the Bols Around the World 2013 competition. It's a fierce contest of bartenders from all over the globe who are competing to become the global brand ambassador for Bols (think bartending + Iron Chef + Quiz Bowl). Our challenge was to shoot and edit it all in one week. I am happy to say we survived!

Here are a few behind-the-scenes shots, in addition to the video itself.

Tony readying for the lights, camera, and action.

Behind the Scenes: Wilson and Wilson

We get ready to do a few shots of Tony in some egg-crackin' action.

Tony Devencenzi at Wilson and Wilson

Tony Devencenzi at Wilson and Wilson

Here is Kimberly, our expert production assistant, Chicago correspondent, and bouncer at a bar (haha, never gets old).

Kimberly: expert bar bouncer

And now The VOC in its full glory:


Finally, without further ado, here is Tony's video! Watch in 1080p for best effect. Enjoy and let us know what you think! Happy Friday!


2 oz Bols Barrel Aged Genever
.5 oz Gran Classico
.5 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.75 oz Yellow Curry Honey Syrup*
barspoon Saffron Tincture*
.5 oz Eggwhite
Garnish with Cracked White Pepper, Orange twist

Yellow Curry Honey Syrup
295 ml. water (1 1/4 cups)
5 ml. yellow curry powder (1 tsp.)
24 ml. mustard seed, lightly crushed (2 Tbls.)
474 ml. honey (2 cups)
Bring water to near boil. Remove from heat; add curry and mustard seed, steep for 12 minutes. Strain and reserve liquid. Add liquid to honey, stir gently until combined.

Saffron Tincture
Macerate 3-4 strands of saffron in 10 oz of high proof (100+) neutral spirit for up to one week. Remove saffron and store in a sealed container.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Where to Drink: St. Regis Hotel

I've been within two blocks of the St. Regis more times than I can count, but I never went inside. It's not that hotel bars are taboo in San Francisco, they're just not on the radar. It took an exceptionally cold night and a dearth of cabs to get me to visit the St. Regis, but boy am I glad that I did.

The first thing that struck me was that the St. Regis space is really pretty.


The interior is comfortable.


Huge art that doesn't annoy me like other hotel bars. I actually kind of like it.


Fireplace? Yes please.


The cocktail menu is good, too.

The Da Kine cocktail is a lot of fun. Da Kine is a Hawaiian pidgin phrase with a variety of meanings, most often "like that." The rim is li hing mui, a sweet and sour powder common in Hawaii. Funnily enough, a handful of people at the St. Regis have strong ties to Hawaii, having either been born there or lived there for a number of years.



Smoked Manhattan––Ironically, this is a cocktail that came by way of a bartender in Hawaii named Christian Self, from 39 Hotel in Honolulu Chinatown. Talk about a taste of home!


That's a vanilla bean smoking in the snifter. The vanilla smoke helped bring out some of the richer notes in the rye.




What struck me most was the service at the St. Regis. As soon as I walked down I had water and bar snacks, which never happens at SF bars. The bartenders were incredibly serviceable and made me feel right at home. I had such a relaxing time at the St. Regis that I'd recommend everyone go there at least once, if only just to hang out.

St. Regis Hotel
125 San Francisco, CA 94103
(Across from MoMA)