St. George Whiskey Night, Italian & Cuban Coffee & Cantina Cocktails

8/21 Sunset over SF from St. George Spirits parking lot

8/21 Sunset from St. George Spirits’ parking lot

“When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.” – Henny Youngman


Horchata Cocktail

Horchata Macua Cocktail

•  Leave it to Duggan McDonnell and the Cantina crew to ensure happy satiation for the masses at SF Street Food Festival on 8/22. Serving three of Duggan’s creations (all $8; the La Paloma being one you can order at Cantina), I give kudos to the ever-worthy combo of cachaca, fruit and heat in the Mango Pimenta Caipirinha, made from Cabana Cachaca, lime, mango and South American chilis. Creativity points for the unique Horchata Macua using just a bit of spiced almond horchata with Flor de Cana guava-infused white rum and fresh lemon.


Taking tasting notes of St. George's whiskeys

Taking tasting notes of St. George’s whiskeys

St. George Spirits Whiskey Night ’09 (8/21) was an intimate night of tasting all years of their whiskeys and a release party for brand new Lot 8 Whiskey. A highlight was tasting a 12-year aged whiskey straight from the barrel, with strong similarities to bourbon. It’s not for sale – I wish.  Besides indulging in whiskey-spiked Recchiuti Hot Chocolate and Gelataria Naia’s Single Malt Whiskey Gelato (made of Lot 7 whiskey with Lot 6 poured on top!), it was an educational pleasure to taste all four whiskeys St. George makes, side-by-side.

Whiskey-spiked gelatoLot 5 & 6, both aged seven years, are lighter in color and intensity, with 5 carrying subtle notes of honey and graham cracker alongside tobacco, and 6 reminiscent of jasmine, vanilla, even hay. I had a tough time deciding if I liked Lot 7 or 8 best, both tasting the most ‘grown-up’, with deeper gold coloring, aged eight and nine years respectively.  Though Lot 7 emits a pine, dark chocolate aroma, it tastes more of tangy, earthy oak… and, call me crazy, but I found it buttery. Lot 8, for me, was the smoothest of all, with meaty/clove aroma and a taste of nut brown ale.


• Maybe the most pleasant surprise at Redwood City’s Donato Enoteca was ordering an espresso with Chef Donato himself filling me in on its origins. It’s a near perfect espresso made from “Extra Bold” Indian Valley Nuggets, Arabica coffee from the highlands of the Indian Peninsula, with lush crema atop. Donato sources beans from Laboratorio di Torrefazione Giamaica Caffe in Verona, Italy, where he’s watched them hand-roasted by the owner of the cafe. Don’t even think about buying from this guy… he decides who and where he wants to sell his beans to by relationship and word of mouth only. Thankfully, Donato has kept up his relationships back home in Italia and brings this beautiful coffee to us.

• During recent heat waves in the city, I hit my regular stop, Coffee Bar, ordering a Havana Iced Coffee ($3.25; hot or iced). No surprise, they did it right. Despite my love of Cuban coffee (see my Miami coffee crawl in Little Havana), Cubans do put a boat-load of sugar in their coffee, giving it that almost caramelized taste I love – but against my normal aversion to excess sweetness or sugar in coffee. Coffee Bar sought balance in theirs, with a touch of caramelized sugar taste but letting the strong, robust coffee take center stage. This (and their Vietnamese Coffee) should be menu regulars.

Cantina crew mixing cocktails in SF Street Food Fest's Beer & Cocktail Garden

Cantina crew (Jay Barmann) mixing cocktails in SF Street Food Fest’s Beer & Cocktail Garden

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