Cocktails at Rose Pistola & Tasting Harlem & Fair Spirits

ROSE PISTOLA, North Beach – Lovely bar manager Aurora Siegel maintains a fine cocktail menu at Rose Pistola that could be easy to miss in North Beach’s tourist bustle. Finely-wrought takes on classics like Rose’s Manhattan ($10 – Bulleit Bourbon, sweet vermouth, bitters, Amarena cherry juice, essence of orange) mingle with bright refreshers like The Q ($11 – Hendrick’s Gin, muddled cucumber, house-made ginger syrup, lemon juice, salted cucumber slice).

Rose Pistola (photo source:

Bella Bolle ($10) is an ideal pre-dinner or warm night imbibement with Encanto Pisco, seasonal fruit (in my recent visit, strawberries), fresh lemon juice, house elderflower syrup, topped with a prosecco float. Siegel skillfully whipped up cocktails on the spot based on my friend’s request and I sampled her cocktail for next week’s SF Cocktail Week, utilizing Encanto Pisco with fall-like spices. Sit at the bar with appetizers or specials like steaming mussels or a dreamy flatbread covered in prosciutto, Mission figs, creamy stracchino cheese, drizzled in white truffle oil, and one feels transported to a European bar.

FAIR SPIRITS – It was exciting to witness the first certified fair-trade spirits released at a Burritt Room private party on 7/31. FAIR, a France-based company, has created a vodka, a Goji Berry Liqueur, and a coffee liqueur… all fair trade.

FAIR cocktails at Burritt Room

I am partial to the quinoa-based vodka and FAIR.Cafe Liqueur myself. I am likewise inspired by the years of work to certify ingredients used in these spirits, a truly pioneering effort. They have a rum and tequila in the works but there is little in the way of fair trade agave or sugar so the hurdles are many. Co-founder Alexandre Koiransky flew out from France for the release of FAIR in the US cities it’s currently available: NY, LA, Chicago and SF.

The night turned into a “crawl” at three superb bars, Cantina, Rickhouse, and Gitane, where bartenders invented their own  FAIR cocktail creations. There were highlights at each bar, not the least of which was the (intentionally) ridiculously named Cartoons Can Be Midgets at Burritt Room, boozy and bright with FAIR vodka, Cynar, chipotle tincture, and peach bitters, in a Chartreuse-rinsed glass, garnished with orange peel.

As  we were admonished that night, “We can now vote with our dollars at the bar…” by ordering fair trade.

9/13 HARLEM SHOT COMPETITION at Tasting Panel’s Tour

Germana Heritage Cachaca

Tasting Panel hosted a tasting of the Double Gold winners of 2010’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition and International Wine Competition at  Hotel Monaco Monday. Highlights included 2009 Germana Heritage Cachaca, Vizcaya VXOP Solera Rum, El Jimador Anejo Tequila, Jules Taylor’s 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, and Lynmar’s 2007 Russian River Chardonnay.

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HARLEM Liqueur

But the most fun portion of the afternoon was HARLEM’s shot competition where 11 SF bartenders concocted creative shots using HARLEM liqueur. Besides the two below, I also was taken with the spirituous balance of Brian MacGregor’s Shot of Courage (HARLEM, Yellow Chartreuse, Bols Genever, lemon) and Sierra Zimei’s (of Four Seasons’ Seasons Bar) bright Cherry Poppins (HARLEM, unsweetened cherry juice, homemade cinnamon/vanilla bitters, egg white).

The winning drinks were…

Judges choice: Carlo Splendorini from gitane’s SAN FRANCISCO LATE SUMMER NIGHT
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz mission fig reduction
Muddled lemon thyme
Candied fig for garnish

Combine all ingredients excluding garnish into a shaker, muddle lemon thyme, shake for 5 seconds. Fine strain into chilled shot glass and garnish with candied mission figs.

Fan favorite: David Ruiz from Mr. Smith’s HARLEM MARMALADE
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 bar spoon homemade triple citrus orange marmalade

Combine HARLEM, fresh lemon juice, jam and ice in shaker. Shake hard to break down jam. Double strain and pour into a shot glass.