On the cocktail tip, here are a few recent stand-outs:
The Alembic, Upper Haight – Leave it to Louie (Danny, that is) for another beauty: Vasco da Gama is one of his creations last year. A smoky-spiced concoction, it’s lush with Buffalo Trace bourbon, smoky with Caol Ila 12yr scotch (they were out last week so he used Bowmore 15yr in its place), spiced with garam masala apple syrup.
Comstock Saloon, North Beach – It’s a fine night in the time-transporting booths of Comstock when Jonny Raglin is behind the bar. Easy to give in to Barkeep’s Whimsy ($10) and let him make what he will. Sparkling wine tops off one drink, a skewer of cherries another. Veer off the short-but-sweet classics menu at your own gain, though there’s plenty of pleasure in classic mainstays like the Martinez, $12, which they prepare to perfection with Old Tom gin, maraschino liqueur, sweet vermouth and bitters.
Range, The Mission – Under the able hands of bar manager Jeff Lyon, I continue to happily sip from Range’s refreshing cocktails, still going strong five years later.
Oaxaca Lemonade ($10) has Pubelo Viejo tequila as the base, zippy with lemon and ginger, gently sweet with honey, smoky with crema de mezcal. Their DOT (drink of the day) delivers, recently in Eagle Eye Cherry: Eagle Rare bourbon (my go-to affordable bourbon preference), John Taylor’s velvet falernum, lime, grapefruit.
An off-menu highlight was bartender Ken Furusawa’s Monk’s Elixir: Plymouth Gin, Green Chartreuse, tarragon syrup, lime juice, egg white, and a splash of soda. Frothy, bright and spirituous.
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St George and Firelit Liqueur – I had the privilege of visiting St. George Spirits distillery last week as distillers Jeff Kessinger and Dave Smith began making their third batch of Firelit, the ultimate coffee liqueur. Veering from the Blue Bottle beans in the first two versions, this third batch uses Weaver’s coffee. Weaver’s is a new favorite I’ve been brewing at home the last couple months, launched by John Weaver, known for his decades as Peet’s roaster.
Here are a few photos from my visit as I watched barrels of fresh-ground Weaver’s beans dumped into a massive still, stirred with water while the coffee gained a sumptuous dirt/chocolate look… the smell was invigorating. Alcohol was added as the week progressed, then bottling, and is available for taste and purchase ($50 for 750ml bottle) at the distillery starting this Friday (12/17).
Watch for this new batch. After tasting a range of the final choices for version three of Firelit, I can see that using Weaver’s robust Aged Mocha Java (earthy, woody, red wine notes) is going to add a new dimension to Firelit while retaining it’s signature taste profile.