DOGPATCH SALOON, Dogpatch
The overhaul of the saloon features pressed tin ceilings, wood benches, old fashioned gas fireplace, piano set back on a mini-stage that will hopefully host live music, and bar foot rail from a 1973 MUNI track. The bar feels comfortably worn, bright and airy during the day, cozy and glowing at night, as if it’s remained unchanged for decades. The stained-glass window over the front door and exterior sign remain from what was the dingy dive it was before.
Maintaining the laid back spirit of a “dive”, Dogpatch Saloon is that ideal neighborhood bar: relaxed, welcoming, yet without sacrificing taste.
TO DRINK: Local beer producers like Speakeasy, North Coast Brewing, Drakes, and Anchor are represented, as are nearby spirits from neighbors down the block like Sutton Cellars. Cocktails ($8-10) are a team effort, each created by staff, advanced without being fussy.
Beer cocktails are one of the initial menu strengths, including Marc Goldfine’s (of 83 Proof) Blackheart, robust with Anchor Porter, maple syrup and Buffalo Trace bourbon but summery with fresh strawberry.
Bartender Edward Calhoun’s The Game Changer, an ideal aperitif of hoppy-bitter Speakeasy Double Daddy Imperial IPA, Aperol and grapefruit juice, marked by a cucumber spear in the spirit of a Pimm’s Cup.
Headphones in Beirut is particularly fascinating, from bartender Chris Mansury.
Colorado’s CapRock gin is combined with lime juice and Amaro Montenegro subtly infused with kalamata juice, topped with a pinch of toasted fennel pollen. Despite how it sounds, the drink is seamlessly woven together, complex and interesting without overdoing the kalamata or fennel pollen.
LOVE BOAT Pop-up at MUKA, Hayes Valley; ALCHEMIST, SoMa
Cocktails at MukaFrom the guys who brought us Big, Brian Felley and Mo Hodges, comes a series of cocktail pop-ups. Thank goodness as I’ve been sad Big is no longer with us, and thus their creative, off-the-cuff cocktail beauties.
Love Boat-themed Monday nights at Muka (watch for the sailor hats) are at times convivial and bustling, or can be mellow industry late nights, paired with addictive, booze-influenced food from the wonderful Tango & Stache. Tuesday nights they make a guest appearance at Alchemist set to black and white films on brick walls in the roomy-chic space.
TO DRINK: Depending on your mood and their whim, these menu-less cocktail wizards might serve you a lively mix of Old Bardstown Bourbon and King’s Ginger and Cardamaro liqueurs brightened by roasted bell pepper, bitters and lemon. Or maybe a layered combination of gin, mezcal, Aquavit, Tempus Fugit’s Kina L’Avion d’Or, aromatic & barrel aged citrus bitters, flush with green, Alpine whispers from Leopold Brothers’ Three Pins Alpine Herbal Liqueur.
Despite staff and management changes over the last couple years at Beretta, the bar, under Bar Manager Dominic Alling for roughly the last year, has consistently churned out quality cocktails ($9-11) that put them on the map as the Neapolitan pizza-cocktail destination over five years ago. Alling (who came from the long-shuttered but still memorable Bacar) worked here since Beretta opened, alongside bartenders who brought international attention to the bar, Thad Vogler and Ryan Fitzgerald. Alling and crew host a series of cocktail/spirits classes downstairs.
TO DRINK: Alongside Beretta favorites like the Rattlesnake and Dolores Park Swizzle, Alling pushes the boundaries with a couple new cocktails. One is a well-balanced New West, a bright mix of Beefeater gin, lemon and Campari, softly accented by Chareau, a brandy based liqueur distilled aloe vera, muskmelon, spearmint, lemon peel, and cucumber, at none other than St. George Spirits. It’s finished with a splash of soda and garnished with watermelon radish.
The other is Golden Record, recalling a classic Clover Club cocktail with gin, lemon, and raspberry gomme syrup. It’s differentiated by Oloroso sherry, adding nutty nuance, and three drops of bee resin, used as a bittering agent offering woody notes.
And a Few More
BRASS TACKS, Hayes Valley
Brass Tacks is a friendly new neighborhood bar, and a welcome mid-afternoon respite for well-made cocktails like a To Wong Foo, a layered blend of brandy, Cocchi Americano, pamplemousse grapefruit liqueur, lemon and Smith & Cross’ beautifully funky rum (the drink is creation of bartender, Mitch Lagneaux).
DANTE’S TABLE, Castro
While Italian restaurant newcomer, Dante’s Table, from owners of nearby (and superior) Poesia, suffers from odd decor and uneven dishes, it surprises with ambitious, Euro-influenced cocktails ($9). They’re calling an Italian Sazerac Dark Wood, a mix of Chamomile grappa, absinthe, rye whiskey and Calabrese chilis. The rich cocktail pops with a hint of heat.
A special one night brightened up Glenfiddich 12 year Scotch with grapefruit, dry vermouth and basil, while the Medusa combines gin, Strega, cucumber and orgeat in a textured aperitif.
Both locations of Dosa make lovely Indian-influenced cocktails and offer a deep collection of gin – the Fillmore location for years and the original Mission location for over a year when they added in a bar and gained a liquor license.
Tricky Swizzle ($10) is only available at the Mission location, combining Templeton Rye whiskey, lemon and a spicy mango nectar, inflected with a coriander and cumin-heavy curry, topped with a float of Angostura 5 year rum. It hits that category I adore of savory, culinary cocktails.
SOUTHSIDE SPIRIT HOUSE, SoMa
In SoMa’s new-ish Southside Spirit House, the vibe is relaxed, $11 cocktails are discounted during happy hour, and the approachable cocktails are best with deviled eggs ($6) topped with cotija, bacon, jalapeno, or a truffle oil-laden Mission Pizza ($11), sweet with caramelized onions over fontina cheese.
What surprises at Southside is a notable use of vodka, choosing some of the most interesting brands that actually taste like something). Gold Rush mixes peppery Karlsson’s Gold vodka with basil, house pineapple syrup, lime, sweet vermouth and egg whites. Claim Jumper utilizes hoppy HOPHEAD vodka inflected with slightly bitter Aperol, lime and a splash of Big Daddy IPA beer.