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San Francisco Lounges


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#31 eje

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 10:47 PM

I'd like to second cocktailgeek's recommendation of Rye.

Got there tonight, and had some of the most outstanding and well made coctails I've had recently in the city.

If there was a way I could just drink Velvet Cane cocktails, (10 cane, lime, tangerine, orgeat, egg white, angostura,) as an exclusive beverage for the rest of my life, I might just do it...

Mmmm...

And next month's drink challenge is Plymouth Gin!
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Erik Ellestad
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#32 johnder

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 11:00 PM

I am out visting the Bay Area and heading to this place tomorrow around 8. I was on the edge up until hearing this from Erik but seeing the description of the drink below, I am so there.. Looks mighty tasty.

I'd like to second cocktailgeek's recommendation of Rye.

Got there tonight, and had some of the most outstanding and well made coctails I've had recently in the city.

If there was a way I could just drink Velvet Cane cocktails, (10 cane, lime, tangerine, orgeat, egg white, angostura,) as an exclusive beverage for the rest of my life, I might just do it...

Mmmm...

And next month's drink challenge is Plymouth Gin!

View Post


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#33 eje

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Posted 13 August 2006 - 09:41 AM

BTW, the Plymouth thing I was talking about: Rye has a monthly competition where they ask bartenders to create orginal cocktails. The cocktails are then judged, and if they win, featured on the menu with credit to the bartender who created them.

The cocktail I enjoyed so much, The Velvet Cane, was one of the winning cocktails in a past competition. It was created by Thomas Waugh.

I also had a great Rye Manhattan made with the younger Sazerac rye. Other cocktails our tabled enjoyed included a Peach Cobbler and a Sazerac (though they did, oddly, make the Sazerac on the rocks).

Scan of Rye Menu

Edited by eje, 13 August 2006 - 01:53 PM.

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#34 johnder

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Posted 13 August 2006 - 09:50 PM

So I stopped by Rye tonight with my wife and had a few drinks there tonight. First impressions are that it is a great space, and they have a great cocktai menu. Unfortunately I think they need to work on the execution a little bit to really make it fire on all cylinders.

I started off with the Velvet Cane which I think has the ingredients to be an awesome drink, except the version I had was very heavy on the bitters -- so much so I couldn't taste anything but the bitters. This in conjuction with the free pouring (instead of measured shots) lead to a slightly one dimensonal drink.

My wife had the Golden Rye Flip, which was a really good drink. I was surprised to see that they didn't mention egg yolk on the menu, as every "flip" drink I know has egg yolk in it. While the drink does have egg yolk in it (pasturized from a carton), it was still surprising not to see it listed on the ingredients.

After that I had a Sazerac with Mitchers Rye and was slightly dismayed to see it being shaken and served in a martini glass. While it is just a detail, a drink of that nature really shines when the execution is there. This was ok, but not super special.

Wife had the Apple Bomb -- pretty great drink. Overall the wife seems to have picked the winners of the evening, and while I was generally happy with the drinks, once the execution of them is stepped up a bit, it will really be an awesome place.

I am leaving to go back to NY tomorrow, but it is safe to say if I lived in the Bay Area I would visit Rye again, and I do think it has the capability to be pretty awesome.

I think just with a little more attention to technique and measuring of the shots will go a long way to really making the drinks sing. Then again, I may just be very spoiled with Milk and Honey, Flatiron and Pegu in New York.

John
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#35 Ed Hamilton

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 05:11 AM

I haven't seen Slanted Door mentioned in this thread. Though it is quite busy and the restaurant can be noisy, the lounge is nice with great attention to cocktails.

Farallon is also worth a visit.
And Solstice, Kieran Walsh is working hard to produce great drinks to accompany the outstanding food. I look forward to dinner there next weekend and a ti punch before dinner.

Enrico's has dropped their standards a notch or two since Dave Nepove left, but it's still a comfortable place with great music on some nights.

On the other side of the bay, Forbidden Island is also making a mark in their new Tiki bar.
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#36 eje

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 10:25 AM

John,

Sorry to hear about your experience!

Well, that's San Francisco for you. Great ideas, poor follow through.

Yeah, it sounds like the bartenders at Rye need training and the recipes and presentations need to be standardized. My wife ordered a Sazerac and hers was served on the rocks in a double old fashioned glass.

I'm going to try to replicate the Velvet Cane I had at Rye. I'll start with something like 2 oz rum, 1/2 oz tangerine, 1/2 oz lime, barspoon orgeat, dash angostura, 1/2 egg white. I have a lot of Rum, but, no 10 Cane. I'll try plain old Flor de Cana white and see how it is. Anyone think the 10 Cane might be critical to the recipe for some reason other than the name?

BTW, Ed, I think the same bartender/consultant who did the drinks menu at the Slanted Door did the drinks at the newly remodeled COCO 500. That also might be worth a try.
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#37 slkinsey

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 10:57 AM

I'm going to try to replicate the Velvet Cane I had at Rye.  I'll start with something like 2 oz rum, 1/2 oz tangerine, 1/2 oz lime, barspoon orgeat, dash angostura, 1/2 egg white.  I have a lot of Rum, but, no 10 Cane.  I'll try plain old Flor de Cana white and see how it is.  Anyone think the 10 Cane might be critical to the recipe for some reason other than the name?

Actually, I think it will probably make a big difference. Ten Cane is I guess what you might call a "pseudo rhum agricole." I don't think it has as much of a distinctive agricole character as, say, Ed's rhums do. But it is made with cane juice, and it does have some of that character. If you're going to substitite, I'd use either one of Ed's rhums or maybe Barbancourt from Haiti.
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#38 johnder

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 11:12 AM

John,

Sorry to hear about your experience!

Well, that's San Francisco for you.  Great ideas, poor follow through.

Yeah, it sounds like the bartenders at Rye need training and the recipes and presentations need to be standardized.  My wife ordered a Sazerac and hers was served on the rocks in a double old fashioned glass.

View Post


Yah I think some technique and consistancy would go a long way. As I said the space is really awesome, they have a great selection of liquors too. The bartender was really nice and we had a great conversation, so I was a good experience overall. Next time I am back in the Bay Area I will definately check it out again -- hopefully they will get some more processes in place.

John
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#39 eje

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 12:27 PM

Actually, I think it will probably make a big difference.  Ten Cane is I guess what you might call a "pseudo rhum agricole."  I don't think it has as much of a distinctive agricole character as, say, Ed's rhums do.  But it is made with cane juice, and it does have some of that character.  If you're going to substitite, I'd use either one of Ed's rhums or maybe Barbancourt from Haiti.

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I have the La Favorite Blanc; but, I think just the La Favorite on its own might be too funky. Perhaps 1 ounce La Favorite and 1 oz Flor de Cana? The only Barbancourt rum I see around is the Special Reserve. I think that's an aged amber rum.

Well, I will experiment later this week and report back in the thread about reproducing bar drinks.
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#40 eje

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 12:20 PM

New Developments:

Woo! Now we've got a speakeasy. Bourbon and Branch is a reservations only establishment, in the manner of New York (and London's) Milk and Honey.

In other news, we will soon have a "Micro-Distillery." Rumor has it the micro-distillery is being opened by the folks who run the fine Magnolia Brew Pub. It will also be in the upper haight and is to be called "The Alembic".

Haven't been to either, yet, so details to follow.

edit - stupid grammar.

Edited by eje, 28 September 2006 - 03:36 PM.

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#41 JAZ

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 12:40 PM

I was at Cortez a few weeks ago and the bartender there told me that Todd Smith, the ex-bar manager at Cortez, is one of the people behind Bourbon and Branch. Not sure if he's one of the owners or just working there, but he does make very good drinks.

#42 cocktailgeek

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 01:14 PM

I was at Cortez a few weeks ago and the bartender there told me that Todd Smith, the ex-bar manager at Cortez, is one of the people behind Bourbon and Branch. Not sure if he's one of the owners or just working there, but he does make very good drinks.

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True, Todd Smith is a partner in Bourbon & Branch with the guys behind Anu and Swig. There is an extensive cocktail menu, with a heavy emphasis on the classics (lots of bourbon & gin). Like Milk & Honey, there are house rules, which include: "Don't even think about ordering a Cosmo".

Edited by cocktailgeek, 28 September 2006 - 01:16 PM.

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#43 eje

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Posted 03 October 2006 - 02:17 PM

Interesting writeup of Bourbon and Branch in SF Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer's blog:

The Price of Experimental Cocktails

Here's the deal: There's no name on the door, just a chocolate brown facade with an intercom and button. To get a table, you have to make a reservation in advance and they confirm with the time and how long you can stay (we had four people and were allowed to stay one hour). Then the day of the Big Drink Adventure, we were called and given the nightly password, "bang bang," which was required to get in the door.


Sounds like they still have some kinks to work out...

Here's another cocktail related Bauer blog entry with some interesting comments and destination suggestions:

The art of the cocktail

It used to be when I reviewed a restaurant, I concentrated on the wine list, but recently just about every place that opens has signature cocktails and a bar menu of exotic elixirs. Even those places with beer and wine licenses sneak in a few sake cocktails. So, of course, I have to taste them all.


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#44 eje

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Posted 06 October 2006 - 08:53 AM

Feature article in today's SF Chronicle about Bourbon and Branch.

The cosmo-free zone

Not only are they making their own tonic; but, experimenting with Sodium Alginate!

Then things really get interesting. The Pimm's Cup is topped with an aromatic cucumber-mint foam thickened with soy lecithin. The Deconstructed Negroni is served as a glass of cold gin with sweet vermouth and Campari "caviar" on the side. The "caviar" is made by squeezing the liquids (mixed with sodium alginate) from a syringe into a dish of calcium chloride solution, which forms a skin around the droplets.


And quite a roster of bartenders!

All of the other bartenders working at Bourbon & Branch come from the restaurant world as well: Jon Santer, formerly of Bruno's and now at Tres Agaves; Dominic Venegas from Range; David Nepove, formerly of Enrico's and now at Southern Wine & Spirits; Neyah White from Nopa; and Marcovaldo Dionysos, also from Tres Agaves. Several of them keep shifts at these restaurant venues in addition to Bourbon & Branch.


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Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
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#45 johnder

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Posted 06 October 2006 - 09:17 AM

The sidebar article to that story is interesting as well:

Elements of Craft Cocktails

Better mixers. Bourbon & Branch has purchased a machine to produce soda water. Additionally they don't serve mixers through a drink gun (the squirting dispenser), but pour tonic, soda water, sodas and ginger ale from individual bottles. The bar at Coco500 serves bartender-preferred Indian tonic water instead of the regular Schweppes.

Colder cocktails. Though San Francisco has yet to see bartenders chipping ice off a block like at Milk & Honey in New York, Bourbon & Branch has a machine that produces extra-large blocks of purified ice 1 1/4-inches square. Bartenders at Bix use silver cocktail shakers. "The silver conducts temperature much better so you get a colder drink," says Biederbeck. He also says he'd love to have a glass freezer.


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#46 JAZ

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 12:42 PM

I tried Bourbon and Branch a couple of nights ago and was impressed. From my experience, it seems that they've ironed out whatever problems Bauer found in the service -- I would have preferred sitting at the bar, but our server was quick and very pleasant. The drinks were good; I thought there was a good mix of fairly accessible drinks with more complex ones. A nice touch was the "amuse" champagne cocktail that the server brought, so we had something to sip while we were deciding what to order.

I'll definitely go back, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes creative cocktails.

#47 eje

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Posted 13 October 2006 - 10:16 PM

Not to let Janet get too far in front of me, I stopped by the newly opened Alembic on my way home tonight.

A very nice featured cocktail list included many classics (Manhattan, Hoffman House, Sazerac, Floridita, Old-Fashioned...) and some new ones. I think no less than three of the featured cocktails are using Rye Whiskey. They even feature Mr. Wondrich's Bone (hoho!).

I had a very well prepared Manhattan (Rye, bitters and stirred! Without asking! Woo!) and found the bartenders to be personable and more than competent in their trade.

They have a very impressive wall of booze and a good selection of beers from their sister brewpub, the Magnolia, and other local breweries.

Didn't try the food or appetizer. Hope to return soon to sample those.

It was a nice low key place. If I had to put it anywhere on the map, I would say it reminded me of d.b.a. on Frenchman's street in New Orleans.

Definitely a cool addition to San Francisco's bar scene.
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If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
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#48 eje

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 08:25 PM

Oh, just to clarify, when I originally mentioned the Alembic, based on some early press I'd read, I called it a "micro-distillery".

It is not.

They are making some liqueurs themselves and have a fine selection of Booze from smaller West Coast distilleries like St. George, Aviation, Germain-Robin, Hangar One, etc.

But, they are not distilling anything in house.
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#49 Mayur

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Posted 20 October 2006 - 07:47 PM

Interesting writeup of Bourbon and Branch in SF Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer's blog:

The Price of Experimental Cocktails

Here's the deal: There's no name on the door, just a chocolate brown facade with an intercom and button. To get a table, you have to make a reservation in advance and they confirm with the time and how long you can stay (we had four people and were allowed to stay one hour).

Man what?

Okay; much as I understand what a sweet deal it is to the management to have seatings capped like this, I cannot imagine what would get me to a bar like this rather than just making cocktails at home.
Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

#50 Ed Hamilton

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 06:58 PM

I'm a little taken back by Bourbon and Branch's House Rules. If the bartenders are always right, how do they learn anything new? I learn the most when I make mistakes. There are some big egos in the food and drink business but there aren't many who would be so bold as to declare that they are always right. As a frequent visitor to San Francisco, one of my favorite cities in the country, I think I'll wait a few months before I jump through the hoops to meet the people who are ALWAYS RIGHT.
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#51 eje

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 04:36 PM

[...]
David is still at Enrico's for another month (Thurs-Sunday), before leaving to become the mixologist for Southern Wine & Spirits in Northern California.  Thomas Waugh is also at Enrico's, and is full of interesting ideas.
[...]

View Post

Unfortunately, I've learned Enrico's closed last night (10-30-2006).

From what I've read, their lease was up, and they were unable to negotiate a mutually agreeable new one with the landlord.

Sad to see a San Francisco institution like Enrico's vanish.
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Erik Ellestad
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#52 eje

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 10:42 AM

More info about the Enrico's closure here:

Enrico's cafe closes, and Broadway dims

Russek (Hal Russek, General Manager - eje) said he and his business partners were willing to stick it out until the situation improved, but could not come to terms with the landlord on a new lease after negotiating for two years. The ownership group was hoping for a lease covering at least 10 years, he said. The landlord informed Russek Tuesday morning that it could not be done, prompting him to close up shop.


Russek again, "I've had to let go of a lot of people who I've come to care a great deal about today, so I don't feel so good," he said. "I don't want to kill it. I'm hoping that something can be worked out. Maybe there's a white knight out there, but as of right now, we're saying goodbye to Enrico's."


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Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
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#53 Ed Hamilton

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 02:11 PM

I had a few drinks at Enrico's Monday night and feel lucky to have been there on their last night. I sure hope that they are able to reopen but the cost of real estate in San Francisco has forced more than a few places to close. Maybe I'll be going to Bourbon and Branch sooner than I thought.
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#54 johnder

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 04:20 PM

I am heading to Bourbon & Branch tonight with a few fellow cocktail people, I will report back afterwards letting everyone know how it was.

John
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#55 johnder

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 08:39 PM

So was there last night with a pretty large party, I would have preferred to go and sit at the bar with just myself and my wife once my friends found out I was going they all wanted to come along.

I have to say the whole password of the day and standing on a street corner fending off 3 people asking for change for 2 minutes until someone answered the door was slightly off putting. Once inside though the space is pretty amazing. There is a podium directly to the right when you enter the door and they check your reservation and lead you to the table. The front room has the bar with probably 10 seats and a few smaller booths, and the back room up a small flight of stairs has some of the larger booths. We had 6 people to fit in the booth and it was quite cozy. It was at the point where we had to arrange our knees so we could actually fit in the booth, otherwise we would be knocking knees all night.

The menu is pretty huge and slightly unwiedly with its wooden cover. It was hard to navigate it in the small confines of the table unfortunately. A really nice touch was the fact they served water as soon as we sat and even gave us a cocktail amuse which was prosecco, pear liquor and vanilla while we looked through the menu tome.

The menu is broken up with classic cocktails, cocktails from around the world, staff favorites and a few other sections. 5 of the 6 people at the table were drinking (one was driving) We had one Aviation, one Democrat cocktail (house cocktail), one Old Cuban (an Audrey Saunders drink), my wife asked for Martinez and after spying their rye selection, I asked for a pappy van winkle sazerac.

The hostess while helpful didn't know what a Martinez was, but I explained it to her and hoped for the best.

The place was about 60% full when we showed up and the drinks arrived pretty quickly. One of the complaints a friend told me was the service was slow, mainly on the time for each cocktail to be made but it wasn't the case tonight. Unfortunately the order got slightly messed up. I ended up getting a snifter of rye and my wife got was looked like a classic martini with an olive. I think she realized the error pretty quickly with my wifes drink and brough back a correct Martinez that was decently prepared. I didn't have the energy to send my drink back and just settled for the glass of straight rye. We only ended up staying for one drink as it was sweltering in the room. It was unbearably hot. I am sure it had to do with the fact that we were packed into the booth pretty tightly but also there was very little air circulation in the room.

Unfortunately I needed to leave the next day to head back to NYC but would like to go back again at some point and as I mentioned sit at the bar to have a little more interaction with the bartenders.

Overall the room is really well decorated, they definately have a great selection of liquors, have great ice and obviously take care in their cocktails. The downside is the crazy password / secret vibe they are going for which is negated by the fact you can just go to the website and make a reservation. Standing on the street talking into a small intercom at 10pm at night while looking over your shoulder isn't my bag.

Next time I am back in SF, I am definately going to sit at the bar and spend some more time checking things out.
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I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

#56 slkinsey

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 07:49 AM

So... what's in a Democrat cocktail?
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#57 johnder

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 09:49 AM

So... what's in a Democrat cocktail?

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I wrote it down somewhere, I need to see if I can find it. If I remember correctly it was Boubon, Lillet, Lemon? I think. I will check if I have the paper at home.

On a side note, I had dinner at Ame (in the St. Regis hotel) and had a pretty tasty cocktail that had chai infused vemouth, aperol, lemon and soda. It was really good. The chai infused vermouth was a very good match to the aperol.
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I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

#58 eje

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 04:42 PM

San Francisco Magazine is featuring San Francisco cocktail bars and culture this month (Jan 2007).

Unfortunately, they don't make the article available online.

The main feature of the article is 12 drinks for 12 months, featuring cocktail recipes from various bars around San Francisco. Also features interviews with many San Francisco barkeeps.

Interesting article. A few bars and tenders notably absent, including the Orbit Room's Alberta Straub.
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Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
Bernal Heights, SF, CA

#59 eje

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 05:25 PM

Article from Sunday's SF Chronicle Style Section:

Notes from the underground -- Union Square club Vessel aims for elegance

In recent years, the local nightlife scene has shifted from large-scale raves for 1,000 in South of Market warehouses to cosmopolitan drinks in quieter, smaller venues as Generation Xers -- those born between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s -- have matured and turned to intimate bars with individual character.


Bars mentioned catering to this <ahem> exciting new trend and well heeled young clientèle include Bourbon and Branch, Otis, Rye, Slide, and the soon to launch Vessel*.

Whatever the reasons, a slew of sophisticated bars has cropped up in San Francisco in recent years. They include Slide on Mason Street, with a serpentine slide, onyx bar and chandeliers; Bourbon & Branch, a so-called speakeasy in an unmarked location near Jones and O'Farrell streets; and Rye, a two-room bar on Geary Street in the theater district, to name a few.


*Anyone who can see that name and not snicker and think of Star Trek's Chekov, is a better man than I.
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Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
Bernal Heights, SF, CA

#60 eje

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 02:24 PM

Finally got out to Bourbon and Branch last night.

As with John, we sat in the room in back. I can't imagine how he got 6 people in those extremely snug booths!

I agree the cocktail menu is quite unwieldy, and also nearly impossible to read in the very dim light of the back room. Noticed some questionable history and typos in the tome.

Cocktails mostly range 10-12 dollars. For our first round my wife and I sampled a Bramble (creme de cassis, gin, lemon, crushed ice) and the Cracked Thumb (lemon oil, gin, elderflower cordial, mint, crushed ice). Both were quite delicious and refreshing. Second round was less successful, with a lukewarm 1794 (rye, campari, vermouth) and rather over marachinoed Aviation. Our friends reported tasty cucumber and tequila gimlets. Also, two other drinks which slip my mind.

Our server was great and we had a nice time. Will definitely be back. Next time, though, we will ask to sit at the bar.

edit - By the way, both the Bramble and Cracked Thumb were guest drinks properly credited on the menu. One of the nicer things about the menu is that they do give credit where credit is due. I've been wanting to try Bradsell's Bramble for a while, and it kept slipping my mind to make at home. I can't recall the bartenders or bar credited with the Cracked Thumb; but, it was also in England. We enjoyed that one enough that I picked up some culinary lemon oil this weekend.

Edited by eje, 12 February 2007 - 11:02 AM.

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Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
Bernal Heights, SF, CA