Tuesday, May 20, 2008

San Francisco Cocktail Week 2008

The second annual San Francisco Cocktail Week just wrapped up – and if you missed it, you will be sorry! I journeyed up the coast, last year, to cover the very first SF Cocktail Week 2007 and was impressed with what the boys from the Bay Area are doing to rally the tippling troops, so I had to show my solidarity again. (Gosh, darn, twist my arm.)

Starlight and Cable Cars

The first event kicked off last Tuesday (May 13) at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, where Tony Abou-Ganim was honored. With decades of mixology under his belt, and boundless passion behind the stick, Tony’s nod was well deserved. The crowd toasted him with the now legendary Cable Car cocktails, which Tony created years ago while working at the Starlight Room, atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. The famous drink is proudly still served by today’s barmen.

Another well-respected mixologist, Jacques Bezuidenhout also worked at the Starlight Room and I was excited to share a Cable Car with him, as well, while interviewing him on-camera for an upcoming video for The Liquid Muse Cocktail Show!

Save the Sazerac!

Elixir Saloon stirred up support for Tales of the Cocktail - what a preview of what's to come in New Orleans! H. Joseph Ehrmann owns the historic saloon (which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year!) and is one of the three founders of San Francisco Cocktail Week.

He, along with Jeff Hollinger (GM of Absinthe and author of Art of the Bar) and Duggan McDonnel (of Cantina fame), decided to organize the citywide event with an eye toward unifying San Francisco’s finest bartenders. H told me that San Francisco was the first to organize a whole week around World Cocktail Day.

Proceeds from Friday’s ‘Save the Sazerac’ event at Elixir raised awareness and money for our brethren in New Orleans, and support for Tales of the Cocktail. The Grand Dame of the Crescent City herself, Ann R. Tunnerman, flew in for the party and energized the crowd for the upcoming biggest cocktailian love-fest of the year, Tales of the Cocktail, which runs July 16-20. (Be there or be a sad little puppy!)

H also prepared his version of the Sazerac, the Shirazerac, and the crowd around the bar was no fewer than 5 deep at any given moment. Jeff Hollinger jumped behind the bar to help out, and even with the boys mixing 10 drinks at a time, everyone had to elbow our way in to secure a drink, and still wait at least half an hour between rounds!

Shirazerac (by H of Elixir)

1 barspoon of Shir
az syrup*
2oz of Sazerac Rye

1/2 barspoon Pastis Herbsaint
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 Star Anise
1 quarter size round of lemon rind

Fill an Old Fashioned glass with ice and set aside to chill. Cut the lemon rind to a circle about the size
of a quarter, without pith. Stick a toothpick through the star anise and into the lemon rind until only a small bit of the toothpick shows from the top, breaking off the extra beneath the lemon. Set garnish aside. In a separate glass, put shiraz syrup at the bottom of the glass and cover with the rye whiskey and the bitters. Stir to dissolve the syrup. Stir briefly. Empty the chilled glass and add the Absinthe substitute to it, swirling around to coat it and leaving a small pool of what is left at the bottom. Strain the cocktail into that glass and add the Star Anise as a floating garnish.

New (Cool) Kid in Town: Beretta

I also made a point of getting down to the very new, hip and PACKED Beretta for drinks and pizza fired to crisp perfection. The risotto kicks serious bootie, too, and the cocktails…

Well, with SF Chapter President of the USBG Jon Santer shaking and stirring, would you expect less than outstanding drinks? He created an apple and cherry drink especially for cocktail week. It was de-li-cious!

A mass exodus from Bourbon & Branch has lured several of the city’s finest bartenders to enjoy flocks of thirsty San Franciscans at their new home at Beretta. All’s fair in love and mixology, I suppose.

A Tribute to a Founding Father in Cocktail History

Saturday started off with an amazing surprise. Diego Loret de Mola (most known to us as the Barsol Pisco king) organized a very special trek out to Cypress Lawn Cemetery. We were on a mission to honor Duncan Nicol, who ran the Bank Exchange bar in the early 20th Century and created the Pisco Punch.

John Burton and David Wondrich aided Diego in digging up history on the Nicol, who lays to rest in a magnificent setting. Diego also presented John Burton with a special plaque as recognition for his deep knowledge of cocktail lore and contributions to our field.

Next, Diego took our busload to Fresca, a Peruvian-style ceviche bar for tastes of his native food and more cocktails! In addition to delicious raw fish delights, we tried Coca Pisco cocktails, garnished with coca leaves. (Don’t you just love uppers and downers in one easy sip?) The day was a treat and I definitely felt privileged to be part of the excursion.

Booze and Books

San Francisco magazine’s Scott Hocker moderated a panel of several knowledgeable cocktail history experts including David Wondrich, John Burton, Jim Jarvis and Jordan Mackay just off the lobby of Hotel Rex. Keeping in the Pisco ‘spirit,’ Duggan McDonnel treated the audience to glasses of Pisco Punch. (Now that’s the kind of lecture I can get behind!) The after-party continued at Cantina, where Mr. Mojito stepped behind the bar to shake up more fun.

Final Call at Absinthe

Once again, SF Cocktail Week had its closing party at Absinthe, hosted by Jeff Hollinger. I left town the day before so I don’t have pix from there but if it was anything like last year, I’m sure it was a who’s who of mixology enthusiasts from up and down the West Coast.

So, it was a successful sophomore year for SF Cocktail Week, and With World Cocktail Week wrapped up, all eyes are on New Orleans for an even bigger cocktail extravaganza. See you at Tales in July!

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