DOTW: Cable Car

Posted by Anita on 08.11.08 12:07 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**The Bay Area is home to so many fabulous local spirits that it seems almost impossible to single any of them out for special attention. For gin alone, we’ve got 209 and Junipero right here in the City, and Sarticious over the hill in Santa Cruz. We’re close to two top-tier artisan vodka companies — Charbay in Napa and Hangar One on Alameda — both of which also make a variety of other liquors and liqueurs, including St. George Absinthe and Single-Malt Whiskey, and Charbay Rum and Pastis. We’ve got a local brandy-maker, an old-school whiskey distiller, and even a bierschnapps haus.

But honestly, San Francisco’s best local drinking resource may be its bumper crop of creative mixologists. As Camper pointed out (and I keep harping on at every chance I get), Food & Wine Cocktails 2008 includes an unmatched 17 recipes from SF’s watering holes. The bartenders in our City aren’t just great at mixing up other peoples’ recipes, they’re tops at creating new drinks, too.

San Francisco’s bragging rights as a cocktail-creation mecca can be traced to an illustrious heritage, arguably starting with Jerry Thomas‘s 1880s invention of the Martinez, running through the 1920s with Duncan Nicol’s creation Pisco Punch, and Trader Vic’s Bergeron‘s (oft-disputed) introduction of the Mai Tai in 1944. And — just as today — the City’s always been full of canny restaurateurs popularizing drinks that were invented elsewhere, bringing signature drinks like Irish Coffee to the masses.

Mixology Monday badgeAll by way of saying: This month’s episode of Mixology Monday — Local Flavors, hosted by Kevin at Save the Drinkers — has got our name all over it.

Now, I’m generally not a fan of tampering with the classics. But here’s one exception: The Cable Car, a clever Sidecar variation with a decidedly local angle. Created by Tony Abou-Ganim in 1996, the drink became the signature cocktail at Harry Denton’s Starlight Lounge, the iconic nightclub perched at the top of the Sir Francis Drake hotel “between the stars and the cable cars”. The Starlight’s specialty drink menu leads off with the Cable Car to this day… no mean feat in a town where cocktails are forgotten before the publicity even hits the presses.

So the Cable Car’s got a good back-story, and a gorgeous home bar. But how’s it taste? Frankly, the sample we sipped last weekend was unworthy of its lofty setting, not to mention its illustrious pedigree. Captain Morgan may be the 900-pound gorilla in the spiced-rum category (not to mention a pop-culture icon), but he’s no friend of my palate. And really, a drink with its roots in France deserves a better orange liqueur than Marie Brizard. I know it gets busy at the Starlight, but I’d like to think that the cocktail world has evolved past the point where a reputable bar resorts to sour mix, even its own house-made stuff.

So let’s bring this one a little closer to today’s standards: Fresh lemon juice, quality rum, a dash of real spice, and a top-shelf orange liqueur. A true San Francisco treat.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Cable Car Deluxe
– inspired by Tony Abou-Ganim‘s modern classic

1-1/2 oz gold rum (such as Appleton V/X)
scant 1/4 tsp allspice dram
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup (highly optional)

Shake with ice, and strain into a chilled, cinnamon-sugar-rimmed cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or lemon spiral.


Other featured cocktails with a San Francisco twist:

  • Bee’s Knees – Our version, made with 100% local ingredients
  • The Soiree – SF Cocktail Week’s signature drink for 2008
  • Martinez – Jerry Thomas invented it here in San Francisco

Drink of the Week from our local bars:

bar culture, Bay Area, downtown SF, Drink of the Week, drinks, locavore, Mixology Monday, recipes



Comment by H. Joseph Ehrmann

Tony inspired me to create a Cable Car No.2 which is now at the Level III restaurant (a menu I designed). He even gave me the blessing on the name:
2oz 7 Leguas Anejo
1oz Rhum Clement Creole Schrubb
.5 oz lemon juice
same preperation with a Ghiardeli Cocao and Ancho chili Powder rim.

Posted on 08.11.08 at 5:35PM

Comment by Anita

We actually had a chance to try the #2 last Friday — we went to Level III after Harry Denton’s to get some food and watch the opening ceremonies. The tequila is a nice substitution. :)

Posted on 08.11.08 at 5:40PM

Comment by kevin

Thanks for posting this great information, Anita. I’m drinking off your menu when I’m in the city next month. Cheers, you’re in the roundup.

Posted on 08.12.08 at 12:03AM

Comment by Kirsten

I visited San Francisco in 1994 – and I loved it!!! So I love your stories about San Francisco! Best wishes from Germany!

Posted on 08.12.08 at 12:30AM

Comment by Dood

Wow, looks like I found my cocktail for tonight.

Posted on 08.12.08 at 9:25AM

Comment by Tiare

Wonderful post, picture and cocktail!

Posted on 08.14.08 at 2:41PM

Comment by Phil Roast Beef

Hey Anita, my parents recently took Lori, Lily and me to Fog City Diner for Rickey cocktail made with Junipero, not cloyingly sweet the way some are and the flavors of the Junipero really came through. A great combo with the mini-burgers. Mmmmmm…. mini-burgers. Regards to the kids and the bald guy.

Don Carne

Posted on 08.14.08 at 7:01PM

Comment by Tiffany

I absolutely love the Fog Cutter at Forbidden Island, its such a fun place too. We haven’t had a chance to make it out to Cable Car, but I look forward to trying it out sometime soon. Recently I had a seriously tasty Smokey Martini at 83 Proof over on First street. Not entirely San Francisco twisted, but definitely unique and worth a visit!
Great post and thanks for the wonderful cocktail recipe!


Posted on 08.15.08 at 1:17PM

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