DOTW: Old Cuban

Posted by Anita on 07.12.08 12:53 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**I’ll spare you the history and variations of this particular Audrey Saunders creation for two reasons: (1) We’re doing our best to get ready for next week’s pilgrimage to Tales of the Cocktail and (2) it’s already been covered extensively by everyone from the lowbrow to the highbrow, plus a handful of cocktail bloggers in between.

But here’s the reason it’s on our radar: Last night, we met up for dinner and drinks with out-of-town guests, Morgan — one-third of the Drink Dogma troika — and his lovely wife Stacey. Our first stop was Nopa, one of our favorite cocktail-savvy restaurants, both because of their fabulous bar program and their delicious (and locavore-friendly) food.

Stacey and I both ordered an Old Cuban to start, but — because I was too busy being social — I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, nor to see how they were putting together this effervescent refresher. Which is a damned shame because now I haven’t the faintest idea how they get this drink to be a rather flamboyant, Shrek-like shade of green.

Even using silver rum (an unorthodox variation, given the Bacardi 8 in the original recipe) I couldn’t achieve anything more than a Mojito-colored khaki. Obviously I need to go back to Nopa and do some more investigation.

Whatever color it is, the Old Cuban makes for a refreshing way to start a warm summer evening at the bar. And if you can talk Morgan and Stacey into joining you, I can guarantee you’ll have a fabulous time.

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Old Cuban Cocktail
1-1/2 oz aged rum (Bacardi 8 or Flor de Caña 7)
1 ounce simple syrup (or less, to taste)
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 mint leaves
Champagne

Muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add the lime juice, rum, bitters, and ice. Shake well. Double-strain (through a Hawthorne strainer and a smaller sieve) into a chilled cocktail glass or flute. Top with bubbly, and garnish with a spring of mint or half a sugared vanilla bean.

bar culture, Drink of the Week, drinks, other blogs
5 Comments »

 

DOTW: Tommy Gun

Posted by Anita on 07.06.08 10:44 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**This week’s stop on our Summer of Cocktails tour finally hit the bullseye: A solid cocktail in a superlative setting.

Bar Drake is the lesser-known of the Sir Francis Drake hotel’s watering holes, but this chic spot is no second fiddle. It may lack the stunning skyline views of Harry Denton’s Starlight Lounge — not to mention its swanky scene — but the lobby lounge offers an abundance of glamour, centered on a dramatically lit back-bar soaring almost to the top of the second-story mezzanine.

Bar Drake’s sumptuous elegance surrounds a mix of couches and comfy chairs, settled around the lobby at clubby intervals. The service is impeccable, and the prices — $10 for most cocktails — are downright affordable by downtown standards. You might not expect that a hotel lobby bar would be the place to find an innovative cocktail menu, especially with some of San Francisco’s trendiest clubs within stumbling distance. But with a drinks program led by master mixologist Jacques Bezuindenhout (better known for his work upstairs), you’re in capable hands at Bar Drake.

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the venerable Sidecar (also invented in a hotel bar), Bezuindenhout’s Cocktails 2008 entry — the Tommy Gun — somehow captures the familiar taste of a drink you’ve enjoyed for ages. Despite not one but two ingredients borrowed from the pastry kitchen, it has none of the “gosh, aren’t we clever” oddness of some modern creations. A pleasant balance of tart and sweet, spice and heat — it’s a lovely, timeless drink.

My one quibble with Bar Drake: The bartender the night of our visit was rather haphazard with his measures, free-pouring his spirits and mixing multiple drinks at a time. Predictably, this led to fairly significant variation among the dozen or so Tommy Guns our group ordered throughout the evening. Looking around the room, spying drinks ranging from deep orange to palest yellow, you could tell at a glance that everyone’s drink was quite different. Still, we all loved what we got; perhaps it’s a testament to the strength of the recipe that it can be so broadly varied and still pleasant.

When properly made with a keen eye on the jigger, the Tommy Gun can more than hold its own among the year’s best drinks.

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Tommy Gun
- Jacques Bezuindenhout, Bar Drake
published in Food & Wine Cocktails 2008

2 thin slices fresh ginger
1 tsp apricot jam
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
2 oz Irish whiskey
1/2 oz Grand Mariner

Thoroughly muddle the ginger with jam and lemon juice. Add ice, whiskey, and Grand Mariner; shake well with plenty of ice. Double-strain (through a Hawthorne strainer into a fine-mesh sieve) into an ice-filled rocks glass; garnish with lemon twist.

bar culture, downtown SF, Drink of the Week, drinks
9 Comments »

 

DOTW: Fog Cutter

Posted by Anita on 06.23.08 6:30 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**You may remember from last month’s MxMo post that something like 17 recipes from our local bars and restaurants are included in Food & Wine Cocktails 2008 — a feat unmatched by any region’s mixologists, including the much-larger contingent from New York City. Soon after the book hit the streets, a gaggle of Bay Area food bloggers were talking about how remarkably lucky we are to live in a region with so many talented bartenders. One thing led to another, and soon people were plotting an exhaustive tour of the featured establishments.

Now, anyone who’s been party to a brilliant idea hatched in the midst of an alcohol-fueled afternoon knows what usually becomes of these grand plans: Nothing. As soon as the sober light of reality hits, you realize that getting a dozen-plus people to agree on schedules, venues, and pacing is just too much drama for a simple cocktail.

But obviously, you don’t know Jen.

Our supremely organized friend sat down with her trusty spreadsheet in one hand and a copy of the cocktail compendium in the other and plotted out an agenda that takes us to a different F&W-mentioned bar each week of the summer. Because of the logistics of getting our mostly San Francisco-based crew to far-flung destinations like Napa or even the East Bay, Jen left some drinks off the formal agenda as an extra-credit exercise for completists to tackle at their leisure.

Circulating the schedule to a crew of cocktail-savvy bloggers and other social butterflies, Jen kept the schedule-jockeying to a minimum with one simple idea: “We’ll be gathering here at the appointed time. Come if you can; we’ll see you next week if you can’t.” Brilliant, no?

And by god, it seems to be working. A quick call to the bar a day or two before gives us reasonable assurance that they’ll have any special ingredients on hand. People come early, leave late, wander in and out during the evening. A good time is had by all, and we manage to have a sociable drink or two before wandering off in various directions in search of supper.

And if the published cocktail at this week’s destination turned out to be… well, perhaps we’ll just say “seasonally inappropriate”? At least we had a wonderful time with some of our favorite blog-friends, enjoying some unseasonably warm weather in one of the coziest bars in The City. And hey, there’s always next week.

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve had a bad meal or any other below-scratch culinary experience, my natural instinct is to go for a do-over at a tried-and-true spot where we know we won’t be disappointed. Looking over Jen’s list, we realized that some of the far-flung omissions weren’t so far-flung after all, at least to those of us blessed with a car and a FasTrak transponder. And, really, it doesn’t take much of an excuse to get Cameron and me across the bay to Forbidden Island; the opportunity to taste a Fog Cutter made by the man whose license plate spells out the name of this Trader Vic tiki classic was more than sufficient.

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Fog Cutter
- Martin Cate, Forbidden Island
From Food & Wine Cocktails 2008

1-1/2 oz white rum
1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz brandy
2 oz fresh orange juice
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz orgeat
1/2 oz Amontillado sherry

Shake all ingredients except the sherry, and stain into an ice-filled highball glass. Carefully pour the sherry on top, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

bar culture, Drink of the Week, drinks, East Bay, recipes
11 Comments »

 

DOTW: Monte Carlo

Posted by Anita on 06.13.08 7:03 AM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**If you follow San Francisco’s cocktail scene even half-heartedly, it’d have been hard to miss the news about Beretta, heir to the old Last Supper Club space on Valencia. Even before its much-anticipated opening, this spot was generating plenty of buzz — much of it due to a bartender roster that reads like a Who’s Who of San Francisco mixologists.

Beretta’s culinary pedigree isn’t too shabby either, and our first dinner there was quite promising. A short list of risotto options — the one we tried, with porcini and Barbera, was homely but delicious — follows a litany of pizzas that could give Gialina or Pizzeria Delfina a run for their money with a few simple tweaks.

A dozen-plus antipasto options included delicious grilled asparagus served with olivata and soft-boiled egg quarters, and a spot-on plate of Monterey sardines in soar. Although portions are modest, this is definitely not dainty “small plates” food. They’re just the thing if you like being able to order a starter without ruining your appetite, and at $5 a pop you can always order two if you’re ravenous. Better still, they’re the perfect size for snacking at the bar while sipping one of Beretta’s well-crafted cocktails.

And yes, it’s all locavore-friendly: The menu boasts of food that’s “always fresh, seasonal, and sourced from local farmers”. Word ’round my office water-cooler is Beretta’s weekend brunch is a crowd-free glory all unto itself — and what better place to nurse a hangover?

Because, really, you might just be tempted overindulge when you see Beretta’s lengthy cocktail menu. Unlike the truncated drink offerings at many restaurants, this list offers a little something for every palate, and all drinks are priced at a reasonable $9. Over the course of the evening, we sampled a fantastic Gin & It made with Vya sweet vermouth and Tanqueray 10, plus an eye-opening Air Mail and pleasantly brisk an Agricole Mule.

Mixology Monday badgeOne other drink we tried — the Monte Carlo — bears more than a passing resemblance to an old favorite, the Oh Henry, minus the ginger ale. Lest a fruity liqueur trick you into thinking this is a tame tipple, remember that Benedictine is 86 proof… stiffer than some bourbons! So, I suggest you do as the Beretta barkeeps do and serve it in a dainty Nick-and-Nora glass.

It’s not often we discover a worthy bourbon drink that’s escaped our notice — we’re great fans of America’s brown liquor, and we’ve even been known to put it in our food. So it seems only fitting to share our discovery as part of the June edition of Mixology Monday: Bourbon, hosted by SeanMike at Scofflaw’s Den.

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Monte Carlo
1-1/2 oz bourbon or rye
1/2 oz Benedictine
2 dashes aromatic bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a small cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange.

—–

A small sample of previous Drink of the Week entries featuring bourbon:

1/25/08: Horse’s Neck with a Kick
10/12/07: Whiskey Sour
9/14/07: Fashionably Lillet
7/27/07: Mint Julep
7/6/07: Sazerac
11/10/06: Manhattan
8/18/06: Currier

bar culture, Drink of the Week, drinks, Mixology Monday, recipes, restaurants, The Mission
6 Comments »

 

DOTW: The Soiree

Posted by Anita on 06.06.08 7:18 AM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**Oh, hi — are you still here? Dang, sorry about that. We’ve done the metaphorical equivalent of falling asleep at the WordPress dashboard, and yet you kept coming by. That’s so sweet.

But enough navel-gazing: We’re back! We’ve got a great few posts in the hopper, including a brand new eat-local challenge for the summer. First, though, I think we’re definitely overdue for a drink.

One of the cool things that happened before our spring slump kicked in was Cocktail Week: Seven whole days devoted to well-made libations, visits from cocktail illuminiati, and some of the city’s best restaurants offering multi-course meals with inventive cocktail pairings. (Imagine eight pork dishes — including two delicious desserts — with seven different American-whiskey cocktails: Foodie hotspot Orson hosted this Bourbon & Bacon extravaganza, and I dream of it still.)

Another night, the folks at CUESA hosted a Farmers Market Cocktails tasting in the arcade of the legendary Ferry Building. At the mercy of one of those unseasonably hot days we get each May, a few hundred cocktail fans packed under the archways like a tin of tipsy sardines. Happily, we ran into many of our local blog buddies, which made for fabulous chit-chat as we sampled and sweltered.

Sadly, although I love fresh-fruit cocktails, Cocktail Week falls at possibly the worst time of the year for that sort of thing. Specialty citrus is pretty much gone, stone fruits are weeks away, and there’s not much on hand but some early-season strawberries and underripe cherries. As a result, I was not captivated by many of the drinks we tasted at the event, despite their being created by some of the best bartenders in town.

The best sip of the evening was the official drink of San Francisco Cocktail Week 2008: The Soirée. It features both green Chartreuse and St-Germain elderflower liqueur — two of my favorite ingredients — woven together with the muskiness of silver tequila, a sour punch of lemon, and the whispered spice of a Latin-inspired tincture. It sounds like the sort of crazy mess you might expect from a collaboration of a trio of star bartenders… but it’s actually delicious. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that the version we sampled that night was shaken up by one of our favorite mixologists.)

The chile-cinnamon-cocoa tincture — definitely not optional — requires a little effort, but the ingredients can be found in any decently stocked bulk foods department. With a quick shopping trip, a few minutes of prep, and a little patient steeping, you can throw your own Soirée whenever the mood strikes.

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The Soirée
1.5 ounces silver tequila
1/2 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
1/2 ounce lemon juice
2 dashes mole tincture
Mint, for garnish

Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Mole Tincture
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
3-1/2 T cacao nibs
1/4 red bell pepper, minced
1 dried very hot chile (such as de arbol)
5oz silver tequila

Place all the ingredients into a jelly jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake the jar twice daily for four days then strain the mixture, first through a sieve, then through a coffee filter before bottling.

Drink of the Week, drinks, farmers markets, recipes
7 Comments »

 

DOTW: Thai Boxer

Posted by Anita on 05.12.08 12:09 AM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**I’m a big fan of Food & Wine magazine’s annual pocket-sized cocktail compilations. I picked up my first edition a few years back as an impulse buy in the supermarket checkout lane. Flipping through the slim volume while the woman in front of me attempted to write a check for her $4 order, I spied a recipe from the Zig-Zag boys and bought it on the spot.

Every year since then, I’ve waited impatiently for the new version each spring. Though I don’t always find a new favorite, there are enough “keeper” recipes in every edition that it’s worth the small expense — about $10 — and the photography and prop styling offer plenty of visual inspiration.

This year’s edition features a whopping 17 recipes from Bay Area bars and restaurants, including favorites like Nopa, Forbidden Island, Alembic, and more. Surely, I thought, there must be a good rum recipe in there, worthy of this month’s Mixology Monday roundup — hosted, aptly enough, by Trader Tiki.

Alas, somebody at F&W missed the memo about rum’s hot streak: A good chunk of the drinks in the Rum chapter are actually made with rum’s Brazilan cousin, cachaça. But one concoction did catch my eye: Scott Beattie’s “Thai Boxer” — a vanilla-rum drink that uses unsweetened coconut milk, muddled Asian herbs, and a dose of ginger ale. Truthfully, I’m not a huge fan of culinary cocktails that require a grocery-store excursion, but it just so happens that (a) I keep a case of coconut milk on hand for Thai curries and (b) we actually have all the herb ingredients growing in our yard.

Much as I love the folks at Charbay, I was reluctant to splash out $35+ for a bottle of their boutique vanilla rum, not knowing if I’d find another use for it. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise: There wasn’t a single bottle to be found at any of my regular liquor shops. Happily, spiced spirits are one of the quickest and easiest infusions to make, and I was very pleased with my first effort at home-made vanilla rum.

But back to the recipe: Once the shopping’s done and the vanilla rum’s steeped, the hard part’s definitely done. I took the liberty of replacing the original recipe’s simple syrup with an equal amount of Canton ginger liqueur to double up the ginger beer’s flavor. Much like its namesake, this Thai Boxer’s a cute little thing with a surprisingly lethal kick.

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Thai Boxer
- Adapted from a recipe by Scott Beattie in Food & Wine Cocktails 2008
10 leaves Thai basil, plus a sprig for garnish
Mixology Monday - RUM10 leaves fresh mint
10 leaves cilantro
1/2 oz Canton ginger liqueur, or simple syrup
1-1/2 oz vanilla rum (see Note 1)
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz unsweetened coconut milk (see Note 2)
ginger beer, or a quality ginger ale

In a mixing glass, muddle the herbs with the liqueur or syrup. Add the rum, lime juice, coconut milk, and shake with ice until well chilled. Double-strain (using a Hawthorne strainer to hold back the ice and a fine sieve to catch the bits of herbs) into an ice-filled highball glass, and top with ginger beer. Garnish with a spring of Thai basil.

Note 1: If you can’t find a natural vanilla rum — Beattie recommends Charbay Tahitian Vanilla, which seems to be in short supply, even here in the Bay Area — it’s easy to make your own. Split and finely grind (or chop) a vanilla bean and steep in 8oz of white rum. Shake periodically, and strain through cheesecloth after 48 hours. Whatever you do, please steer clear of the artificially enhanced mass-market brands.

Note 2: You’re looking for the unsweetened Asian stuff here, not that ‘coco creme‘ crap. Try to not shake the coconut milk before using. In fact, it’s best if you can refrigerate the can for a day beforehand to allow the coconut cream to rise to the top and solidify. Be sure you’re using the thinner, watery milk at the bottom of the can for this recipe, or you’ll end up with an unappetizing film on the sides of the glass and a greasy-tasting drink.

—–

Other Drink of the Week posts featuring Rum:
Millionaire Cocktail #1 with Plymouth Sloe Gin
Fugu for Two at Forbidden Island
Dark & Stormy, San Francisco’s winter fave
Mai Tai at the Tiki-ti
Piña Coladas, au naturel
Mojitos a la Murray
Corn ‘n’ Oil, Cameron’s favorite rum drink
Bloody Beach, a Blood and Sand variation
Eggnog for a festive occasion
Painkillers straight from Tortola
Jolly Roger, for Talk Like a Pirate Day
Canton (aka Chinese Cocktail), the very first DOTW

cookbooks, Drink of the Week, drinks, Mixology Monday, recipes
9 Comments »

 

DOTW: Paloma

Posted by Anita on 05.05.08 10:19 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**The San Francisco cocktail circuit is a pretty cozy scene. It’s not just that bartenders pick up shifts at three or four different bars or restaurants in as many nights, although that helps. It’s more that for some reason, every now and then, a somewhat obscure cocktail will simultaneously capture the imaginations of multiple menu-writers. Suddenly you see the darned thing everywhere.

Last fall, the cocktail of the moment was the Dark n’ Stormy; every watering hole in The City had it on their menu, and pretty soon Gosling’s Black Seal was a common sight on the speedrail. The effect is so pervasive it feels like one of those community reading programs where everyone skims the same hardback on the subway, except here in SF, it’s “One City, One Drink“.

Winter’s finally over, and so the ginger beer, sadly, is making its way back to the cellar. But ready to take its place, you’ll find a slew of imported, artisanal, and home-brewed grapefruit sodas. Paired with a healthy glug of reposado tequila, a pinch of salt, and the juice of half a lime, you’ve got yourself a Mexican fiesta in a glass, that lazy-man’s margarita known as the Paloma.

Of course, it wouldn’t be San Francisco without some liberties taken. Over at the Chronicle, our pal Jane details three different SF bars offering their own twists on the Paloma. Alembic uses homemade soda and some spicy secret ingredient; newcomer Beretta adds elderflower and Cointreau… hmm. I’m sure they’re lovely, but honestly (and here’s something you won’t hear me saying often) I’m pretty sure I’d rather try my luck at Tres Agaves. Their straight-ahead, old-school version uses Jarritos soda, which — after sampling Squirt, Hansens, and Fresca — I’m going to say is an essential ingredient. So please, hit up your local bodega or taqueria, and look for the bottle marked “toronja”.

My one deviation from the Paloma recipe you’ll find at beachfront cantinas up and down the Baja coast is a good shake of Fee Brothers’ Grapefruit Bitters. They’re optional, of course… but they add a delightful boost of grapefruit-peel flavor and accentuate the spicy tequila bite.

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Paloma
2oz reposado tequila
juice of 1/2 lime
Mexican grapefruit soda, such as Jarritos
a hearty dash of grapefruit or orange bitters (optional, but delicious)
table salt (not kosher)

Combine the tequila and lime juice in an ice-filled highball glass. Fill with grapefruit soda, then top the ice with a shake of bitters and a healthy shake of salt.

bar culture, Drink of the Week, drinks, Mexican, recipes
14 Comments »

 

DOTW: Millionaire

Posted by Anita on 04.28.08 11:59 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**It’s been good year for lost ingredients. Obsessive cocktail geeks can now whip up once-impossible drinks, courtesy of newly minted versions of pimento dram, creme de violette, absinthe, and other revivals. And soon, sloe gin will join the ranks of the resurrected, opening up a new chapter of vintage cocktails to modern palates.

Nitpickers will counter that sloe gin was never truly lost. And yes, any well-stocked suburban liquor barn probably has a dusty bottle or two on hand for frat boys looking to whip up a batch of Alabama Slammers. But these so-called sloe gins are no more than low-quality, one-note wonders packed with sugar and artificial fruitiness; many don’t even start with a gin base. Truly, they’re so far removed from the real thing that most cocktail enthusiasts have considered sloe gin a lost ingredient Stateside, going so far as to concoct their own facsimiles from sour plum infusions or importing bottles from abroad.

But next month, all that will change: One of our favorite gin brands plans to launch their sloe-infused variety — previously available only in the UK and Australia — here in the US.

After what seems like an interminable wait, Plymouth Sloe Gin will make its North American debut in May, starting in bars and (one hopes quickly) moving into limited retail release. Through the good graces of a quick-thinking pal, I’ve found myself in possession of an exceedingly rare bottle a bit ahead of schedule. And so I did what any sane cocktail geek would do: I rounded up a crew of like-minded drinkers and got shaking.

To get a sense of what we were playing with, we tried a sip of the sloe gin on its own. The Plymouth press materials speak of “sweet cherry and raspberry notes that provide a complimentary mixture of figs, cloves, honey and stewed fruits”. But, truthfully, when tasted neat it’s hard to discern anything beyond a flavor wholly reminiscent of “the cough-syrup berry” (as one sharped-tongued wag remarked). We all agreed: This is a strong, tart flavor that wants to be mixed, not sipped.

Happily, there are a wealth of sloe gin recipes waiting in the world’s cocktail archives; CocktailDB alone boasts more than 90 of them, and every pre-Prohibition collection seems to sport a handful. Fans of bittersweet combinations — of which there were many in attendance at our sloe soirée — should head straight for the widely noted Blackthorn, a 2:1 sloe gin / sweet vermouth mixture stirred with a dash of orange bitters. It’s a surprisingly tasty pairing, especially when using a top-notch Italian vermouth.

But the unanimous favorite of the evening came straight out of the venerable Savoy Cocktail Book, a harmonious blend of “five ingredients… downright complicated for the Savoy” (quipped the guy who should know). With Jamaica rum and apricot brandy, the flavors are almost tiki-like. But the sour bite of the lime juice and the dark sweetness of the rum are a perfect foil to balance out the sloe’s medicinal qualities.

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Millionaire Cocktail (No. 1)
juice of 1 lime
3/4 oz sloe gin
3/4 oz apricot brandy
3/4 oz Jamaican rum
1 dash grenadine

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Drink of the Week, drinks, other blogs, recipes
11 Comments »

 

DOTW: Country Thyme

Posted by Anita on 04.18.08 11:15 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**H. Joseph Ehrmann is a busy guy. He runs a full-service cocktail catering company, maintains a successful spirits consultancy, serves as a brand ambassador for Square One organic vodka, and promotes Green & Tonic to help bar owners adopt environmental improvements.

As if he weren’t busy enough, H. is also one of the panelists this year at Tales of the Cocktail, co-presenting a session about green bars and seasonal cocktails — hence my interest in tracking him down. But first and foremost, he’s the proprietor of Mission District stalwart Elixir, San Francisco’s second-oldest saloon.

If you’ve walked by Elixir’s vintage facade on the corner of Guerrero and 16th streets, you might have mistaken it for just another neighborhood bar. And you wouldn’t be wrong, really: The local crew are all there, complete with a gaggle of beer-and-a-shot mooks shooting darts, and docile dog welcoming patrons at the door. But scratch the surface of this time-worn tavern and you’ll find a few surprises.

First, that beer: As likely as not, it’s local, organic, or at least sustainably produced. There’s always at least one all-organic cocktail on the Elixir menu, and often a fruit-based seasonal special as well. And the bar itself was actually the first watering hole certified as a green business by the City of San Francisco, which monitors Elixir’s energy usage, recycling and composting efforts, and a host of other sustainability criteria.

I caught up with H. — nobody’s called him Harold since high school — at one of the Mixology 101 classes he leads at a chain of Peninsula-area athletic clubs. (They’re offered as a membership perk, although civilians are quite welcome.) Along with an enthusiastic gaggle of newbie bar-enthusiasts, I stirred up a space-age martini, muddled a mojito, shook up an all-organic Margarita, and learned how to flame an orange peel to garnish a classic Manhattan.

The last drink of the night, the punnily named Country Thyme, introduced our budding mixologists to fresh-produce cocktails. Amusingly, I’d actually attempted to order this very drink the previous night on a trip to Elixir, only to find there were no berries on the premises. (H. laughingly explained he’d hijacked the bar’s stash for a catering gig, and absentmindedly forgot to replace them.) The drink’s vibrant hue and patio-perfect looks make it a crowd pleaser; H says as soon as the first one makes its way across the room, everyone’s bellying up to the bar asking for their own.

If all this talk of sustainable, market-fresh ingredients is making you thirsty, a trip to Elixir might be in order. And there’s no time like the present: Next week, H. plans to roll out his newest seasonal cocktail list, full of plenty of mid-spring treats from the farmers market.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**H. Joseph Ehrmann - photo courtesy Elixir(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**20px.jpg

It’s a little early yet for blueberries, but if you’re looking for a 100%-organic cocktail to celebrate Earth Day, there aren’t a ton of fresh-fruit options at this time of year. My preference here would be frozen Northwest blueberries, a better option than the flavorless South American imports. In places where organic strawberries are already available, consider that substitution; you’ll lose the magenta color, unfortunately.

Country Thyme
- courtesy H. Joseph Ehrmann, Elixir

1/3 cup organic blueberries
1 organic lemon
1/2 oz organic agave syrup (or 3/4 oz simple syrup)
1.5 oz Square One vodka
2 sprigs organic thyme

Muddle the blueberries in the bottom of a mixing glass. Cut the lemon into chunks — about 8 pieces — and muddle in the glass with the berries. Add the agave syrup and the vodka, and shake vigorously.

Spank one sprig of thyme, place it upright in a highball glass, and fill the glass to the rim with ice. Strain the shaken mixture into the glass, and garnish with the remaining sprig of thyme and a straw.

PS: Stay tuned to the Tales Blog for my preview of H.’s session, The Green Seasonal Bar.

bar culture, classes, Drink of the Week, drinks, locavore, Tales of the Cocktail
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DOTW: Asian Orange

Posted by Cameron on 04.13.08 2:20 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**A month or so ago, at last unable to ignore the murmurs of delight circulating around the cocktail world, we sought out a bottle of Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb, an orange liqueur from Martinique. Made by infusing a blend of white and aged rums with spices and bitter orange peels, Creole Shrubb turns out to be quite different from the usual, more-neutral orange liqueurs. Its complexity intrigued us, but because we knew its dusky mysteriousness would make it an imperfect match for existing recipes, the Creole Shrubb languished on our “try me” shelf.

Last week, we received a bottle of Domaine de Canton, a ginger-cognac liqueur created by John Cooper (brother to Rob Cooper, creator of St. Germain) that has received a fair bit of positive press. As soon as I heard “ginger,” a light bulb went off in my head. Perhaps we’d finally found a companion for Creole Shrubb’s exotic overtones — and just in time for this month‘s fruit liqueur edition of Mixology Monday.

Creole Shrubb’s orange spice would be a natural match for the gingery Canton. Their families would get along, knit together by a shared history of tropical French colonialism: Creole Shrubb from les Antilles, Domaine de Canton with its roots in Indochine. Creole and Canton would fall in love and have beautiful little minibar bottles. Truly, I am the yenta of booze.

Mixology Monday = Fruit Liqueurs

And yet, while the path to true love glowed ahead like a sunset on tropical shores, there was the danger this marriage of two sweet principals could become a sticky, sappy affair that would destroy itself in an explosion of pet names and babytalk. (“No, I wuv *you*, Cherie!”) Clearly, a sharp, antiseptic, perhaps even military chaperone was necessary — a no-nonsense personality to temper the flighty natures of our two romantics. I scanned the liquor cabinet and a grizzled naval officer stepped forward: Plymouth gin.

I must modestly admit that the first meeting of the three was a roaring success. I began by introducing them in equal amounts, reasoning that none would easily get the upper hand. These proportions turned out to be nearly ideal. When it seemed that the conversation could use a bit of lubricant, I blessed the vessel with a drop of bitters, and the addition brought the group together in even greater harmony.

Should you wish to arrange your own meeting, I have provided a guide below. If you must substitute, be prepared to tinker with the proportions. The penetrating sting of the Plymouth gin is especially (and surprisingly) important.

(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**

Asian Orange
1 oz Plymouth gin
1 oz Domaine de Canton
1 oz Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb
2 dashes Angostura bitters (or one dainty drop of Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged)

Combine in an ice-filled glass and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with star anise, if desired.

Drink of the Week, drinks, Mixology Monday, recipes
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