SF: Shaker Face Tour- Fifth Floor, Jasper’s Corner Tap, Zero Zero, 15 Romolo
I had a good time chatting with bartender Alex “Prison Break” about his views on the SF cocktail scene. It would appear Alex wasn’t in touch the culinary and cocktail scene as much as he is with the arts scene in SF. He perfects cocktails in his kingdom- the Fifth Floor bar, alone. I was surprised by this notion and it was refreshing. It was intriguing to hear him talk about tweaking a cocktail or trying different spirits out all by his lonesome. It is as if we don’t live in an age of the internet or the USBG (US Bartenders Guild). And I know the Northern California chapter of USBG is pretty tight-knit. I probably should have paid more attention to his shake as I tend to think of SF bartenders as having very similar shaking techniques (arm up to your ear, 20 shakes or so). I know he didn’t shake my Fifth Floor Manhattan but Carina had a Skerzo Sidecar.
Skerzo Sidecar – Skerzo armagnac, Chateau Pellehaut Folle Blanche armagnac, Le Combier, lemon, sugar rim
Fifth Floor Manhattan -Templeton rye, Carpano Antica vermouth, Fernet, maple syrup
I thought it was interesting two types of armagnacs were used in the Sidecar (versus just plain ol’ cognac). It was mellow as expected. I also found it interesting that during my trip I noticed Templeton was the preferred rye for drinks (versus Rittenhouse 100 in LA — I’m not fond of Old Overholt as much). I love Templeton so this was good.
The drink list is mostly from former head bartender Morgan Young who is now at 15 Romolo. Alex said he’s slowly updating the list and had an Averna cocktail I tried. It was quite nice and if you like drinks like Manhattans, you could be persuaded to try a sweeter variation.
We had to make dinner at Benu so we left probably way too soon. Since it was SF Chefs week, the chef wasn’t in the kitchen but hopefully he will be when I’m next up in SF because I really can get down with foie gras stuffed burrata.
Fifth Floor at Hotel Palomar12 4th St., San Francisco, CA 94103 – (415) 348-1555
Jasper’s Corner Tap opened a few weeks ago. Originally it was supposed to only have beer but they hired bar star Kevin Diedrich formerly of the Burritt Room to run the bar which meant pages and pages of cocktails.
I could spend a long time in here but we were killing time before we went to nearby Wilson & Wilson Detective Agency. We had a big meal at Benu and I needed booze to digest (I didn’t drink at dinner other than a glass of sparkling at the beginning of the meal- shocking, I know).
Carina ordered the Soda Jerk and the Dapper Diner had the Anthol Brose #3. I went with my usual bourbon. I opted for the Grand Promenade.
Soda Jerk -Partida Blanco, Campari, lime, passion fruit, vanilla infused agave, egg white, cream soda
Anthol Brose #3 – Famous Grouse Scotch, Peychaud’s bitters, honey, cream
Grand Promenade – Templeton rye, Laird’s Bonded Applejack, Benedictine, Yellow Chartreuse
I tend to shy away from sweet sounding drinks but I did like the Anthol Brose #3. It’s very subtle. Of course I loved my Grand Promenade. Give me anything with whiskey and my faves Benedictine and Chartreuse and you’ve made a friend of me.
What’s fun about Kevin’s cocktail list are the stories he includes with each drink. I like learning about the history of the drinks and sometimes it’s too busy to chat with the bartender about it so this is a nice way to learn.
On my last night in San Francisco, we popped over for a drink at Zero Zero before dinner at Prospect. I wanted to say hi since I follow bartender Brian Means of My American Dram on Twitter. After glancing over the cocktail list, I immediately chose his drink, The Means Project. Carina had a Ninth Ward.
Ninth Ward – Bulliet Bourbon, Velvet Falernum, St. Germain, lime, Peychaud’s bitters
The Means Project – Barbancourt 8-year rhum, Velvet Falernum, lemon, soda, espelette pepper
The bar was very busy and was filled with large parties on this early Sunday evening. I didn’t get a chance to chat with Brian much but I did learn the espelette pepper which imparted a nice spicy tinge to the cocktail is the same pepper they sprinkle on one of the pizzas they serve at Zero Zero. I like the idea of pairing cocktails to food so this would naturally be a way to tie in the cocktail’s flavors to match the food.
I thought 15 Romolo was going to be my last bar on my last night in San Francisco. I had enjoyed my vacation so far visiting bars like Nopa, Churchill and Rye, Buena Vista, The Wilson and my madcap tour of Fifth Floor, Jasper’s, Zero Zero and even my little trip over to Belden Tavern for a little Combier.
We had a light dinner at Prospect so some snacks were in order. 15 Romolo describes themselves as a having a fresh, locally-sourced bar menu with a circus flair. Oooh, circus. We ordered fries and the chicken wings.
The chicken wings had a green curry that had a bit of a kick. It was the spice level I was looking for earlier in the day at Burma SuperStar. They were super hot though and I may have burned my fingers scarfing these babies down. Good thing I had a few cool libations to keep me going. Carina had the Hemingway Daiquiri and the Dapper Diner had a Last Word but made with Fernet instead of gin. So San Fran of him.
The Lambo- Old Fitzgerald 12 year bourbon, Carpano Antica, Campari, orange, lemon. Described as getting you 0 to 60 in less time than you can spell lamborghini, I thought of my ahem, slightly younger years when I dated a race car driver (oh Minty, why won’t you tell this story?).
Buffalo Nickle- Buffalo Trace bourbon, Root Liqueur, ginger syrup, coffee tincture, bitters. I found this drink a bit too sweet. It’s described as an Old Fashioned variation. I would have probably gotten this with less Root– which is not to say I don’t love it since I frequently order the American Graffiti at Drago Centro.
Sleepy Jean- Four Roses bourbon, chamomile, nectarine compote, lemon, Peychaud’s bitters. It was at this point that it was realized a credit card was left at Belden Tavern and my friends went to retrieve it. I was sitting alone drinking the Sleepy Jean when Tim from The Wilson popped up with all the bartenders from Rickhouse. They were celebrating their big win at Tales of the Cocktail as the most high volume cocktail bar. I thought of the West Coast, he thought of the world. Whichever, it was a big, big honor. He asked what I was drinking and I was informed I was no longer drinking that but his Boulevardier (bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth). His was a little sweeter than the one I had from Kate at Sotto a few weeks back made with Hudson Baby Bourbon. I wonder what whiskey he used. I didn’t have a chance to ask because it was shots shots shots time. (Oh don’t worry people, I used the Sleepy Jean as a chaser- yeaaaahhh!)
Was this my last cocktail of the night? Well, I had to get a really good feel of 15 Romolo, so no. I had the Kentucky Back Porch (Rittenhouse 100, Benedictine, Cherry Herring, absinthe rinse, orange and Angostura bitters). However at this point I had put away the camera. We were about to go on a little adventure which I have promised not to write about. Let’s just say it was a damn good time and it’s too bad I will be missing SF Cocktail Week since I won’t be back until the end of September.
What a successful Shaker Face tour!
15 Romolo Pl., San Francisco, CA 94133 – (415) 398-1359