SF Shaker Face Tour
During my recent trip to San Francisco, I noticed all the bartenders shook the same way. I’m referring to how they shake cocktails, of course. In L.A. it seems everyone has their own personal style. There’s even a fun website devoted to “shaker faces.” And most recently, there was a New York Times article about the dangers of cocktail shaking. It was with then much surprise that I observed SF bartenders tended to bring the shaker near their ear. Adam at Blackbird explained to me he was listening to the ice and cocktails required about 20 shakes (more for egg white drinks).
On our first night in SF, we went to two bars; Bar Agricole and Beretta. Bar Agricole opened about a week after I was last in SF, last August. I had heard great things. The two cocktails I tried that night; Presidente and Bartender’s Choice (I was made a Scofflaw) were very balanced and well-crafted. The Presidente features Haitian rum, farmous curacao, grenadine and orange bitters. The Scofflaw is so named by those who “scoffed at the law” during the Prohibition. It was made with the requested bourbon. I loved the tulip shaped glass it was in and learned they were specially made for Bar Agricole.
355 11th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
On my last trip to SF, I wasn’t into any of the cocktail bars we went to except for Beretta. While I loved our bartender at the Occidental Cigar Club, I have to say the best drinks were probably at Beretta. And I did try the drinks at Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse. We snagged seats at the bar and I decided to go easy with the Dolores Park Swizzle. It was light and too easy drinkin’. I was done in no time and decided to ask for a bartender’s choice.
I ended up with a variation of a Greenpoint. Usually made with rye, they substituted with my requested bourbon. The cocktail also featured Punt e Mas and yellow Chartreuse.
I commented that the tulip glasses were similar to the ones at Bar Agricole and was told by Ryan at Beretta that Thad (who co-created the cocktails at Bar Agricole) opened Beretta first.
1199 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
On our second night in San Francisco, we went to Chez Panisse for dinner and by the time we got back to the city, we didn’t feel like wandering far. We decided to get drinks at our hotel bar, the Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel. Being really used to cocktailian bars, I didn’t quite know what to make of this Hollywood-lite lounge. I quickly got myself a Jameson and soda and settled into an armchair where I watched the antics of scantily clad women and badged conventioneers, still resplendent in their polo shirts and khakis. Later, one of these conventioneers told me I was the most relaxed looking person the bar. Well, I suppose so since I wasn’t working and then I found out some of those scantily clad women were prostitutes and escorts. Yow!
I do have to say despite the bar shenanigans and intrusive comments from other bar patrons, the bartenders worked hard and efficiently to try to slake the thirst of the mostly oddball crowd.
495 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Before dinner at Quince, we decided to get a drink at nearby Comstock Saloon. I had heard how much fun it was and the menu looked great. We were almost tempted to stay but it was very crowded. We did manage to worm our way on a couple of bar stools. I ordered a Pisco Punch to enjoy while listening to the ever-growing live band (it went from one musician to 3 by the time we left).
I really liked the look of this mining themed bar. It was definitely more intimate and cozy than the multi-leveled Rickhouse. My cocktails was piquant and a perfect way to begin the evening. I’ll have to come back the next time in SF to try the food.
155 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
Aged cocktails have been gaining in popularity. When I was in Portland, I went to Clyde Common where they aged their cocktails for a few months. I asked Blackbird how long they aged theirs and it ranged from 4-6 weeks in the barrel. Afterward, they remove the aged cocktails to glass bottles behind the bar because they found keeping the barrels on the bar to be clumsy.
I started with the Northern Star (Bols Genever, Krogstad Aquavit, apricot liqueur, lemon and garnished with star anise) which was a warming drink even if it wasn’t actually a warm drink. The bar was busy Saturday night. It played mostly pop music but progressed to more rock by the end of the night and of course we closed out the bar. I was fascinated by the fastest bartender I’ve ever seen, Shawn of Blackbird. He was moving like a machine. Later I found out he worked at the ball park too and probably had to deal with mostly thirsty fans.
It came time to try the aged cocktail. I chose the Bonnie & Clyde. Made with High West silver whiskey, Dolin blanc, organic chamomile liqueur and baked apple bitters, this drink was very interesting. I would have to taste a freshly made one but this one didn’t seemed as “aged” as the one I had in Portland. There was still a certain snap and bite to this drink.
For my last cocktail in SF, I went with bartender’s choice and Adam made me Blackbird’s own Market St. Manhattan. With both rye and bourbon, this drink seemed more herbal to me and definitely up my alley.
I ended the SF Shaker Faces Tour in high spirits (bad pun intended) and ready to return to LA with a fresh thirst for wonderful cocktails. Now if only some bar here would do barrel-aged cocktails.
2124 Market St
San Francisco, California 94114