Whiskey cocktails in San Francisco [guest post]
Stiffer than a baseball bat and equally as bludgeoning, few things are as celebrated in America as the whiskey cocktail. The renaissance of throwback bars is upon us in San Francisco, those wood-panelled, faux speakeasies where candles light the dark and suspender-snapping mixologists combine potions from mysterious bottles. Here are a few of my favorite bars in town, perfect places for enjoying a well-mixed drink amidst a bit of classic American ambience.
Sazerac : Tradition
What once was the dive bar known as Mr. Lew’s Win-Win and Grand Sazerac Emporium comes Tradition, the spacious whiskey bar located just a block south from its sister bar, the venerated Bourbon & Branch. Tradition celebrates the American heritage of cocktails, with old-timey music playing overhead and the hue of flickering candles. One can guess that the specialty here is the Sazerac, a drink birthed in New Orleans, composed of rye whiskey, cognac, sugar, bitters and a swirl of absinthe. Tradition offers two varieties: the Mr. Lew’s Sazerac and the A La Louisianne, the latter with sweet vermouth and Benedictine in place of cognac and sugar. Tradition also boasts a separate menu of whiskies aged in various casks, such as Pinot noir.
High Planes Drifter : Rickhouse
Another sister bar of Tradition and Bourbon & Branch is the centrally located Rickhouse. While packed on peak nights, a visit on a Monday rewards you with a live band at 8pm and a manageable crowd. Like the other bars within its family, Rickhouse specializes in whiskey drinks. The High Planes Drifter is perhaps the most unique, a bitey cocktail with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Amaro Nonino and celery bitters.
Vieux Carré : Hi-Lo Club
From the demise of Koko Cocktails on Geary and Van Ness comes its rebirth: Hi-Lo Club. The semi-hidden bar is still relatively unknown to many in the city, though it offers some of the finest drinks in town at lower prices. The staff are the same as before, the owners wholly competent in mixing up delectable delights. The Vieux Carré is a winner here, composed of Bulleit Rye, brandy, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and bitters. Slightly sweet and very smooth, it’s a cocktail worthy of the French Quarter. For non-brown liquor drinkers, opt for the wonderful Martinez, made of Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, sweet vermouth, Luxardo Maraschino and orange bitters.
Usual Suspects : Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen
Trade in the dapper wear for some hipster attire at Jasper’s Corner Tap, a gastropub with a cocktail menu longer than its ample food offerings. Jasper’s serves some of the most unique cocktails around, a characteristic best exemplified with Portland bar-master Allison Webber’s Usual Suspects, a drink comprised of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Lazzaroni Amaro, Broadbent Madeira, and Angostura and Peychaud’s Bitters. Flavorful and smooth, it’s a nice accompaniment to a basket of crispy fries and a plate of their tasty Ahi Poke. On tap are a wide selection of great brews, as well as their housemade Negroni.
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