In my latest story for San Francisco Magazine, I talk about bars opening inside other bars.
Photograph by Chris Brennan
Make it a double
These bars within bars offer patrons a choice of drinking styles. By Camper English
The hottest haute cocktails require a range of syrups, bitters, fresh herbs, several types of gin, a lot of storage space, and extra time to make every drink. One way in which bar owners are handling the demand is by dividing and conquering, opening two bars in a single venue—one to promote quick service, the other for slow sipping.
Until recently, the back room at Dalva was a barren spot more suited for storage than for socializing, and it was often used by customers sneaking illegal indoor cigarettes. But with a fresh coat of paint and a bit of remodeling, including a custom-made bar and wrought-iron accents, this area has been rebranded as a boutique interior cocktail lounge called the Hideout.
You may recall a few weeks ago I wrote a piece for the San Francisco Chronicle about bartenders being less snobby that proved a bit controversial. Now a few others have taken up the conversation.
My initial story had the following quote from Erick Castro of Rickhouse that touched a few nerves:
"Three years ago it was OK to be rude. It used to be 'I'm not making a cosmo and you're a horrible person.' Now we say, 'I'm not making a cosmo, but I'm making you something better than a cosmo.' And if they like (the drink) they trust you for the whole night."
Just as it'd be ridiculous to enter a dive bar and ask for a Last Word, isn't there something at least slightly wrong with going to a bar with a spectacular selection of spirits—an ambitious and balanced cocktail menu and a carefully developed mixological aesthetic—and asking for the bibulous equivalent of a baloney sandwich?
This story picked up another 67 comments so far.
Then Lauren Clark picked up the topic on DrinkBoston.com in a post called "We've Seen This Before" and adds a very good point- that this whole debate is nothing new and has been seen in food, beer, and wine.
I experienced this kind of change first-hand during my brief stint in the craft brewing industry in the late ’90s. Even though craft beer had been proliferating for over a decade at that point, people would still walk into a brewpub and order a Miller Lite. The bartender would explain that there was no Miller Lite on tap, that the establishment sold only beer that was made on the premises, and he would suggest a golden ale — milder than the pub’s other beers but still way more flavorful than mass-produced light lager. The customer would either leave or try the golden ale. If he tried it and liked it enough, he might get adventuresome later on and order an IPA or a porter. It was a process, and it didn’t happen overnight.
This is fun. I hope this discussion continues on and offline.
Here are some drink-related things going on in San Francisco for Valentine's Day.
First up, a club partnering with a hotel to rent rooms by the hour. Scandalous!
Infusion Lounge and Hotel Fusion are turning the couples only holiday into a celebration of the single life. For one night only, Hotel Fusion offers a special $69 rate for guests who are looking for a short-term intimate setting. The special rate includes a standard room for up to three hours so guests can get to know each other a little better in privacy. Also included in the package are two drink tokens to use at the Infusion Lounge.
Wed, Feb 10th ,
7pm to 9pm – Drinks Guys Like – A class to teach you a bit about what
the man in your life probably wants to drink in different scenarios.
You’ll learn about brown spirits like whisk(e)y, aged rum and anejo
tequila and why men like these. We’ll look at the masculine side of
cocktails and the flavors that abound within and you’ll have a chance
to buy him something special for his bar. Your sure to surprise him
this year when you’ve learned a bit more about how to please him…at the
bar. $85 per person includes 4 cocktails and class; Cocktail Tools and
Books available for purchase
Thursday, Feb 11th ,
7pm to 9pm – Woo Her with Cocktails - In this look into the cocktail
psyche of women, we’ll learn a bit about the flavors, aromas and
textures of cocktails and spirits that women tend to order. Like
anything with your girl, you need to know when to offer her what and
why that will work. See if you can touch her the right way with
cocktails and you might just find yourself having the best Valentine’s
Day of your life…$85 per person includes 4 cocktails and class;
Cocktail Tools and Books available for purchase
Feb 14th -
Cocktails for Couples – Bring your Sweetheart in for a side-by-side
cocktail class where you’ll make and drink cocktails together. We’ll
cover drinks he likes, and drinks she likes, as we explore some of the
more fun and frivolous side of cocktails. You’ll be welcomed with a
champagne cocktail for each of you and a surprise Valentine’s. We’ll
cover romantic cocktails as a theme, as well as aphrodisiac ingredients
and even a playful cocktail that you can (oh, scandal) bring into your
bed… Tickets sold in pairs for $170 and include 3 drinks each, class
Trumer Brauerei Hosts Closing Party for San Francisco Beer Week
San Francisco’s Beer Week closing party at Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley, California. 20 local breweries sampling their brews, BBQ, music, silent auction and FREE shuttles from the downtown Berkeley BART to the Brauerei.
Over 20 other breweries will pour favorite brews as well. Meet Celebrator writers and beer industry luminaries, including pioneer figures in the craft beer movement. Catering by Emergency BBQ and beer are included! Breweries pouring include 21st Amendment, Anchor Brewery, Anderson Valley, Beach Chalet, Bear Republic, BridgePort, Lagunitas, Marin, Moylan’s, New Belgium, North Coast, Ommegang, Pacific Coast, Pyramid, Rubicon, Russian River, Sierra Nevada, Triple Rock, Trumer Pils, Valley Brewing, Widmer/Redhook and more.
“Love Mixology” Cocktail Class
Saturday, February 13
4 – 5 p.m.
The Westin St. Francis
Caruso’s (Tower Lobby)
335 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA
$50 per couple
To make reservations for the “Love Mixology” class call (415) 774-0264.
Getting just the right balance of ingredients to complement each other is important for any relationship, and certainly the best drinks! Guests will shake, stir and blend as they learn how to make romantic cocktails at the “Love Mixology” cocktail class. At this specialty cocktail-making course, lead by The Westin St. Francis “Love Mixologist,” couples will learn how to make three cocktails (with tastes of each) and will then choose their favorite cocktail to create together in the class. Cocktails include “Agave Kiss,” “Cupid’s Arrow” and “Love Potion #9.” Guests will snack on “love bites” (tasty edible treats) and will depart with a copy of all three drink recipes to recreate at home.
This is the second post of my brief trip to Las Vegas to check out the new CityCenter. Part one is here.
Our group had a big private lunch at the new Michael Mina restaurant American Fish. The food was interesting, but you don't come to Alcademics to read about meals. The drink menu at American Fish is probably the most ambitious in City Center, featuring many of my favorite classic cocktails like the Vieux Carre, Monkey Gland, East India Cocktail, Brandy Crusta, and Pegu Club. We weren't being served cocktails during lunch but I managed to sneak in one Vieux Carre that was dry and delicious. Vegas cocktail jackpot!
Next we went to the adjacent hotel in CityCenter, Vdara, and had drinks at the lobby bar called, shockingly, Bar Vdara.
The drinks at Vdara included two with a 'house East India fixer' a spiced syrup. We ordered one with that and rangpur gin and maraschino liqueur, one with chartreuse, rum, and kaffir lime leaves, and a pisco drink with guava liqueur. Two out of the three drinks were far too sweet for our liking, but that is a theme in Vegas.
Greetings from Las Vegas! I'm here visiting the new CityCenter that is made up of the Aria casino and hotel, the Mandarin Oriental hotel, and Crystals shopping center. The place is pretty classy, but you don't come to Alcademics to read about gambling, except taking a gamble on potentially delicious cocktails.
I'm staying at Aria. Here is the view from my room:
I got here late yesterday, so I only had time to visit a few things. I dined at Union, a steak and lobster-centric restaurant in Aria. There are about 12 restaurants in Aria so I'll visit a few of them.
Union has a small cocktail menu with 9 drinks on it. Some look better than others. I avoided the ones with flavored vodka and had one with bourbon a grapefruit, one with tequila, passionfruit, and fresno chili, and a strawberry-basil Caipirinha. They were all not-too-sweet and quite juicy.
I checked out the new Cirque du Soleil show Viva Elvis, and visited the nearby Gold Lounge, where the cocktail list was no good.
Wandering around the casino I stumbled into Bar Moderno for the best drinks so far. They had drinks with orgeat, rhubarb bitters, and caramelized pineapple puree so you know that somebody who knew what they were doing did the cocktail menu here. They had a version of a Pisco Sour, a Sidecar, and a selection of cheeky "morning remedies" like black coffee and Advil.
On further exploration, it seems a few of the drinks from Bar Moderno are the signature drinks of the casino, available the sports bar and buffet also: the Carmelized Pineapple Sidecar, the Raspbberry Aviation, the Prickly Pear Pisco Sour, the Ginger Cosmopolitan, and the Cucumber Collins.
The new bar The Residence opened this past weekend in San Francisco. It's on the site of Amber and Zodiac restaurant before that. I believe they have the same owners but gave it a revamp.
The biggest change is that the bar finally went non-smoking after using the owner-operated clause to have legal smoking for so many years. They changed over the entire bar in two weeks and surprisingly they got all the smoke smell out.
They freshened up the place with a new paint job and furniture.
The place is equally as casual and comfortable as it was as Amber, with some nicer lighting like half-globes mounted on the wall in the picture below.
They also changed the drink menu. The majority of the drinks on it are renamed classic cocktails like the Manhattan, Martini, Blood and Sand, and Sazerac. Three others are made with soju or sake. Cocktail snobs won't be impressed, but it's a step in the right direction. The more comfortable, casual neighborhood cocktail bars the better.
The Residence 718 14th Street at Market San Francisco, CA
The Fifth Floor restaurant in San Francisco has rolled out (har!) their new bar cart and bar program. In the lounge bartenders will roam with a small cart serving classic cocktails like Martinis and Manhattans. The Martini is really the emphasis of the cart menu, with guests given a short menu with choices of gin and vermouth for drinkers to pick their preference. The goal of the cart program is give more of the interaction with the bartender that's not possible at the small bar that serves both the lounge and restaurant.
I am actually more excited about the new cocktail menu designed by Jacques Bezuidenhout, which is not on the website yet but is available at the bar/lounge. More on that later.
Camper English is a cocktails and spirits writer for publications including Saveur (Contributing Drinks Editor), FSR Magazine (Spirits Editor), Whisky Advocate, Details.com, PopSci.com, Mixology, Drinks International, and many more. Learn about Camper and Alcademics, or read clips of his published work.