On Tuesday, September 6th, the Starlight Room in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco will reopen after a renovation and a cocktail menu makeover.
This top-floor bar is quite significant in SF's bartending history: Bartenders including Tony Abou-Ganim, Marco Dionysos, and Jacques Bezuidenhout have worked behind the bar there.
The next in the line of bartenders behind the stick there is Joel Teitelbaum, recently of Zero Zero. He's taking over the program.
I'll have a drink preview soon, but for now here is the menu. Note that this is not quite the final menu, so forgive any misspellings and note that it's subject to change.
Menu is below the jump.
The Beginning – Punch – 1600’s
The Punch pre-dates the Cocktail and is the original mixed drink. The Punch dates back to the mid 1600’s and probably has it’s origins on Naval ships as the English and the Dutch where conquering the World in search of land and exotic spices. The word Punch is from the Hindi word Panch, meaning Five. A good bowl of Punch is about a few simple quality ingredients. We are not referring to College days of old, which was a bucket of the cheapest hooch available and everything but the kitchen sink. A bowl of Punch was a refined drink meant to be shared amongst friends and enemies alike.
Punch is a wonderful way for 4 to 6 of you to partake in the flowing bowl.
Gin, Raspberry chamomile liqueur, lemon, Champagne
Pisco, pineapple gomme, lemon, lime, Absinthe bitters
Apple Cinnamon Gin, Calvados, lemon, honey, All Spice Dram
“You may talk of brisk Claret, sing Praises of Sherry,
Speak well of old Hock, Mum, Cider and Perry,
But you must drink Punch if you mean to be Merry.”
Quotation within the book Punch by David Wondrich
The Jerry Thomas Years – 1860’s
Jerry Thomas was one of the greatest Bartenders of all time. His Book “The Bar Tender’s Guide” first published in 1862 was the first cocktail book of it’s kind. He traveled the World and showed his Craft as well as worked in some of the grandest Saloon’s across the US. He worked in the original cocktail era. A time when America was the land of Discovery. It’s Saloon’s where grand and wild. The Bartender was revered and it took him years to hone his craft. The Cocktails where strong, bold and setting the foundation for cocktails for many years to come.
This was a time when mixed drinks took shape and many exciting drinks styles where defined like the Fizzes, Slings, Cobblers, Juleps and Sours.
Wild Turkey Rye whiskey, Amontillado Sherry, Benedictine, orange, raspberry
Makers Mark Bourbon, mint and sugar
Encanto Pisco, red lychee tea, Lime
Boss Tweed: “The appearance of law must be upheld, especially when it’s being broken.” – Gangs of New York.
The Dry Years – Prohibition 1920 - 1933
A time of general rebellion and mob rule. As the out of work bartenders of the United States boarded ships for Europe and Cuba the American drinker was left imagining
Good liquor and faraway cordials with exotic sounding names. With the great depression lifting and Prohibition in full swing “Cocktails symbolized a better world to come. Many traveled to Cuba and Mexico to partake in legal drinking where cocktails where made under experienced hands. Back at home you could still get a drink in hidden Speakeasies but quality products or help where not available.
Vida Mezcal, Jalapeno Infused Green Chartreuse, lime, agave nectar
Matusalem White Rum, Smith & Cross, Batavia Arrack, Lime, orange, pineapple and three bitters.
Bols Genever, Le Compte Calvados, Mathilde Pear liqueur, lemon, egg white
Herradura Reposado, strawberry, black pepper, lime, bitters
“Once during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.”
Martini Hey-day – 1950’s
America was celebrating. The Dry years had past. The War was over and there was great reason to let your hair down. The grandness of life was back. Business was booming and if one was to raise a glass to success then there is no better cocktail to do so with than the Martini. It was the cocktail in Hollywood. Movie Stars embraced it. Authors like Hemingway wrote about it and Presidents like Sir Winston Churchill had his opinion on how a proper Dry Gin Martini was to be made. He barely glanced at the Vermouth bottle whilst mixing his Martini. At Starlight we prefer a little more Vermouth but who are we to argue.
Beefeater Gin, Dry Vermouth
Plymouth Gin, Dry Vermouth, Orange bitters
Hendrick’s Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Dolin Blanc Vermouth
Sinatra: “Let me fix you a Martini that’s pure magic.”
Martin: “It may not make life’s problems disappear, but it’ll certainly reduce their size.”
Dark Times - 1980’s
The go-go 70’s eventually lead to over indulgence that was the 80’s in America and no where could this loss of culture be seen more than in the cocktail world. Old bartenders retired and young ones who learned only the bare minimum of the classic cocktail replaced them. Classics fell away and were replaced by tall and weak highballs or spritzers that satisfied the casual drinkers desire for the effect and not the flavor of well made spirits.
Colorado Vs. Hunter S. Thompson
Absolut Vodka, Orange Curacao, Hibiscus Cordial, lemon and Seltzer
Hangar One Mandarin Vodka, Peach liqueur and orange bitters.
Four Roses Bourbon, ginger, lemon, egg white
I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.
Hunter S. Thompson.
The Beginning of the Revival - 1990’s
A light at the end of the tunnel that was the 70’s and 80’s in cocktail culture. A small group of bartenders, Dale DeGroff, Tony Abou-Ganim, Gary Regan, Paul Harington and Dick Bradsell in London, were responsible for the beginning of a massive cocktail renaissance. Eventually these classic ideas of fresh juice, quality aged spirits and cordials began to spread from the cocktail hubs that were San Francisco, New York and London to all parts of the United States and Europe.
Leblon Cacacha, Velvet Falarnum, St Germain Elderflower liqueur, lime, ginger beer, Peychaud’s bitters
Drink with No Name
Grey Goose Vodka, Green Chartreuse, Cointreau.
Hennessey VS Cognac, Campari, lemon
Plymouth Gin, Dry Vermouth, Apricot liqueur, Cointreau
“I fell in love with bars because of the uninhibited, disordered and surprising way life unfolds at the bar. The only logical progression in my life has been the wealth of characters who have crossed my path, leaving their sweet, sour, strong and weak for me to ponder”
The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff
The Cocktail is back in full force today and you can walk into quality bars around the Country and the World to find Bartenders honing their Craft and mixing a cold delicious drink. As in the Food revival we see the same in the Bar world. Bartenders are pushing the limits with Spirits, Tinctures, Infusions and even Molecular Mixology. It has been a long adventurous ride to get to where we are today and we look forward to taking the Cocktail well into the future.
Kubler Absinthe, Hibiscus Cordial, lemon, Bundaberg Peach Soda
Plymouth Gin, Manzanilla Sherry, Rosato Vermouth, Dry Vermouth
Bulleit Bourbon, St Germain Elderflower liqueur, Prosecco and lemon
“The answer to life’s problems aren’t at the bottom of a beer bottle, they’re on TV.”
Starlight Room Classics
At The Starlight Room we have had some great bartenders practicing their craft at the Bar. Here are a few of their Cocktails that have been served over the years.
Cable Car – Tony Abou-Ganim
Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Orange Curacao, lemon, egg white with a cinnamon sugar rim
Chartreuse Swizzle – Marco Dionysos
Green Chartreuse, Velvet Falernum, pineapple and lime
La Perla - Jacques Bezuidenhout
Partida Reposado Tequila, Manzanilla Sherry and Mathilde Pear liqueur
La Dolce Vita - Thomas Waugh – Death & Co NYC
Chamomile-Infused Rye Whiskey, Campari and St Germain Elderflower liqueur.
Smokey Local- Joel Teitelbaum
Russell’s Reserve 6yr Rye, Manzanilla Sherry, Luxardo Maraschino, Ardbeg 10yr
Negroni – Fosco Scarcelli and Camillo Negroni
Campari, Beefeater Gin and Sweet Vermouth.