A couple of years ago now, I was quoted saying I was seeking "less perfect simplicity, more ridiculous fabulousness" in San Francisco's cocktails, no matter the cost of them.
I think we're seeing touches of that at places like The Coachman and Fifth Floor, but I still haven't got the over-the-top (and likely super-expensive) cocktail bar I am still hoping for. It's almost as if people don't want to build bars just for me. Weird.
But former San Francisco bartender Thomas Waugh created something close to that for the drinks at ZZ's Clam Bar in New York. All the cocktails are 20 bucks and some are garnished in metal pineapples or in a coconut piled on a stack of ice and leaves. They also have a raw bar, but the food comes from a small kitchen window.
For better drink pictures than mine below, check out Punch's story and photos.
The bar is tiny. This is the view from both ends. It seats less than 20 people, none of them in front of the bar.
The bar set-up is decadent. It looks like an oyster bar, as there is so much room between the bar top and the bartender, which is filled with ice and chilled juices and garnish.
The ingredients are decadent too. Bartender Brian Miller says when we was training with Thomas Waugh he couldn't locate the Chartreuse to make a Last Word variation and Waugh said, "Just use the VEP."
The drinks aren't too far out there flavor-wise: I didn't try anything I'd call challenging and nothing that I tried was the brown, bitter, and stirred cocktails currently all-too en vogue. The four drinks I sampled were all quite soft with tiki tendencies if not tiki drinks outright.
Not all the drinks were as fancy as the signature coconut one, but it provided plenty of eye candy for everyone.
In short: I like the concept a lot, and still wish someone would do a version of this in San Francisco.