The other week I snuck in to Last Rites a little before opening. The bar, on the site of former The Residence (and Zodiac!) on 14th Street near Church and Market, is notoriously dark and hard to photograph. Luckily my timing was good - the San Francisco Chronicle photographer was there at the same time taking pictures of drinks to accompany Maggie Hoffman's write-up , and they had lighting set up that allowed me to get in some snaps.
The bar is designed as a plane crash on a haunted tropical island: The back bar is made from the inside of a plane shell, the bar stools are plane seats, and some of the other furniture is made from bits and pieces of planes. This is in a setting with tons of tropical plastic plants (I feel sorry for whoever is in charge of dusting) and giant skulls in the back of the room.
They call the design "Polynesian noir," but I like to think of it as "goth tiki."
Here are some of the drinks I tried. The Last Rites is the house cocktail, served in a beer can-shaped logo glass that can be purchased. (Co-owner Ian Scalzo said he purposefully avoided a ceramic tiki mug - they know they're bordering on tiki but didn't really want to be full tiki.) The drink has three kinds of rum, passion fruit, molasses, and spice mix. It's super drinkable.
Next up was the Avian Evolution, made with rums, pineapple rum, schisandra infused Campari, pineapple, lime, and molasses. The drink is a riff on the classic Jungle Bird with the pineapple-Campari combo.
The Kali Maa's Doom was a delightful combination of gin, pisco, grapefruit, sauvignon blanc melon syrup, vanilla cream, and watermelon. It's garnished with watermelon slices and a flamed marshmallow. Sure to be a big seller, I also really enjoyed this one- creamy and easy and the pisco shined through.
The Valley of the Shadow is a Manhattan-style cocktail with rum, bourbon, amaro, yerba mate honey, and cacao nib infused Angostura. It hits the spot for the style of drink- a good blend of the classic made in the house style.
The Jet Pilot is one of my favorite tiki drinks - usually it's done with a ton of teeth-scraping citrus and light rums, but in this interpretation it's got all the citrus but with sweet dark rum that you can let dilute into the drink naturally from the mini bottle, or dump it all in at once (as I did). It was a sweeter, richer interpretation of the drink.
Their interpretation of a Mai Tai - with cashew orgeat and a combination of agricole and Jamaican rum, also strays from my interpretation of the drink in that its emphasis is on lighter bright rums whereas I tend to make the drink super rich with more aged rum in the mix. It still drinks pretty good though :)
A favorite on the menu, which is something I rarely say about a mezcal drink, was the Jock Lindsey. It seems fairly low in alcohol though so perhaps that's why. It's got mezcal, tequila, amaro, absinthe, celery, lime, coconut cream, and bitter lemon soda. Dangerously easy to drink; highly recommended.
There were a few other drinks I tried but at this point the doors were open and none of the pictures came out. That's what happens here.
So if you go to Last Rites, I guess you'll just have to drink the exotic drinks in a funky looking bar without being able to Instagram your visit. You'll be okay.
Here is the drink menu.