Thanks to UpOut for the opportunity to write about agave drinks beyond tequila margaritas. While I love margaritas, San Francisco and the East Bay are doing too many interesting things with sotol, bacanora, and raicilla to ignore.
Hooch 101: Let’s Have A TIKI! $60 (I’ve learned under Gillian Fitzgerald before. her classes are approachable, no-nonsense, and often have a dance-off segment. An easy tiki recipe from that class has become a household favorite. This class would be a fascinating complement to a Smugglers Cove education, since I suspect Gillian is teaching from a standpoint of accessibility, affordability, and deliciousness as opposed to a stringent adherence to two-pricey-rums-and-three-fresh-juices perspective.)
The Beverage Academy keeps on teachin’ on with $95-$100 classes on 101 mixology, Scotch whisky, and American whiskey.
The Burrit Room + Tavern is launching a Sunday Spirits series. The inaugural event focuses on whiskey and costs $35.
Whitechapel, the innovative gin bar beloved of this blog, is kicking up the instructional component of its ambitious Polk Street Irregulars club, partner to Smugglers Cove’s Rumbustion Society, with PSI Sunday School starting May 30 for $30. This is the first of several classes, each covering a segment of the PSI drinking list.
San Francisco’s New Mission Drafthouse cinema serves pretty great cocktails both in the theater and in their attached bar, Bear vs Bull. During a recent showing of 2005’s Pride and Prejudice the following cocktail menu was available: Continue reading →
Gin is my spirit of choice. I am therefore thrown into the proximity of many tonics. My go-to tonics are Fever-tree‘s Mediterranean or Elderflower tonics but I’m always looking for new flavors. Recently I did a taste test with some new tonics available at my local Emporium of Alcoholic Wonders (a.k.a. Berkeley’s Ledger Liquors).
Indi Strawberry tonic paired with Wollersheim’s Garden Gate Gin. The sodalike, quinine-light tonic offers strong fresh strawberry flavors (thankfully not a hint of artificial flavor), so I thought the fruit and herbs of the gin would play well with the strawberry. It was a summery combination but some heavy botanical in the combination didn’t quite suit.
Once out of nature I shall never take My bodily form from any natural thing
-Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”
Yeats was not talking about bug-based food dyes but let us stretch the metaphor, loving Yeats as we do.
After a teenage stint at veganism (a fine diet, if you have the time and money to spend pursuing it) I came of legal drinking age with a mind unruffled by ethical concerns where my alcohol was concerned.
But the world (and the Bay Area in particular) is full of cocktail enthusiasts with varying dietary and ethical requirements. Early in my California residency I bellied up to a bar where I was warned that my milk stout had lactic acid in it and I should choose another tap if I had lactose issues. That sort of statement made in Wisconsin would get you kicked over the border into Illinois.
It’s a week of announcements! Hard on the heels of Tales of the Cocktail’s agenda reveal comes the list of 2017 James Beard Award finalists, which includes these notable local cocktail bars and bartenders:
Outstanding Bar Program
(Bar Agricole helped drive ethical cocktail sourcing. You can’t get a Campari drink at the bar, but you can get an amaro made from known ingredients that could be tracked from harvest to bottle.)
Book Award: Beverage Category
Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki, Martin Cate with Rebecca Cate
(I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t take the award. It’s a beautiful tome, a friendly look at a niche category, and the photography of over-the-top decorated tiki drinks grabs the attention more than your average cocktail book. My copy is, of course, signed by Martin and Rebecca.)
Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional
Lance Winters, St. George Spirits, Alameda, CA
(St. George is a font of local excellence and sass. Their Terroir is my ne plus ultra of gin.)
The problem with mixology classes aimed at civilians is the proliferation of Cocktail 101-level information. Fortunately, the demand for ongoing education and the area’s niche expertise appear to be forcing the evolution of local classes. Options are definitely improving for scholarly cocktail enthusiasts.
Plan your cocktail education with these upcoming opportunities:
Make Your Own Bitters workshop at the Oaktown Spice Shop
Oakland, March 14, $30
Coupe Tales expects to be in attendance. Oaktown Spice Shop has long been cocktail friendly; they offer a kit to make your own tonic syrup.
Artisan Foraged Cocktails Class from ForageSF Oakland, March 19th, April 2nd and April 16th, $75
I have attended one of these before and very much enjoyed the lecture on my own local ecosystem and incorporating wild flavors into my cocktails. I went home with locally-driven, handcrafted bitters that I still use to this day.
Cocktail class series at Two Sisters Bar & Books
Hayes Valley, SF, March 13 (gin), April 3 (springtime mixology), May 1 (tequila and mezcal), $85
Two Sisters doesn’t wear its bookish charm skin-deep (unlike Novela): it walks the walk with a regular book club. While my experience with Two Sisters tells me its cocktail classes will be thoughtful deep-dives, which hopefully helps justify the steep price tag.
Of note is that Two Sisters has announced it is closing this summer. These classes are the last ones you’ll be able to attend there. Continue reading →
In a throwback to college benders and unwise drinking choices, I was recently reminded that some mezcals still include a worm in the bottle. The spirit renaissance has lifted mezcal into such rarified company that it’s a blast to read this 1999 Straight Dope column about “tequila worms” and remember the disdain in which it used to be held.
Apart from some unwise choices in college, the majority of my experience with be-wormed bottles is from Poltergeist.