7 SF Margarita Alternatives To Try This Summer

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Plan an agave-soaked celebration without a single drop of tequila

(Originally published on UpOut SF May 2, 2017. I’ve previously shared bonus information and additional recommendations right this way.)

 

Did you know that San Francisco is instrumental in defending agave sustainability so future generations can enjoy the plentiful agave beverages we enjoy today? For a city whose drinking history is soaked in pisco, whiskey, and beer, San Francisco certainly claims above-average agave expertise.

If you’re interested in breaking tequila traditions without sacrificing agave indulgence, our list honors cocktails made with mezcal, sotol, bacanora, and raicilla.

(Caveat: While it’s true that a 1990s botanical reclassification means sotol is not technically a mezcal or made from agave, it’s a rare bartender who would belabor that point with you.)

Wildhawk :: Chi Wa Wa
3464 19th Street

Go for the Coco Puff-infused Breakfast Negroni decorated with orange peel stars and birds; stay for the Chi Wa Wa cocktail with Por Siempre sotol, La Gitana Manzanilla sherry, Plantation Pineapple Rum, lemon, honey, and housemade “spicy monk mix.”

In the mood for a sotol taste test showdown? El Jolgorio Sotol is on the spirits list.  

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The once and future cocktail class (reprise)

A Coupe Tales reader requested another round of Bay Area cocktail classes, and it’s a great time to revisit Bay Area options. This round of imbibulous education is for you, Glenn!

Nothing justifies a drink like a little simultaneous learning. May your cups and your brains never be empty.

Women Movers & Shakers: Spring Cocktails of the Farmers Market from CUESA
San Francisco, April 18, $65
If you don’t have your ticket, woe unto you and your unchecked FOMO. These are my favorite events: not classes, but highly educational if you make it so.

Forgotten Favorites Cocktail Workshop from Trader Vic’s
Emeryville, April 20, $65
It’s not the original Trader Vic’s location, but Emeryville lays an admirable claim to Trader Vic’s part in tiki history. Learn some obscure tiki drinks and go home with some swag!

ForageSF doesn’t have cocktail classes on the schedule but the keen Oakland spirits devotee will notice that sustainable seaweed foraging makes a fine gin.

Various classes from SFMixology
San Francisco, various dates, $199-$300
SFMixology offers intro-level courses that cover a broad range of spirits and topics, each ranging from two to six hours.

Agave and American whiskey from Bourbon & Branch’s Beverage Academy
San Francisco, April 24 and 30, $95 and $100
My line in the sand is that $100 is too much for a 101-level cocktail class. But two and a half hours from industry experts might tip the scales for you.

Various classes from The Cocktail Camp
San Francisco, various dates, $299-$499
The Cocktail Camp promotes a full-fledged bartender certification program, so classes are a series of progressive education rather than individual courses. They even offer mentoring and apprenticeships.

DIY Mixology: Limoncello, Atholl Brose, And Absinthe Infusions from WorkshopSF
SF Workshop, San Francisco, May 24, $48
Limoncello? A great skill to add to a drinkmaker’s repertoire. Absinthe? Well, making an abinsthelike infusion at home is pretty neat. But Atholl Brose is what really popped my cork. Atholl Brose (or Athol Brose) is an obscure Dickensian detail whose mysterious origins leave a lot of room for ingredient interpretation.

Also check out WorkshopSF’s Whiskey Picks Not Whiskey Dicks: Pickling With Beer And Booze class. May 25, $60.

Making Cocktail Syrups & Shrubs from Preserved
Oakland, June 10, $50
Syrups and shrubs are among the fastest ways to personalize cocktails at home. And bottles of house mixes can make you look like an alchemical wizard or a Betty Crocker.

Somm’s Class: Cocktails with a Twist from by CIA at Copia
Napa, June 20, $30
The Culinary Institute of America promises delicious spins on classic cocktails, and I feel that $30 is a very reasonable price to discover what mysteries they have in mind.

10 Essential Bay Area Gins For Every Home Bar

Over at San Francisco’s cocktail-loving UpOut blog, I have a piece about essential Bay Area gins.

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Local craft distillers’ gins garner acclaim on the national stage, but we’re lucky enough to appreciate them not just as fine spirits but also as the flavorful glimpses of home. These ten Bay Area gins embody the flora and flavor of the region.

St. George Spirits :: Terroir

You can’t go wrong with any of St. George’s gins, but this one is the distillery’s “ode to the wild beauty of the Golden State” and to the forage-rich wilderness of Mount Tam, in particular. St. George Master Distiller Lance Winters recently told PUNCH “Six years after its release, the fact that it functions so well as an olfactory snapshot of the Northern California coastal landscape still moves me.” Locally sourced bay laurel, fir, coastal sage, and juniper reflect our local mountain terroir while a little toasted coriander evokes the dry, scented chaparral of the southern part of the state. Terroir is California in a bottle.

Oakland Spirits Company :: Automatic Sea Gin

If St. George Terroir is the mountain, this is the sea. Miles of California coastline harbor flavorful seaweed, but only Oakland Spirits Company (OSCO for short) seized upon the idea of adding it to gin. Sustainably foraged nori adds distinct brine to a spirit also flavored with bay leaf, sage, lemongrass, and juniper.

You might have tasted it in the Bigfoot, part of Trick Dog’s recent Mural Project menu. But don’t order it with tonic! Distiller Mike Pierce claims it’s better suited to still cocktails rather than bubbles.

Want to know more about Sea Gin? Check out “5 Secrets About OsCo Automatic Sea Gin.

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Time Out Bar Awards Finale and the best spritz yet

The low-ABV trend stirs nothing more in me than polite disinterest. Brunchtime day drinking elicits a shrug. Frankly, I thought no spritz could move me. But at Time Out’s Bar Awards Finale at the Chapel in San Francisco, I found the lesson I needed to make me a spritz believer.

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Spicewood Spritz from Firehouse Lounge in Austin, TX. I don’t like spritzes. I loved this spritz.

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5 secrets about OsCo Automatic Sea Gin

Count yourself lucky. I almost wrote “sea-crets.”

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OsCo tasting at Alchemy Bottle Shop, Oakland, CA, April 2017. The nori is in the tallest jar near the squirrel.

Sea Gin uses sustainably foraged nori and sea salt.

Up Mendocino way, OsCo’s nori hunters at Sully Farms roam Californian beaches for a certain type of seaweed. They spread their harvest on the beach to dry in the sun and salty sea air. The resulting seaweed — black, ruffled, and dense — adds distinct brine and rich vegetal notes to a spirit also flavored with bay leaf, sage, lemongrass, and “other stuff.”

OsCo’s gins and brandies are grape-based for a more unctuous mouthfeel. You can practically taste the slick seaweed on your tongue.

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Is it worth it?: CUESA cocktails

Welcome to my new series: Is It Worth It?

The San Francisco Bay Area is f*#%ing expensive.  The U.S.’s most expensive rental market accordingly supports exorbitant fees for cocktail events, classes, and other entertainment.

Weighing cost against value is therefore as common as ordering a drink for the frugal cocktail enthusiast.

While I cannot personally investigate all options ($100 intro-level classes are out of my purview, for example) I am pleased to share my assessment of assorted classes and events.

Our inaugural event is one of my very favorites and its next iteration is coming up next week. Continue reading

Learn on, thirsty minds

March’s atypical concentration of cocktail classes has let up slightly, but April has brought its own set of interesting options for alcoholic education in the Bay Area.

WorkshopSF has two upcoming (and irreverent) booze classes:

  • Whiskey Picks Not Whiskey Dicks: Pickling With Beer And Booze $60
  • 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.

Alchemy Bottle Shop has an Intro to Sherry class for $35 coming up on April 27.

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.

 

2017 James Beard Award finalists

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
    (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.)

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