San Francisco: Cocktails & Coffee

Land's End
San Francisco is a strange and remarkable place - for a lot reasons. One of those is a love of fine cocktails and handmade coffee. Here were a few of my favorite moments from a recent visit.

Cask in Union Square, Artisan Spirits and Supplies
Cask has a great selection of... everything. Small batch whiskeys, scotches, gin, amari, tons of bitters, syrups, bar tools. It's well curated so you really can't walk away without something good. From what I can tell, it's the only place you can buy Pineapple Gum Syrup, essential to Pisco Punch. See below for a couple of my Cask purchases.

Vieux Carre Cocktail at Alembic, Haight-Ashbury
Alembic is what you would want in a cocktail-centric bar. Well-honed menu and staff with encyclopedic-knowledge of their wares. I felt good with my Vieurx Carre and just fine with my Corpse Reviver subbed with Tequila for Gin. It was a reminder of why I used to go Sundays to DeVille in West Town - you get the best drinks when bartenders have the time (or take the time) to make them.

Locanda, Mission District
Locanda serves fashionable Italian fare with cocktails to match. Considering all the bitter and sweet spirits of Italy, it's not a bad source to mine. Plus, it's a pretty gorgeous place to hang out.

Sightglass Coffee in SoMa
Sightglass - a beautiful warehouse of hand-roasted coffee! You order your coffee by country, region and tasting nuances. After you order, you must wait for your coffee while it slowly drips. But it's not a bad wait. There are soul records spinning and delicious pastries to nibble. It's worth noting that here is a good place to compare the San Fran portion size to the Chicago portion - the large cup at Sightglass is a small cup in Chicago. Which is fine if it tastes that good.

Blue Bottle Coffee at SFMOMA
Blue Bottle Coffee is sorta taking over San Francisco. We visited the Blue Bottle in the Mint building and there was a line out the door most mornings. Our visit there was the start of little game I played on how many poached eggs could I spy being served in San Francisco. It's great coffee, poured in a Japanese tradition with vintage equipment within 48 hours of being roasted. It's a good success story of one man's labor of love turning into his fortunes. And by the way, order the Gibraltar! It's not on the menu and it's not a to-go - served in its namesake cup, it's milky and elegant.

Click to read more and for lover's cocktail recipe and gift idea:

My Treasures from San Fran with the Pablo Cocktail, clockwise from the left: "On Booze" novelette by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chuncho Peruvian Bitters from Cask, Sucre Punch brittle from Cask (flavored with different spirits)
The Pablo, based on the poetry of Pablo Neruda and inspired by the trip
2 oz Pisco
1/2 oz lemon
1/2 oz blood orange
1/2 oz lavender syrup
Egg White
Chuncho Bitters

Combine first five ingredients in shaker and do a dry shake. Then add ice and shake again. Strain into a coupe glass and top with bitters.

Notes: We're not breaking much new ground here, but it's a great cocktail for the season and for your Valentine's love (it's pink for god sakes). See our post from last year with a how-to on the lavender syrup and a reminder that one egg white can make two drinks. To make bitters that look like hearts, run a knife or toothpick through the center of each drop of bitters. It's easiest to control the bitters if you use an eyedropper (which I did not do in the above photo).

And what's the perfect gift for your cocktail-loving sweetheart? Sucre Punch Candy! It's like nothing you've ever tasted and you can only get it at Cask through the rotary dialer. Think fast.

The blood orange mixed with the lemon

The Lemon
by Pablo Neruda

Out of lemon flowers
on the moonlight, love's
lashed and insatiable
sodden with fragrance,
the lemon tree's yellow
the lemons
move down
from the tree's planetarium

Delicate merchandise!
The harbors are big with it-
for the light and the
barbarous gold.
We open
the halves
of a miracle,
and a clotting of acids
into the starry
original juices,
irreducible, changeless,
so the freshness lives on
in a lemon,
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind,
the proportions, arcane and acerb.

Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral:
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets,
aromatic facades.

So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon,
half a world
on a trencher,
the gold of the universe
to your touch:
a cup yellow
with miracles,
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth;
a flashing made fruitage,
the diminutive fire of a planet

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