May 24, 2013

Drinks on the Road, San Francisco, Part II, Absinthe, Plus the Pegu

Beyond Blackbird (which I detailed earlier and which I was a big big fan of), when I was in San Francisco recently I also stopped in at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar. First off, let me mention that I accompanied the wonderful and charming Sally and Corinne from the Lisa Ekus agency (the best agent, pr, media training, and more firm in the firmament) and some other folks associated with that fine orgnaization. If you have company like this, well, the restaurant or lounge you’re lounging in can probably serve almost anything and you’ll have a dandy time. However, if the drinks are as good as they were at Absinthe, the evening goes quickly up to wonderful. I started my drinking with a Ginger Rodgers, which is a variation on a drink called, simply, “Favorite Cocktail” from the classic pocket-sized cocktail book Drinks, written by Jacques Straub in 1914. It was everything a first drink before dinner should be: light-but-flavorful, bubbly, and a good appetite inducer:

After that, I was eating some delicious food (the mac-and-cheese was especially nice – and I should have taken a pic but was too busy eating and talking), and wanted something with a lot of flavor to accentuate the edibles. I went with a classic: the Pegu, from way back in the 1920s. It was tasty, tangy, and with a kick:

Heck, you should have one at home if you never have. It’s famous and fabulous. Here’s the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz:

Ice cubes

1-1/2 ounces gin

3/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

Dash of orange bitters

Dash of Angostura bitters

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, orange curaçao, lime juice, and both bitters. Shake well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and dream of days when this classic was (according to Harry Craddock in The Savoy Cocktail Book) a drink “that has traveled, and is asked for, round the world.”

After the Pegu, I had something with whiskey that I forgot to write down as the conversation was in full swing. But it was good, so just try all the whiskey drinks and you’ll get there. Here’s a photo, anyway:

Overall, an amazingly awesome evening spent with some of the swellest folks in the land, some delicious cocktails, and some scrumptious eats in a classy-but-comfy spot. Absinthe gets a “A” in my book (if I had some sort of book I put letters in, that is).

May 14, 2013

Drinks on the Road, San Francisco, Part I: Blackbird

I recently was lucky enough to spend a short two days (not lucky cause it was short, but lucky in that I was able to go at all) in San Francisco, checking out a few snazzy bars and seeing some snazzy people. And having some Mexican food with my pals Mike and Meredith. But here, cause in theory this is a blog about booze and drinks, I’m gonna focus mostly on pictures of the drinks I had, starting with ones had at Blackbird. From what I’ve gathered, Blackbird is sort-a new, though it had a very comfortable neighborhood bar feel and a bunch of stuffed blackbirds above the wooden and glass shelves behind the bar. I don’t want the term “neighborhood” to confuse you though, into thinking the drinks weren’t crafted with care. Cause they were, and then some, by a bartender named Matt Grippo (and a couple other nice fellas whose names I missed). The menu was scripted on a long big scroll-of-sorts behind the bar (in two spots), and I picked a Knee Slapper off of it:

The Knee Slapper (well-named, as most drinks there) was a combination of Four Roses, Old Overholt rye, Averna, Gran Classico, and, interestingly, crème de cacao. It’s rare to see a doubling of the base spirits, and rarer still to see the crème de cacao thrown into a mix of brown boozes, but the end result was very tasty, rich, and layered with flavor and herbal notes. Dreamy stuff. By the time I ended up with a second drink, the Blackbird was hoppin’. It was a Saturday night, so expected, but I haven’t been in a spot that busy for a few, oh, years probably (hey, I’m old). It was four deep across the whole bar at one point. And here’s what was amazing: Matt kept his easy-going and affable demeanor the whole time, even when people asked incredibly silly things (one order: “can I get four beers, a Martini, and some whiskey?” With no specifics at all). And, during the madness, the drinks were still put together perfectly, and including an off-menu drink he made for me  (maybe it was going to be on the next menu) with no name – or no name I remember. It was a wildly intriguing mixture as well: Enchanto pisco, Calpico (an uncarbonated Japanese milky soft drink), cucumber, lemon, orgeat, and a rose water rinse. That is out there friends. But you know what? It all came together into a refreshing, tangy, vegetal, smooth hit:

All-in-all, a fantastic spot, Blackbird. I’d definitely return in a heartbeat. It’s the kind of place where you could get the fancy cocktails made in the modern masterful manner, but also order a High Life if you wanted – as long as you paid cash:


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