In mid-May San Francisco once again celebrated cocktail week in style with more events than any one person could manage to attend. We made it to a few and had a fantastic time. Here are our highlights.
Dinah attended the inaugural class in H. Ehrmann of Elixir's new event room: Batching Cocktails: How to Entertain for Many and Still Enjoy Your Party. The class covered some basic bar skills ("shake for aeration, stir for smooth") and drink principles ("many drinks are a three point balance of acid, alcohol, & sugar"), with hands-on creation of drinks to keep us cheery through the course ("Don't forget to drink your cocktails!"), as well as tips & tricks for party hosting.
Among the key things to remember is that you should squeeze your citrus as close as possible to serving; the taste begins to degrade very quickly. One fun way to achieve that is to put out pre-batched cocktails minus their citrus along with fresh fruit, glassware, juice squeezers, ice, and instructions. "Let guests feel like they made it by shaking or stirring it". You can collect beautiful bottles ahead of time for this purpose, so start evaluating your empties before they hit the recycling bin.
H. recommended assuming each drink will be 3-5 ounces, containing 1.5 ounces of the principal spirit, as you plan your purchases and glassware. Regular hosts will probably find it helpful to set up a spreadsheet for your recipes to easily calculate needed ingredients based on the entered number of guests. Regardless of what you serve, to however many people, "the important thing is that each drink comes out cold and diluted properly."
We look forward to a regular schedule of classes from cocktail ambassadors in future!
Before class was recess at the "ladies only" Gin and Gen Party at Conduit restaurant celebrating great gins and welcoming women interested in broadening their palates and understanding more about this excellent spirit.
Represented - and greatly enjoyed - were Damrak, Right, Beefeater 24, Martin Miller's (both the regular and Westbourne), Anchor Junipero, and Hendrick's gins, and Bols genever. Behind the bar were Charlotte Voisey, Brooke Arthur, and Jon Santer, serving, respectively, the Poisoned Rose, the Siren and the Green Party, and the Dragon Variation and a Westbourne Punch.
These were all excellent drinks, but straight gin tasting remained popular throughout the event. There was something for everyone from Damrak's malty, sharp, alcohol intensity to 24's thin, clean, juniper-forward, tannic finishing style to Right's peppery, thin, astringent, dry dry dry alternative.
Friday night the weather cooperated for a great outdoor party, Bayou on the Bay, at Epic Roasthouse. This was a benefit for the Museum of the American Cocktail and it was a proper tribute to the history of convivial fun.
We saw Brooke Arthur, Duggan McDonnell, Jon Santer, Dominic Venegas, H. Joseph Ehrmann, Jeff Hollinger, Brian MacGregor and home-turf favorite Camber Lay stirring, shaking, and generally laying on the excellence behind the four bars - which were necessary to keep this thirsty crowd satisfied. As you can imagine with that much skill behind the stick, the drinks were fantastic.
The delicious concoctions included the Pineapple Pimm's Cup, Velha Sour, Doorknocker Punch, and Al Rojo Vivo. They were accompanied by a stream of waiters bearing sweet and savory bites from the Epic Roasthouse kitchen. Well hosted indeed!
Everything was fresh fresh fresh and so were the party-goers and the bartenders, despite this being day five of San Francisco Cocktail Week. We both took a turn juicing with Jeff and H. as they kept Camber and Brian stocked with fresh squeezed lime. We were pleased we had jumped in, as it turns out you can hold quite a pleasant conversation while working away at a big box of limes. It's hard to get these two fellows free for a chat, so seize the moment when you can!
On Saturday night we had the profound pleasure of enjoying a tasting menu of cocktails and infusions by Eben Freeman at the Alembic. We began in a light mode with the Sao Paolo 75 (Sagatiba Pura, lemon, sparkling demi-sec) and then headed swiftly to the exotic with the Cantonese Caipirinha (Sagatiba Pura, kumquat, lychee, soy caramel). What proved to be one of our favorites came next, the simple and sublime Sultana Sagatiba, which Eben described as his tribute to that lunchbox favorite "Ants on a Log". It certainly won our vote for best use of celery bitters we've ever had.
At this point we could have considered our evening blessed, but we weren't even halfway through. Next up were the Marsala Mai Tai (Garam Masala rum, orgeat, orange curacao, lime) and the South Central (Guatamala rum, Nicaragua rum, crème de cacao, mole) sending us on a flavor journey around the world.
It's a good thing Eben Freeman lives today - not only so he's conveniently contemporaneous and able to ply us with good drinks - but because 500 years ago he would have been burned as a witch. It doesn't seem possible for that much of what makes bacon tasty to survive its transformation. If you ever have the opportunity to try a Bacon Old Fashioned using his infusion, you must. Ours was rum-based (Bacon rum, maple syrup, bitters) and it's quite possible if it had been whiskey (to which we confess a bias) we would have transcended to boozy bacony heaven on the spot.
The closing tastes were two infusions in Ron Zacapa: Sourdough and Cherry Tobacco. Dinah doesn't smoke and is a San Francisco bay area native who gets a bit twitchy when deprived for too long of the beloved local dough, but though she loved them both, she actually preferred the tobacco. Clearly some sort of witchcraft involved, indeed.
The finale was an absinthe gummy bear, using Kubler if we don't miss our guess - and that says something about his process if enough subtlety of ingredients is retained to let you debate the distiller.
We were so pleased to have this opportunity to enjoy Mr. Freeman's prodigious skills. Many thanks to the Alembic for hosting!
Monday the 18th was the closing night party at Jardiniere and we had another fantastic time. Lovely people, truly lovely drinks, and all so good we have neither notes nor photos as documentary evidence. Brian MacGregor created some great original cocktails and there were some very tasty revivals (Dinah's favorite was the Saratoga Cocktail). We'd feel a bit bad not having a single photo of that beautiful place with all the happy people, but it turns out Anita from Married With Dinner only took 7 pictures so it must have been distracting, right?
Our thanks to the Barbary Coast Conservancy of the American Cocktail for putting on this great program. We're looking forward to next year already!