With the closing and renovation project at Harry Denton's Starlight Room in July came news that former Zero Zero bar manager Joel Teitelbaum would be taking the reigns of the cocktail program. SFoodie reached out to ask what to expect from the new Starlight Room once it opens again in September.
SFoodie: There is a cocktail legacy at the Starlight Room with Tony Abou Ganim, Marco Dionysos, and Jacques Bezuidenhout being alums there. Are you planning on incorporating any of that past into the program?
Joel Teitelbaum: Aside from being a huge fan of all three of these guys and having the chance to become friends with Marco and Jacques over the last year, the Starlight Room, and the bartending world for that matter, would not be what it is today with out them. We only saw it fitting that we include some signature cocktails from these past programs into the present one.
How do you feel your past experience at Zero Zero will affect Starlight Room?
JT: Ahhh, Zero Zero. It was an amazing year of my bartending life. To try to explain how much I learned and how fortunate I was to be a part of such a high profile opening is not easily put into words. I learned how to run a very large and high volume program without going mad in the process, while simultaneously becoming a true student of bar culture. As a result, my fondness for that culture and the community that comprises it is has greatly grown. I knew going into Zero Zero that creating a bar program in San Francisco is more than just a cocktail list and well stocked back bar. It is about contributing to and pushing the bar culture forward and hopefully making that community stronger than it was before. I am going into the Starlight Room with a magnified sense of that responsibility to the bartending community and to the people who support us by going out and drinking our cocktails. I really want the Starlight Room to be a point of pride for people who find themselves on their respective sides of the bar.
What direction are you leaning? Will this be a cocktail geek list?
JT: The list will follow a timeline of the history of the cocktail from its birth, through prohibition and into modern day, touching on major events, the evolution of spirits and the styles of eras that we still draw on in the cocktail renaissance of the last 15 years. I know, it seems like a massive undertaking..."the history of the cocktail, are you nuts?" Not as difficult as it seems when you really get in there and break it down into eras and styles. There will be some "nerding out" on the list but overall it will be a well-rounded and approachable compilation of classics and modern cocktail styles.
You were known for your punch program at Zero Zero. Will there be punch at the Starlight Room?
JT: Punch! Punch for all! Ahem. It's all very exciting. There will be a punch program. All cocktails are the descendents of punch and it will be a big part of the program at the Starlight Room.
Will there be a particular spirit focus for the bar?
JT: There will be an emphasis that represents where bartending culture has come in the last decade. We will be adding quite a bit of Bourbon, rye and scotch as well as gin while focusing the vodka selection into a more locally driven direction.
Anything else we should keep an eye out for?
JT: Let's see, aside from the shiny new decor, celebrities of stage, screen and bar, Harry Denton, punch, a cocktail list that chronicles the entire history of bartending and the view from the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake....I can't think of anything else you'd want.
Harry Denton's Starlight Room, 450 Powell (at Sutter), 395-8595