Head bartender Brian Means' new cocktail menu at the Fifth Floor offers some interesting and elegant choices. The Commodore ($13, Clement Martinique Rhum, blackstrap gastrique, lime, ginger ale) comes with a separate spherized cocktail (saffron gin, Campari, lavender syrup, lemon) sprinkled with dehydrated Aperol crystals, while the Nail in the Coffin ($13, Yamazaki Whisky, dry Madeira, Liqor 43, Fernet) has luscious whisky and spice flavors.
It was the velvety Sparrows in the City ($13, ORO Torontel Pisco, applejack, lemon, egg white, grenadine, bitters) that quickly made a birdhouse in my soul, with the perfect balance of sweet-tartness and floral-fruitiness. Exotic without becoming overwhelming, Sparrows in the City was created by Means as a twist on a Pink Lady (gin, applejack, lemon, egg white, grenadine), and the switch of spirits translates amazingly well. The gin botanicals are simply replaced with pisco fruit aromatics, an effective move. And the name? It was inspired by the Quechua word that translates to "little bird": pisco.
The menu is an impressive debut for Means, who finally gets a chance to showcase his talent after years working at bars around the Bay Area. His skill, keen palate, and good nature make him someone to watch. We Means it.
Fifth Floor, 12 Fourth St. (at Stevenson), in the Hotel Palomar, 348-1555