When you've been to enough bars and had enough cocktails, you learn to glean information from the contents of a drink. Tease through the evidence in the ingredients like a CSI (Cocktail Special Investigation) member and you can find the (figurative) fingerprints of the maker -- or fascinating motives and backstories.
Sit at the bar at La Mar and order up a Vamos Pa' Chicha ($12, pisco quebranta, chicha morada, orange-passion fruit reduction, lemon, cane sugar) from bar manager Joselino Solis, and you'll find Peruvian influences: a pisco from the quebranta grape and a special unfermented and sweetened blue corn drink called chicha, texturally similar to the Mexican horchata. In the ingredient lineup, it was the passion fruit that stood out -- as out of place.
Solis explained that he's incorporated a slight tropical slant to most of the house cocktails to meet expectations of a clientele that assumes that because Peru is in South America, the whole country is tropical, despite the fact that roughly half of the country is high plains and dessert, including its capital and most populous cities. But when it tastes like this, does that really matter?
The starchy richness of the drink with bright floral tropical flavors, savored with an order of cebiche mixto ($15), will dispel even the worst bout of overanalysis. Case closed.
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, Pier 1 1/2 (at Embarcadero), 397-8880