Often the most innovative and drinkable cocktails are those that offer simple tweaks on old classics; switching out an ingredient here, adding a small flourish there. It may sound easy, but doing it well and working the countless possible combinations requires a level of skill (or sheer luck) not usually available to the beginner. Restraint may not offer the shock value, but it does tender the kind of drink you could have all night. The talented crew at Bon Vivants, Scott Baird and Josh Harris, are 3rd degree black-belts in the cocktail arts and their drink menu at Comal is their liquid kata.
The Palomaesque ($9, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Cocchi Americano, grapefruit, lime, honey, salt, seltzer) puts you in a flavor headlock, delivering a mezcal version of the classic Paloma (tequila, grapefruit soda, salt). By using mezcal instead of tequila, the sweet agave earthiness blossoms, and the Italian aperitif wine Cocchi Americano adds aromatic herbal qualities that compliment the grapefruit. For a winning power move, skip the chewy chicharrones, and instead add an order of the splurge worthy guacamole ($8) with house made chips. Then bask in your own awesomeness for pulling the combo off.
Also, don't miss the Jack Satan ($9, Partida Reposado, hibiscus syrup, infierno tincture, lime, salt) that spars playfully with a light fiery heat, its burn a nice effect rather than the focus. Floral and earthy, with a lovely red and dusty salt rim, it's a great twist to the margarita.
Comal, 2020 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, 510-926-6300