Coming this October, local touring company Edible Excursions is adding another tour to its bag of tricks. This time, things are thoroughly boozy, honing in on that chunk of blocks downtown that teems with special libations. You know the one, that fertile ground between lower Nob Hill and the Tenderloin where mixology thrives and that brand of upscale speakeasy life hides. While stops may change, we can count on a few staples in the area.
We were lucky to get a sneak peak at the tour last week, and it's a good one. Curated and led by spirits writer M. Quinn Sweeney, the tour slings together a good mix of predictably delicious cocktail havens like Tradition and Rye, and some less expected neighborhood nooks like Café Royale. Sweeney holds a bottomless well of knowledge about the city's cocktail history, as well as the spirits themselves, and makes for a relentlessly enthusiastic tour guide with a knack for teaching. You're likely to learn about the centuries-old advent of bitters while you sip, or the folklore and history of chartreuse-making monks' closely held secrets. You'd be well off bringing a notebook.
Highlights included a Pisco Punch at Cantina, negronis on tap from Jasper's Corner Tap, and a full on rundown on Tradition's barrel-aging program from the guys behind the bar, complete with some jazzy classic Old Fashioneds. Additionally, the folks at Rye mixed up a gorgeous basil gimlet, a classic that's gone off the menu though that doesn't keep everyone from ordering it. Best, perhaps, was the Last Word with mezcal from Café Royale, blooming with the ephemeral herbaceousness of chartreuse rounded out by the smokey breath of mezcal.
In a word, you can count on a slew of obscenely delicious cocktails against the backdrop of some seriously interesting storytelling. Expect to walk a little, but not too much, and bring a sweater as night falls. One of the best parts of a cocktail tour is feeling the group around you warm up throughout the night, and spending time with people you'd never know otherwise. We made a few new friends and came away with a iron-clad recipe for making sours at home.
Edible Excursions is a small local company, and already leads through the Ferry Building, Mission District, Japantown, Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto, and Oakland's Temescal. The cocktail tour happens 6-9 p.m. every other Thursday, running $85 per person. You can book reservations on the website.