Of all the cocktails I've tried, I don't think I've come across with one that comes charged with the emotional impact built in to The Phoenix ($10, mezcal, sake, smoked strawberry, citrus bitters).
The drink was developed by bar manager Saul Ranella from provisions that survived the fire at sibling restaurant Maverick to help raise funds for the Friends of Maverick Foundation. The sale of each drink benefits the foundation set up to help out the families displaced by the fire.
After the fire, all of the beer, wine, and produce that escaped the destruction was brought over to Hi Lo BBQ where Ranella and chef Robin Song got to work smoking strawberries and giving those rescued items new life--in cocktail form. A variation on the caipirinha, that Brazilian answer to the mojito, it is refreshingly tart, with hints of smoke that make it interesting without feeling like you smoked a pack of hickory cigarettes.
The Phoenix also happens to be the perfect companion to the sliders ($2 each during happy hour, 5-7 p.m.; $10 for three regularly). Fat little patties of grilled housemade mortadella get tucked into one of their fresh baked rolls with cheese.
The bar at Hi Lo has also received an overall overhaul -- a bar has been placed by the entrance of the restaurant and changes have been made to the original cocktail menu. Much like in the kitchen, Ranella shifts the menu to reflect the seasons while keeping the drinks on the refreshing and lighter side to pair with chef Song's food.
The Linden Street Crush ($10, rye, spiced vanilla and orange syrup, lime, orange flower water, Linden Street Brick Bitter Beer) is a great example of this shift: fragrant, layered, with a lightness and the citrus complexity of Linden Street's beer keeping it from tasting like a booze bomb.
1 ¼ oz. Smoked strawberry syrup*
4 Lime wedges
1 ½ oz. Sake
½ oz. Mezcal
2 dash Angostura bitters
Lightly muddle lime wedges with strawberry syrup in a mixing glass until fragrant with citrus scent. Add ice, sake, mezcal, and bitters and shake. Pour everything into double old-fashioned glass.
*Smoked strawberry syrup
Toss stemmed strawberries in a little sugar (to help absorb smoke) and place on a sheet pan in a single layer. Smoke berries overnight.
Combine equal parts simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water) and smoked strawberries in a blender and blend on low speed with short, quick pulses. Strain before using.
Hi Lo BBQ, 3416 19th (at Mission), 874-9211