Walking into Fog City, its hard not to be immediately drawn to the bar. The large wedge of bar seating mirrors the angle of the triangular building, and creates a sort of "cocktail courtyard" in the center.
Drifting down, I was lured by the name of the restaurant's cocktail on tap, a drink called Risky Business ($11, blanco tequila, Aperol, dry vermouth, scotch, Angostura bitters) that immediately conjured up images of Tom Cruise raiding his parent's liquor cabinet and singing "Old Time Rock and Roll." Remarkably light despite the list of heavy-hitting ingredients, the Ricky Business resembles a Tequila Negroni, and thankfully has nothing to do with the movie.
See also: Fog City: Where the Buffalonians Roam
The drink is a great reworking of the ubiquitous cocktail, and one of the best-integrated versions I've tried -- every ingredient seems to dovetail perfectly into the other, leaving no sharp spikes of bitterness or sweetness.
And the name? "I made one for my general manager Tyler ... he asked me what was in it, and I told him it had tequila and scotch," says lead bartender Dustin Sullivan. Tyler was apparently stunned that Sullivan would combine both spirits in one drink and replied, "Tequila and scotch? That's some risky (bleeping) business right there."
The entire cocktail menu is interesting, with a nice mix of familiar and exotic drinks, most of them purposefully tweaked and balanced variations of classics. The drinks get enough of an adjustment to tune them in to the food, and are well tempered enough to make good companions to food like the juicy Fog City Burger ($14, housemade bun, smoked tomato aioli, housemade American cheese, tomato, onion, bread & butter pickles).
Sullivan also concocted one of the most approachable versions of Milk Punch ($11, bourbon, brandy and rum infused with citrus and spices, lemon, sugar, clarified milk) that tastes like drinking a lightly sweetened lemon meringue pie. The milk adds some weight to the drink and dairy flavors that balance out the lemon acidity and focus its flavor.
As a bonus, the use of milk in the process strips the drink of its color, yielding a soft, yellow-tinted drink, that is proof positive to everyone that they do indeed enjoy brown spirits.
The Slumdog Millionaire ($11, rum, vadouvan curry, Dolin Rouge, crème de cacao, lime) is the result of the bar and kitchen working together. When Sullivan saw the cooks using the French curry spice blend, vadouvan, Sullivan decided to incorporate into a drink. Trying to make it work in a drink proved challenging, but he started with the classic Millionare cocktail framework (sloe gin, apricot liqueur, rum, lime), swapped out ingredients, and tweaked the recipe until he found what worked.
"I knew it would work with rum and crème de cacao," says Sullivan. "I tried orange juice, apple cider, pomegranate, coconut milk, and various vermouths and liqueurs in various proportions. Nothing proved to be completely cohesive on the palate. I finally settled on some Dolin Rouge to round it out, and just a touch of lime for acidity."
The drink is a fascinating study in spices -- the curry to the botanicals all weaving layers from savory to sweet.
Whichever drink you have, start with the Risky Business. From the tap it shows up almost instantly, and it's a great companion while you study the menu. But if you prefer to have your drink like in the movie, in a dress shirt and socks with the stereo turned up, we secured the recipe for you -- go and have the time of your life, kid.
Risky Business (adapted to serve one)
1 ½ oz. Agavales Blanco Tequila (or other clean, slightly vegetal blanco)
¾ oz. Aperol
¾ oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
½ oz. Banknote Scotch Whisky
1 dash Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into a cold cocktail glass with a large block of ice. Twist a lemon peel over the drink, and garnish with the peel.
Fog City, 1300 Battery (at Embarcadero), 982-2000