It's getting pretty tough around here to put together a cocktail list that qualifies as "unusual." (Strictly speaking, Harvey Wallbangers and piña coladas are unusual now). But ABV, a new cocktail-and-bar-bites spot on 16th Street, has done just that.
Even better, it's managed to achieve a different look than the subway-tile-and-Edison-bulb thing that's all too depressingly common. Distressed mirrors line the walls, the votives are the bottom half of liquor bottles with their labels intact, and the brass light fixtures have — in the words of a drinking buddy who knows about such things — an "accelerated patination." (It's pretty.) The gray paint is a tad severe, but nothing a little living-in won't soften. Meanwhile, in a shadowy corner, shelves of experiments in glass bottles infuse away, among them housemade coffee and smoked pear bitters.
But on to the liquor. The menu, paginated by spirit and easily thumbed through, is full of neat surprises. The Whisky in Church (smoky scotch, oloroso sherry, maple, and those smoked pear bitters) is both unusual and rather risky, the maple's sweetness pulling it back from a peaty abyss. Transamerica Punch (pisco, pineapple gum, lemon and Fernet, garnished with a pineapple slice) isn't as amaro-forward as many Fernet fans might like, but perfectly balanced all the same.
And in food territory, everything is there to complement an evening of upscale cocktailing. Meat and cheese boards (at $12-$15 for three) share space with tasty, no-utensils bites such as kimchee fritters ($8), chicken pot pie empanadas ($8), falafel lamb dogs ($8), and a pimento cheese burger ($9). Tables in the back and up in the loft add on to the capacious bar.
Seems we have another Mission joint where eating and drinking through the menu is all but mandatory.