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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Brooke Arthur, Wo Hing's Cocktail Creator, on the Mission's Cocktail Culture

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 1:00 PM

  • Lou Bustamante
Few in the bar industry have been on such a consistent and stellar climb as Brooke Arthur. With a rare combination of remarkable talent, humility, and good nature, it's no surprise Arthur has been tapped to lead such high profile bar programs such as Range, Prospect, and now Charles Phan's Wo Hing General Store. SFoodie caught up with her to chat about the new gig. In part one of the interview she discusses how she comes up with her menus and cocktails, and part three is a recipe for her new holiday cocktail at Wo Hing, "Napoleon's Vice".

SFoodie: Are the cocktails designed to work with the food, or do you recommend your customers switch to wine or beer during their meals?
Brooke Arthur
: I have always felt like, historically, cocktails were never meant to be paired with food. Chaylee Price, the wine director for all the restaurants, put together an amazing list with wines that not only do wonders with the food, but also are very exciting and refreshingly new and different for me to sell. Our beers are mostly local, Magnolia and Trumer, as well as a delicious Belgian tripel on tap, all selected with the food in mind.

I did however think about the guest that enjoys cocktails with food, and selected [drinks] I thought would work. There's an aperitif-style martini, applications of vermouths, bitters and sherries, ingredients that compliment the spices in the menu (Iceberg Daiquiri, Piña Colada), as well as drinks that guests can enjoy before or after their meal, like the Mescal Por Mi Amante and the Brooklyn.

Do you have any favorite parings? We tried the Ma Po Tofu with the Dry Sherry Cocktail and it was rather nice combo, with the drink actually offering some cooling to the chile heat. We were convinced this was part of your genius plan.
Spicy and savory food has been paired with sherry for centuries, so it makes sense. Spicy meats naturally work with cucumber, which always has a cooling and calming effect.

The Mission is increasingly hosting restaurants that feature both great cocktails and food in a casual setting. Was your cocktail program influenced at all by places in the neighborhood?
The Mission is stacked full with competition in the cocktail scene. You would be an idiot to not at least check out what your neighbors are doing. I worked really hard on providing something different for our guests experience at Wo Hing.

Some of my closest friends are making killer moves around me. Ryan Fitzgerald [of Beretta] has the tequila category on lockdown.... Jeff Lyon has kept up the seasonal program at Range wonderfully, and updated that beautiful little bar so much. Locanda is packed with guests drinking great drinks made by great guys and gals nightly. The Hideout at Dalva has an underground pulse that is only enhanced by Todd Smith and crew making killer cocktails with hard to find ingredients, the new Tacolicious, Dosa.... I could go on and on. It feels so good to be back in this neighborhood, and I think we are all very supportive of each others' places.

Do you think the Mission has a cocktail style?
I'd say the people that live and support the Mission create the style in the neighborhood. The best part of bartending around here is that everyone that sits or stands at the bar is someone I want to talk to. The OGs [restaurants] around here ... along with the addition of all the new ones has created a general trust between the bar and guest that you cant find everywhere. You should see the eyes behind the bar light up when someone says, "Make me something you like." Or, "I've never had armagnac in a cocktail, I'll take it!" It's pretty rad.

Wo Hing General Store, 584 Valencia (at 17th St.), 552-2510

Lou Bustamante tweets at @thevillagedrunk. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
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