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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Four Places for Session Cocktails in SF

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge Myriad's Orpheus - BREAD AND BUTTER PR
  • Bread and Butter PR
  • Myriad's Orpheus

Liquor ain’t cheap, and that’s true on both sides of the bar. For some local restaurants, getting a license for a full bar just isn’t feasible, especially if you’re small or just starting out. But how do you appeal to a cocktail crowd, when tequila, gin, vodka, and rum aren’t in your arsenal of spirits? Session cocktails.

A term borrowed from the craft beer world and used to describe brews with lower ABV (alcohol by volume), session cocktails use vermouth, port, and other fortified liquors as the base. Though the restriction of sticking to spirits under 15 percent ABV is limiting to some mixologists, it inspires others. Session cocktails are also ideal for brunches, luncheons, and daytime drinking in general, with just enough alcohol to take off the edge without pushing you over it.

Here’s four hot spots to get sessions in SF.

The king of the session cocktail, owner Kris Esqueda (Saison, Sons & Daughters) mixes a mean Vincenzo Cappotti. Made with Cappalletti and Cava, it's softer and creamier than a traditional Negroni, and reminiscent of an orange creamsicle on ice, But don’t let the simplicity fool you, Esqueda also crafts more curious concoctions, such as the Pumpkin and Honeybunny (made with house Pimm's, cucumber, lemon, and ginger beer).

The Quentin Tarantino theme that carries throughout his cocktails started with the Bonal Coolidge and generally stuck. Made with Bonal, Cappalletti, Oloroso sherry, dry vermouth, and orange bitters, it’s fruity but not sweet, with a strong hint of nuttiness underneath. The Future’s Bright is Esqueda’s cure to the common hangover. Made with cynar (an artichoke liqueur), mint, lime, soda, simple syrup and aromatic bitters, it’s earthy and herbal. delightfully refreshing. Should you indulge in one too many of these bright little beverages you’re in luck. Huxley just happens to have some of the tastiest small bites you’ll find in the Tendernob, from the famed avocado toast served on Jane bread (and smothered in a sesame, seaweed, and sea urchin spread) to their crispy salty chunks of herbed potatoes.

click to enlarge Huxley's The Future's Bright - A. K. CARROLL
  • A. K. Carroll
  • Huxley's The Future's Bright
click to enlarge Huxley's Pumpkin and Honeybunny - A. K. CARROLL
  • A. K. Carroll
  • Huxley's Pumpkin and Honeybunny
click to enlarge Huxley's Bonal Coolidge - A. K. CARROLL
  • A. K. Carroll
  • Huxley's Bonal Coolidge

Hillside Supper Club

Though Hillside is better known for its exquisite taste in wine, a careful selection of aperitifs and digestifs also graces the beverage menu, and along with it a selection of three-to-five session cocktails. Made with Alvera cream sherry, a touch of Mr. Espresso coffee, smoked syrup and lemon, the Mr. Gomez pays homage to a former owner known for taking a smoke along with his coffee and cocktails. The drink is crisp and clean, with the citrus of the lemon brining out bright notes in the coffee. Hillside’s Mack is made with house-made nectarine shrub, dry imbue, Champ Divin Macvin du Jura, lime zest, and a spicy black pepper that gives it the kick of a Bloody Mary, making it a great drink for brunch. Like Huxley’s Vincenzo Cappotti, Hillside’s Negroni is made with Cappalletti Apperitivo, but it's a bit sharper and more bitter (though still more friendly than the traditional Italian spritz). Bar manager Austin Ferrari is always playing with new ingredients, his most recent find being an old and refined Spanish sherry.

click to enlarge Hillside's Mack - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Hillside's Mack
click to enlarge Hillside's Mr. Gomez - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Hillside's Mr. Gomez

On a corner in the Outer RIchmond, this modern California eatery offers a smashing prix fixe option with wine and beer pairings to match (they also offer a la carte options). But if a session is what you’re after, they have those on hand as well. The sangria, made with fresh seasonal fruit and a combination of red and white wines is light and fruity, more like drinking juice than a cocktail. Their rosemary cocktail is similarly crisp, though somewhat watered down, tasting more of sherry and vermouth than the lovely stalk of rosemary that garnishes the glass. Better than either beverage is the duck liver mousse, creamy savory, and decadent.

click to enlarge Cassava's Rosemary Mixer - A. K. CARROLL
  • A. K. Carroll
  • Cassava's Rosemary Mixer
click to enlarge Cassava's Sangria - A. K. CARROLL
  • A. K. Carroll
  • Cassava's Sangria

Myriad Gastropub
With a dinner menu that nods toward a mezcla of culinary influences, Myriad’s drink menu does much the same, with session cocktails offering interesting alternatives to the traditional G-and-T or rum and coke. The Eastern Orchid is reminiscent of a lemon drop but less sugary and more herbal with a soju and lemongrass base mixed with ginger and lemon juice. The Orpheus blends fino sherry, sweet vermouth and dry vermouth with orange bitters and meyer lemon for a nutty citrus combination that makes for a decent palate teaser. A combination of prosecco, Lillet Blanc and elderflower, the Ruby Slipper is an elegant pre- or post-dinner drink, while the Guinness-and-blackberry-based Black and White Ball begs for a food pairing. The full menu includes roughly a dozen sessions, more than one can consume in an evening, even with the lower ABV.

click to enlarge Myriad's Canela y Cereja - BREAD AND BUTTER PR
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  • Myriad's Canela y Cereja
click to enlarge Myriad's Forbidden Lowball - BREADANDBUTTER
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  • Myriad's Forbidden Lowball

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A. K. Carroll


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