Apr
15
2014

The Latest

Pretty Wings

Pretty Hot Wings

You Haven’t Had Thai Like This

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

KIN KHAO, Union Square (55 Cyril Magnin St. at the corner of Ellis and Mason in Parc 55 Hotel, 415-362-7456)

Blue Flower Limeade ($5) or as Kathoey Collins (Ladyboy Collins): Akvinta Vodka, Chareau liqueur, lime, blue flowers

Blue Flower Limeade ($5) or as Kathoey Collins (Ladyboy Collins): Akvinta Vodka, Chareau liqueur, lime, blue flowers

Back in 1998-1999 I spent two months in Thailand – and another in Vietnam – working in orphanages and traveling around both countries. Needless to say, it was a life-altering three months, particularly during far less touristy time in Southeast Asia. For a mere dollar or two, I ate amazing meals – and was stretched by experiencing a lot of rough conditions and indefinable “food”.

THE best Thai sausage

THE best Thai sausage

Rarely am I faced with some of the more fascinating elements of taste I experienced in remote parts of the country long before I started taking notes and photos of all my meals. While there is plenty of authentic Thai food in the US (minus the dumbed-down heat), the majority of restaurants stick to a similar palate and list of dishes. In LA, I can experience proper Thai heat from the second menu at Jitlada. At famed Pok Pok in Portland (now also NY), I savor flavors I hadn’t experienced since 1999, and a proper use of durian in dessert.

One half of Kin Khao's dining room

One half of Kin Khao’s dining room

Enter Kin Khao, a restaurant that belongs in that genre of exceptional Thai, though different from both. First, there’s cooked-from-scratch curries (believe it or not, most restaurants do not go through this painstaking process) and exploring oft-ignored aspects of Thai cuisine. Proprietor Pim Techamuanvivit, author of The Foodie Handbook, and the popular blog Chez Pim, hails from Bangokok, and is seriously dedicated to sourcing the best ingredients, even having someone drive down to LA every week to get a very specific brand of palm sugar for dishes and cocktails, one she can’t find anywhere else.

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Yum Kai Dao

Chef Michael Gaines (formerly from her partner, David Kinch’s two Michelin-starred restaurant Manresa) oversees Pim’s kitchen and family recipes, sending out one memorable dish after another. Oh, those curries. Massaman Nong Lai ($26) showcases a bone-in beef shank braised in Massaman curry paste and coconut milk with burnt shallots and potatoes, gloriously accented by orange oil.

Crab Sen Chan ($17) local Dungeness crab meat and rice noodles wok-charred together in a zingy Chantaburi sauce made from crab fat

Crab Sen Chan ($17): local Dungeness crab meat and rice noodles wok-charred together in a zingy Chantaburi sauce made from crab fat (yes!)

An off menu classic Daiquiri, created by Bon Vivants' Chad Arnholt, made with that irresistible palm sugar, resulting in an earthy, lush, tart-sweet cocktail

An off-menu classic Daiquiri, created by Bon Vivants’ Chad Arnholt, made with that irresistible palm sugar, resulting in an earthy, lush, tart-sweet cocktail – one of my favorites here

If this savory curry hadn’t made impact enough, the 15-ingredient-plus in Khun Yai’s green curry ($22) is a show-stopper. Lush with coconut milk, Thai Apple eggplants, Thai basil and tender, pristine rabbit three ways – loin, saddle, herb-laden meatballs – it’s enough to make you want to give up on mediocre curries everywhere. Though expensive, the portion is plenty for two to share. I’ve brought home leftovers after every visit. Both curries taste amazing the next morning, stir-fried with eggs and rice.

There’s plenty to love beyond curries. Mushroom Hor Mok ($10) is a fluffy, cool curry mousse in-a-jar made of both wild and cultivated mushrooms, scooped up with crisp rice cakes. Pretty Hot Wings ($7) don’t approach the divine fish sauce wings at the aforementioned Pok Pok in Portland and NY, but they are tenderly gratifying, marinated in Nam Pla fish sauce and garlic marinade, glazed tamarind and Sriracha. Yum Kai Dao ($7) is an unusual “salad” of deep fried duck egg, a delight in contrasts with yolk running over peanuts, shallots, mint, cilantro, cucumber, dotted with dollops of chilli jam.

Mushroom mousse

Mushroom Hor Mok

The Sai Ua+Namprik Noom ($15), a grilled house-made Northern Thai pork sausage, is the best version I’ve ever had, including in Thailand. The juicy sausage nearly pops with flavor, contrasted by pork cracklings and spicy pepper relish. Saeng-wah salad ($16) is another unusual dish. Though called a wild gulf prawn “ceviche”, it’s raw cuts of plump prawns over crispy catfish crumbled up and dotted with lemongrass, ginger and bird’s eye chilli. While it starts to feel like too much half way through, it’s a play in textural contrast and a unique trajectory for raw shrimp.

Thus far, there’s one dessert. Black rice pudding ($8) is blessedly not sweet on its own, but is served with a variety of condiments: toasted rice, coconut cream, and that divine palm sugar melted like caramel, all stirred to taste in the warm black rice. It recalls my Thailand days where dessert, if it happened at all, was rarely ever sweet, but often comforting. This also makes a lovely leftover breakfast.

Black bean dessert

Black rice pudding

With warm service and what already promises to be the most exciting Thai food in SF – and California? – only the clean white walls and slightly generic-looking setting in the Wyndam Parc 55 Hotel (entered by unmarked doors at the corner of Mason and Ellis) feels as if it’s not keeping up. Though it’s still working out opening kinks, this is the Thai restaurant I’ve been waiting for.

Khao Mun Gai ($16) chicken fat rice, ginger-poached chicken, Pim’s secret sauce, served with cup of intense chicken consommé

Khao Mun Gai ($16): chicken fat rice, ginger-poached chicken, served with cup of intense chicken consommé

That dreamy coconut palm sugar

That dreamy coconut palm sugar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most vacation-like drink on the menu: Hua Hin Beach, a blend of Pampero dark rum, coconut cream, lime, salt, kaffir lime, and, yes, a splash of beer (in this case, stout)

The most vacation-like drink on the menu: Hua Hin Beach, a blend of Pampero dark rum, coconut cream, lime, salt, kaffir lime, and, yes, a splash of beer (in this case, stout)

BON VIVANTS’ COCKTAILS

With a cocktail menu ($12 each) crafted by San Francisco cocktail/design dream team, The Bon Vivants – most specifically by the talented Scott Baird – there was no way it wasn’t going to be good. Just as important, they’ve hired bartenders who can properly execute, like the talented Keli Rivers and Rhachel Shaw. In my initial three visits, I tried every cocktail on the menu – and a few off menu – most refreshing, lovely accompaniments with the food. Throughout the article, photos and descriptions of a few cocktails:

Sao Thai (Thai Girl) on right: Ocho blanco tequila, house banana cordial, lime cinnamon Rasa Umami on left: Hidalgo Oloroso sherry, Black Grouse Scotch, house turmeric lime cordial, white pepper

Sao Thai aka Thai Girl (R): Ocho blanco tequila, house banana cordial, lime cinnamon;
Rasa Umami (L): Hidalgo Oloroso sherry, Black Grouse Scotch, house turmeric lime cordial, white pepper

Kafe Mao (drunken coffee – R): Pierde Almas mezcal, Combier cassis, coffee, cream; Tom Yum (L): Tanqueray gin, Imbue vermouth, lime, galangal, lemongrass, Abbots bitters

Samunprai Julep (Thai herb julep): Dickel whiskey, Mandarine Napoleon, Thai herbs, palm sugar, tea

Samunprai Julep (Thai herb julep): Dickel whiskey, Mandarine Napoleon, Thai herbs, palm sugar, tea

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Apr
15
2014

Imbiber

Roka Akor

At Roka Akor: Drunken Monk (L) with slice of grilled Asian pear, adding toasty notes to an otherwise bright blend of winter-spiced pear shochu, green Chartreuse for herbal complexity and fresh orange and lemon

Article & photos by Virginia Miller

Here’s my April 10th photo slideshow and article on 10 best spring cocktails in San Francisco for Zagat: www.zagat.com/b/san-francisco/10-best-spring-cocktails-in-san-francisco#1.

A re-imagined Appletini from Claire Sprouse at The Square in my Zagat spring cocktail article

A re-imagined Appletini from Claire Sprouse at The Square

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Feb
15
2014

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Cachaça: Primed For Mainstream?

In Conversation with Avuá Co-Founder
Nate Whitehouse

Article by Virginia Miller

Avuá Cachaça (pronounced ahv-wah kah-SHAH-sah) is spreading the cachaça gospel. Founders Nate Whitehouse, Pete Nevenglosky, and Mark Christou are key voices raising awareness of the complexities and range of Brazil’s beloved sugarcane spirit, best known as the base for the Caipirinha cocktail. Though it surged in popularity a few years back with major brands, the category never quite took deep root in US bars as a wide diversity of brands did not make it to the US.

Cachaça is primed for far greater exposure as Brazil hosts the 2014 FIFA World Cup this summer and the 2016 Summer Olympics, where the nation’s favorite drink will surely be consumed in copious amounts. Though the spirit has long been lumped in with rum, despite being considerably different, recently gaining its own official classification/category won’t immediately help bring it to the forefront of spirit drinkers’ minds. Education and greater access to the range of cachaça out there is still greatly needed.
(Photo credit: www.avuacachaca.com)

(Photo credit: www.avuacachaca.com)

I first tasted Avuá (the Portuguese word voar, meaning “to fly”) back at Tales of the Cocktail last summer, both the clean, fruit and floral notes of Prata (aged 12 months before bottling), and the 24-month aged Amburana, named after the wood it’s aged in, exhibiting savory vegetal notes alongside the soft caramel of the wood. I was immediately impressed by Avuá’s quality and complexity above other brands I’d previously tasted. Made from single-sourced cachaça, Distiller Katia Espírito Santo is one of few Brazilian female distillers who also grows all sugarcane used to make Avuá on her family farm, Fazenda da Quinta, in Carmo, roughly four hours north of Rio de Janeiro.

Talking cachaça, I recall pisco a few years ago. The Peruvian and Chilean grape-based spirit has long had a close connection with San Francisco where there have have been bars dedicated predominantly to pisco for years, even when most of the US didn’t know much about it. Pisco really didn’t place on the national cocktail consciousness until recent years when brands like Encanto upped the profile and quality of pisco and bar managers began to feature it more. In my visit to Peru last year making pisco in Ica and visiting cocktail bars around Lima, I was amazed at the diversity of ingredients mixed with pisco in cocktail menus often 50-deep, far beyond how it has been used in the US. Though the spirit has gained much more attention in recent years, there’s still unexplored worlds of its possibilities best represented in its home countries. I see similarities with cachaça.
In a recent conversation with co-founder Nate Whitehouse, I immediately caught his passion for Brazil and cachaça. There’s a growing US community of cachaça producers, importers and aficionados who are uniting to educate and share in a greater way than ever before. Whitehouse is working with cachaça expert Felipe Jannuzzi, who runs the extensive site, Mapa da Cachaca, to translate it article-by-article into English (English site here; more on Facebook).
(Photo source: https://www.facebook.com/mapadacachaca)

(Photo source: facebook.com/mapadacachaca)

Whitehouse compares the rise he hopes to see in the cachaça category to the way mezcal has captured the national cocktail scene. His hope is that as knowledge of the sugarcane spirit deepens, it will face a similar widespread growth. He talks of over 4000 registered cachaça producers in Brazil, but that actual estimates range from 7000 to more than 30,000 producers. With over 500 years of history, cachaça is one of the historic spirits of the world. It can be young, clean and cocktail-friendly or aged in a wide range of woods, resulting in elegant, sipping cachacas. Whitehouse describes these cachacas as embodying, “… a richness we’re not familiar with because of many of them have not come into the US market.”

Similarly, Brazilian bartenders mix cachaça with a wide range of fruits from the Amazon, punches are commonplace, and some infuse the spirit with Amazonian barks and other unusual ingredients. Alongside the revival of the dining scenes in Rio and Sao Paolo, the cocktail scene is thriving.

Inspiring views from Centro de Tecnologia in Cachaça in Brazil (photo source: Mapa da Cachaca https://www.facebook.com/mapadacachaca)

Inspiring views from Brazil’s Centro de Tecnologia in Cachaça (photo source: Mapa da Cachaca facebook.com/mapadacachaca)

The story of how lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Whitehouse fell in love with cachaça and Brazil is a good one, well told in 2012 in Gourmet. Whitehouse was inspired by famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, sharing with me Niemeyer’s most famous quote, a passage that inspires the ethos behind Avuá: “It’s not the right angle that attracts me, nor the straight line—stiff, inflexible, created by men. What really attracts me is the free, sensual curve. The curve I see on the sinuous course of our rivers, on the clouds in the sky, on your favorite woman’s body. The universe is entirely made of curves.”

While Avuá launched on the East Coast in NYC this fall and at a few choice spots here in San Francisco, its official rollout in California is right now: late February. In San Francisco, you can find it bars like Smuggler’s Cove, Lolinda, Absinthe, AQ, Wingtip, Local Edition, Laszlo, Penelope in Oakland, and more.

As I listen to bossa nova, which I’ve been crazy about since I was teen, while sipping Avuá cocktails I’ve made at home, I long for a visit to a few of Brazil’s many cachaça producers myself. Every time I get up close and personal with a spirit – particularly when I visit its home country and distilleries – I fall further in love with it and the people who make it. But until I get there, I’m grateful for people like Whitehouse and Jannuzzi who are working to share the best of what’s going on in Brazil here at home.
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Feb
01
2014

The Latest

Fantastic bialys

Fantastic bialys

Alta: Ushering in the Mid-Market Revival

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

ALTA, Civic Center/Mid-Market (1420 Market St. between 10th St. & Fell St., 415-590-2585)

The Jumping Frog

The Jumping Frog

Alta, the latest from Daniel Patterson Group (including two Michelin-starred Coi, Patterson’s flagship and best restaurant, and the more casual Plum, Plum Bar, Haven), just opened at the beginning of December.

After multiple visits from opening day until now, there have been a number of high points, amid some inconsistencies. Alta is as sure a sign of the Mid-Market renaissance as any to open near Twitter headquarters. Looking out at Twitter on the neighboring corner, the high-ceilinged, 65-seat dining room is centered by a dramatic, V-shaped bar and floor-to-ceiling shelves peering through to an open kitchen. The shelves are lined with bottles of house cordials and infusions used in the cocktail program.

Ideal bar snack: beef tendon crisps

Ideal bar snack: beef tendon puffs

Bar Manager Ashley Miller, previously at Hakkasan, employs the now rather ubiquitous barrel aged cocktails (classics, aged two months: Negroni, Manhattan, and a Boulevardier) alongside house tinctures, sodas, infusions. Her cocktails ($12-14) shine, expressing an understated elegance, as in the case of Hang Glider 209 ($12), employing 209 gin, sage, lemon and mezcal with a subtle touch of creme de violette. Violette can often be overdone but here offers a welcome whisper of floral violet in an herbal sea of smoke and citrus.

Carrot Ginger Mule

Roger Rabbit

A new drink she was working on during my last visit elevated the classic – and basic – Moscow Mule (vodka and ginger beer). Miller created a carrot ginger beer, spicy with ginger, gently vegetal with carrot. The beer is poured over crushed ice, mixed with sweet-tart Meyer lemon juice, Meyer lemon-infused Skyy vodka, then topped with a smattering of fresh, shaved carrot over the top. The drink, playful named Roger Rabbit ($12), is enough to make a non-vodka drinker like me return for more. Likewise, The Jumping Frog ($14) maximizes the herbal notes of 209 gin with the liveliness of yuzu and lime, green notes of celery, and a splash of soda. An ideal lunch/daytime imbibement.

Dill Whiskey Sour

Curious George, aka Dill Whiskey Sour

Miller is crafting drinks with approachable softness but that don’t shy away from bold flavor or concepts. Case in point: she’s infusing bourbon with puerrh tea, then mixing it with a house bay leaf cordial and fresh Granny Smith apple juice for an alternately smoky-fruity blend.

I particularly love her concept of a Dill Whiskey Sour, also playfully named: Curious George. Taking what is already one of my all-time favorite classics, a Whiskey Sour, she mixes bourbon, lemon and lime with a house dill syrup, then smokes egg whites, all accented by a sprig of dill. In its early stages, the drink begged for more dill to perfect it, but the idea sings, while the textures and contrasts of the fluffy egg white and liquid ideally represent the concept of textures also found in the Chef Yoni Levy’s dishes.

Chickpea Oxtail Fritters

Chickpea Oxtail Fritters

The menu ($5-$25) from Patterson and Chef Levy features what is often deemed “New American”, with an emphasis on varying textures. High points from day one have been dishes with Eastern European/Jewish roots. One is paper-thin mounds of house pastrami with mustard ($13), subtly invoking the flavors of coriander and black pepper in which it’s brined for four days. At lunch the pastrami is served on soft rye bread ($15) with cabbage and Dijon mustard. Though picky about my pastrami and often preferring heftier classics like Brent’s in Northridge (LA) or Second Avenue Deli in NYC, I crave the melting tenderness of Levy’s thin cuts.

The other highlight is Levy’s killer bialys ($6) marked by grilled onions, sage, and poppy seeds, or served with cream cheese and smoked trout at lunch ($14). Only on one visit were the bialys a bit dry, while at every other meal (yes, bialys and pastrami were the two items I ordered every time), they were warm perfection.

Pastrami sandwich

Pastrami sandwich

A downside of these first two months has been an inconsistency at lunch. Dinner entrees, like a tender, juicy confit chicken ($15) over cabbage, dried apricot, crunchy and tender farro grains, or hen of the wood mushrooms ($14) over a comforting, cracked wheat porridge and baby turnips, are heavy on the salt, suffering from one-note syndrome. Likewise, an uplifting smattering of spaetzle-like “dumplings”, broccoli and black garlic bright with Meyer lemon is topped by overly salty Pacific black cod ($20) at lunch, while the dish comes out in better harmony at dinner.

Winter root vegetables

Winter root vegetables

Dinner shines, beginning with crispy beef tendon puffs ($6), a delightful alternative to Mexican chicharrónes and an ideal bar snack with drinks. Warm root vegetable salad ($13) is a beauty of a dish and prime example of contrasting textures with carrots served in multiple ways (pureed, fried and as crispy strips), accented by mint, parsnips, fennel, edible flowers. The secret in its vibrant flavor is garam masala fish sauce. This is easily one of my favorite vegetable dishes in the city currently.

Chicken confit

Chicken confit

Candy-striped beets and gently-smoked Lassen trout ($16), resting atop yogurt infused with horseradish and dill, is as dynamic in flavor as it is in color. Seared Monterey squid ($14) springs back soft and fresh. Interspersed with mustard greens, watermelon radish, avocado, grapefruit and almonds, it’s a study in contrasts. One of the most gratifying dishes is chickpea and oxtail fritters ($16), warm, crispy and soft, accompanied by roasted red onion, artichoke, and charred onion “aioli”.

The Malted - soft serve delights

The Malted – soft serve delights

Finish with pastry chef Matt Tinder’s house soft serve program (though slightly denser than typical soft serve), named The Malted. My personal favorite is silky vanilla lush with a grassy olive oil and dusting of sea salt. We’ve seen that combo for years but it’s in fine form here. Flavors rotate whether rocky road with pine marshmallow and candied walnuts or one they’re working on: house spumoni (chocolate, cherry, pistachio).

Despite uneven lunches, service and setting are consistent while dinners better showcase the promise inherent in this latest, more casual Patterson effort, strategically located on this ever-changing stretch of Market Street. Though comparing Coi and Alta is comparing apples and oranges – one cannot truly experience the imaginative perfection of Patterson’s cooking without visiting the former – Alta is a welcome addition to his family of restaurants. It’s not about the fine dining inventiveness of Coi, but neither is it completely predictable. The high points are reason enough to keep an eye on it – or to head out for dinner now.

Alta's dining room

Alta’s dining room

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Jan
10
2014

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Trick Dog's new zodiac sign menu

Trick Dog’s new zodiac sign menu

TRICK DOG’s NEW ZODIAC MENU

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

TRICK DOG, 3010 20th Street at Florida, 415-471-2999

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Aquarius is vibrant & bracing for a vodka cocktail, using Absolut vodka, Combier Rose, with a hint of bitter from Aperol – but it’s the generous dose of lime that makes it

The Bon Vivants’ (Josh Harris, Scott Baird, Jason Henton) Trick Dog has been the hottest bar opening in San Francisco of 2013, and one of the big openings of the year anywhere in the cocktail world.

Though it certainly made my “best of” list of 2013, the constant stream of crowds make it a tough place to visit as often as I’d like. Thank God for the 3pm opening hour, particularly this week of January 8th, the day the team launched their new menu.

Trick Dog menus are an event not merely because there are new cocktails to taste, but because each menu is art concept and themed exploration in one. It started with their striking Pantone color wheel, fanning out featuring color-toned cocktails. Months later, they went on to an elaborate, big book of LP sleeves, each filled with a record listing a song-titled cocktail.

My favorite: Libra, lively, light, savory, brilliant with Tequila Ocho Plato Blanco, tangerine, dill, lime, egg white and a dusting of matcha green tea powder

My initial favorite: the lively, light, bright, savory Libra with Tequila Ocho Plato Blanco, tangerine, dill, lime, egg white and a dusting of matcha green tea powder

Coasters offer meet-up opportunities to exchange phone #s

Coasters offer cheeky meet-up opportunities

2014 ushers in a Zodiac wheel that when turned to one’s “sign”, uncovers drinks themed by sign, many with blessed savory components, covering a range of spirits.

One day in to the launch, I tasted through eight of the twelve “signs.” All worked: only a couple left me longing to taste more of the flavors listed, a couple surprised, and most delighted.

Via photos, here are highlights and observations on the 8 cocktails tasted…

Though I loved the boozy, smoky-clean Scotch hit (from Black Grouse & Ardbeg 10 yr) of the Cancer cocktail, what I really wished I could have tasted was the listed peanuts, sage and salted pineapple - they seemed lost on the palate even as the drink unfolded a bit as the giant ice cube slowly diluted... the peanuts seem to add more of a texture than a flavor as all is overwhelmed by peat

Though I loved the boozy, smoky-clean Scotch hit (from Black Grouse & Ardbeg 10 yr Scotches) of the Cancer cocktail, what I really wished I could have tasted were the peanuts, sage and salted pineapple – sounded like my dream cocktail but those elements seemed lost amid all the peat, even as the drink unfolds once a giant ice cube slowly dilutes… the peanuts add more of a texture than a flavor

A beaut: the vegetal, ultra-fresh carrot taste of the Taurus: Beefeater Gin, Dolin Blanc, carrot, miso and coriander served up

My second favorite cocktail: the vegetal, ultra-fresh carrot taste of the Taurus, mixing Beefeater Gin, Dolin Blanc, carrot, miso (brillaint!), coriander

Capricorn goes robust with a lush, bitter undercurrent from Cynar mixed with Fighting Cock bourbon, Dubbonet, Orange Curacao, cacao and rosemary

Capricorn goes robust with a lush, bitter undercurrent from Cynar mixed with Fighting Cock bourbon, Dubbonet, Orange Curacao, cacao, rosemary

Circling the entire wheel

Circling the entire wheel

The condensed milk with Leblon Cachaca texture of the Leo is a beaut, though the one flavor coming through is guava - as pleasant as that is (& as easy as this goes down), I wanted to taste more of the Stout Beer & Mandarine Napoleon Cognac undergirding the drink

The condensed milk texture of the Leblon Cachaca-based Leo is a beaut, though the one flavor coming through is guava – as lovely as that is (& oh-so-easy to drink), I hoped to taste more of the Stout Beer & Mandarine Napoleon Cognac

The Gemini is an ideal aperitif: two amari, Amaro Lucano & Amaro Montenegro, give structure, while Noilly Pratt dry vermouth & Cava add lightness & bubbles, sour orange & sesame the intrigue

The Gemini is an ideal aperitif: two amari – Amaro Lucano & Amaro Montenegro – give the drink structure & body, while Noilly Pratt dry vermouth & Cava add lightness & bubbles; it’s sour orange & sesame that add intrigue

 

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Oh, Virgo: a little Tanqueray Malacca Gin structured with manzanilla sherry & kiwi soda

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Jan
09
2014

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Brunch favorite:

Frothy, invigorating brunch favorite, No New Tale to Tell: Spirit Works Sloe Gin, Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin, lemon, Angostura bitters, egg white, soda

Foreign Cinema’s New Bar Program

Article and photos by Virginia Miller

FOREIGN CINEMA, Mission (2534 Mission St. between 21st & 22nd Streets, 415-648-7600)

Kevin Dowell crafts a Painkiller # 3

Kevin Dowell makes a Painkiller # 3

Foreign Cinema will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it one of the hottest restaurants in town back in 2001 when I moved to San Francisco (as a lifelong film buff, I also love the theme and movies playing on the wall), but it was the site of my engagement dinner after The Renaissance Man proposed to me in 2003. The effuse service, celebratory cheer and the bubbly we received from the staff that night – all while ensconced at our corner, fireside table – made it unforgettable.

Through the years, brunch has been a favorite way to take in that magical courtyard while the food and wine list has stayed consistently strong. But cocktails have been more of the mainstream variety, not a strong feature of the restaurant… until now.

New Bar Manager Kevin Dowell (who is also crafting the cocktail menu at Outerlands expanding space, and formerly worked at Zero Zero, Wo Hing General Store, Rio Grande, to name a few) oversees the new bar program. Dowell also manages neighboring bar in the front of the restaurant off the long hallway entrance to Foreign Cinema (FC), Laszlo, an industry favorite and casual outpost for FC food.

Lady Grinning Soul: Reyka Vodka, La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, lemon, Giffard Pamplemousse (grapefruit cordial), cucumber with subtle, dry sherry finish

A vodka winner, Lady Grinning Soul, with Reyka Vodka, and a clean, bright mix of lemon, Giffard Pamplemousse (grapefruit cordial), cucumber – its a solid dose of La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry that gives the drink its subtly-complex, dry sherry finish, but wouldn’t be obvious to the vodka-drinker

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Tiki goodness in a Surfer Girl garnished with toasted coconut & banana chips: El Dorado 12 yr rum, Pierre Ferrand Cognac, lemon, soda, coconut, banana, honey, sea salt

While FC may be quite late to the game in terms of a cocktail emphasis, they jump in strong with Dowell’s expertise, offering balanced, well-crafted drinks that are definitely a real step up from what they were doing, but keeping their wide-ranging, longtime clientele in mind (i.e. this won’t be a boundary-pushing, cocktail hotspot, rather a reliable, relevant restaurant bar). All three new menus (FC dinner and brunch, plus Laszlo’s new menu) launched January 4. I had a preview a few days before, tasting through most of the menus. 

Laszlo is all about approachable classics like a Hanky Panky, Philadelphia Fish House Punch (El Dorado 12 year rum, Pierre Ferrand Cognac, lemon, peach) and a beauty of a Painkiller # 3 (three-rum blend, orange, pineapple, coconut, nutmeg) – plus one rotating Mission/Bernal neighborhood bartender recipe, currently John Ottman’s After the Gold Rush (Old Grand-Dad, lemon, apricot, pineapple gum) of Holy Water.

Foreign Cinema's newly built bar

Foreign Cinema’s back bar

Foreign Cinema’s dinner menu is divided into sections of four “Originals”, three “Classics” (currently a Sherry Cobbler, Casino, Saratoga), and three “Friends”, the latter category being cocktails by mentors and bartenders Dowell has worked for. The initial menu features cocktails by Joel Teitelbaum, Brooke Arthur, and Scott Baird in the “Friends” section, with drinks like Teitelbaum’s bright, bracing Vida Vida mixing Altos Blanco Tequila, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, lime, Green Chartreuse, and agave.

Via photos and notes, I explore highlights from the new menus.

My top drink of the new creations? Stranglehold inspired by Trinidad Sour; Diplomatico Rum, Rittenhouse Rye, lime, orgeat, Angostura bitters (1/2 oz.), spiced, rust orange

My top drink? Dowell’s Stranglehold, inspired by a Trinidad Sour, with generous, spiced dose (1/2 oz.) of Angostura bitters, Diplomatico Rum, Rittenhouse Rye, lime, orgeat

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At Laszlo, a 2011 recipe from Holy Water Bar Manager John Ottman: After the Gold Rush (Old Grand-Dad, lemon, apricot, pineapple gum syrup)

 

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Jan
08
2014

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The Dead Rabbit - cocktails in tea cups

The Dead Rabbit -  punch in teacups

COCKTAIL-ing in Manhattan

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

Naren Young's cocktails at Saxon + Parole

Naren Young’s cocktails at Saxon

Back in my beloved New York, home of my teenage years. Until just a few years ago, it was the place I’d come home to for the holidays when my parents still lived in New Jersey.

Despite only a couple lovely days out of a ten-day visit in late May through early June (the rest were either pouring rain or sweltering hot and suffocating), my last research trip visiting friends and family, involved dozens of restaurants and cocktail bars, plays and treks through Eataly for espresso and rooftop beers.

Here’s a list of drink standouts – and the overrated – from this trip (highlights in food and dining here):

The Best

At the now-closed Beagle: series of twists on Old Fashioneds with changing bases from navy strength gin to Calvados with marriage/divorce-themed names like Remember the Alimony

At the now-closed Beagle: series of twists on Old Fashioneds with changing bases from navy strength gin to Calvados with marriage/divorce-themed names like Remember the Alimony

Two of my best bar experiences all year were in New York City at bars with now-changed circumstances: one is The Beagle, which sadly just closed, where Tom Richter churned out of some of the great understated drinks in all of NYC in a relaxed setting tinged with Old World elegance. Richter also happens to be a genius with the often forgettable category of beer cocktails, crafting winners like the Hop Over, mixing a hoppy IPA,  lemon, Bols Genever, orange flower water, and house Velvet Falernum, or Smog Cutter, combining mezcal, Negro Modelo, ginger, tonic and lime, garnished with a cucumber. I miss the Beagle.

Young's gorgeous cocktails at Saxon+Parole

Young’s gorgeous cocktails at Saxon+Parole

The second is Saxon + Parole under Naren Young. Young recently came on board at Empellon, no doubt even better under his watch. When he was in charge of the menu at Saxon (along with The Daily and other bars), each drink, like a Celery Gimlet, sounded straightforward. But Young’s cocktails are among the finest examples of nuance and balance that I have tasted anywhere. They exhibit complexity and robust flavor in plainclothes. As a master of balance, I’d drink at whichever bar Young is crafting cocktails.

AMOR Y AMARGO, East Village

Amor y Amargo

Amor y Amargo

Amor y Amargo is what I’d want out of an amaro bar. A beautifully bitter respite in the former Carteles sandwich shop that was once the entrance to neighboring bar Cienfuegos, the space is tiny, intimate, welcoming. With a broad selection of amari, bitters and bitter liqueurs, there’s a range of cocktail possibilities, and a wealth of”bitter knowledge from former chef, now Beverage Director at Amor, Sother Teague.

THE DAILY, Nolita

The Daily

The Daily

The Daily, managed by Naren Young when I last visited (who now runs the bar at Empellon, see below), is an urban respite with a straightforward, daily changing cocktail menu and welcoming, skilled bartenders. There’s one cocktail to choose in each category like bottled, up, “on the rock” and frothy. Start with the likes of a bag of house chili “cracker jack” and an Orchard Sidecar lush with Poire Williams (pear liqueur), Calvados, fresh apple and lemon.

THE DEAD RABBIT, Financial District

Dead Rabbit's glowing space

Dead Rabbit’s glowing space

The Dead Rabbit is as special as you’ve heard. Though the raves and accolades in this, its first year, have been excessive, there really is no bar like it, with a cocktail geek’s attention to detail and history. Reading through the book that is the cocktail menu is an event in itself – and how I wish for a copy on my bookshelf. Recipes from as far back as the 1600 and 1700′s come with stories, history and artwork, best perused over classic punches served in teacups.

The atmosphere of the intimate, upstairs bar is the second high point besides the menu: low ceilings, candelight and hurricane lamps, an upright piano played soothingly in the background by a local pianist, a bronzed eagle atop the bar and paintings of figures in colonial history lining the walls.

Dead Rabbit cocktails

Dead Rabbit cocktails

Cocktails can be uneven (like the candied medicine taste of a Kilrain mixing Rhum J.M., Rabarbaro Zucca, raspberry cordial, Dead Rabbit Orinoco bitters, rhubarb root tincture and mint, topped with berries), particularly given the extensive drink selection, but there are thoughtful high points like an Evening Daisy of nettle tea-infused Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey, Chase elderflower liqueur, lime, fennel syrup, dashes of Pernod absinthe and cucumber soda. It’s both refreshing and nuanced.

EVELYN, A DRINKERY, East Village

Looking across Evelyn's bar into second room

Looking across Evelyn’s bar into second room

An East Village gem, Evelyn: A Drinkery is all about punches ($7 small – love this option; $11 large), phosphates charged with Co2 (same pricing), and egg creams ($9), both with and without booze. The two-room, candelit space invites lingering while bright, rosy concoctions like Neverland Ranch, a phosphate combining Bombay Sapphire gin, crème de cacao, house beet shrub, orange and lemon, go down all to easy.

Boozy egg creams

Boozy egg creams

In addition, there’s cocktails, “Twisted Classics”, long drinks ($12 each), and stirred and boozy cocktails ($14), making it one of the more playful, fun menus in Manhattan, exemplified in their “Drinking Language” terminology (e.g. “If the bartender doesn’t say ‘hello’, ‘hey’, ‘how’s it going’, or offer some sort of greeting, call him/her out on it.”)

Intriguing cocktails include Daisy Ferrigno (Oxley gin, Green Chartreuse, pineapple, jalapeno syrup, lime, cilantro, served up), Improved Hit By A Car Number 2 (Fidencio Classico Mezcal, Tequila Ocho Plata, Green Chartreuse, Aperol, chipotle agave, lime, grapefruit bitters, served up), and my favorite, the savory, vibrant Mo F*#King Way (El Jimador Blanco Tequila, Benedictine, chipotle agave, Memphis BBQ bitters, passion fruit, lemon, Perrier, cayenne).

PDT, East Village

PDT flips

PDT flips

In a few short years, PDT is legend in the cocktail world, thanks to Jim Meehan. But for those of us who spend every day in restaurants and bars around the world, fighting through people pushing into a phone booth in a hot dog shop, Crif Dogs, trying to get into this famed “speakeasy” is far more work than we have time for to get a drink. However, if you happen to find yourself in the intimate bar, as I did upon my first return visit in years, I’d encourage you to go off-menu and ask for a flip (meaning it includes a whole egg) or a beer cocktail. While menu cocktails didn’t quite enchant, those two categories did.

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PDT cocktail using the yet-to-be-released-in-the-US Nardini Bitter liqueur

Head Bartender Jeff Bell crafted a beauty when I asked for something using house-infused Four Roses bourbon, smoky with Benton’s incomparable Tennessee ham, which I noticed on the menu in an Old Fashioned. Wittily named Nose to Cock-tail, he mixed the bourbon with lemon, orange, demerara syrup, and whole egg to decadent perfection. Ditto with a Black Flip using Brooklyn Brewery chocolate stout as a base with whole egg. Another beer cocktail highlight? Beer Cassis combining Ommegang Witte beer, the bitter-sweet of Byrrh Quinquina, and Caledonia elderberry cordial.

POURING RIBBONS, East Village

Sadly, my photos did not turn out from my visit to Pouring Ribbons but it is one of NYC’s great bar newcomers since fall 2012. Once you deal with yet another speakeasy-doorman scenario, head upstairs to a chill, roomy space where the cocktail menu is famously charted by taste profiles: refreshing to spirituous, comforting to adventurous.

PDT's friendly bar bear

PDT’s friendly bear

Cocktails please with approachable but not-too-simplistic combinations - like Gentleman’s Agreement ($14), mixing Beefeater gin, lime, like Spanish citrus-vanilla Licor 43 and cinnamon bitters with a five-spice salt rim.  The unique feature of the bar, however, is the extensive Chartreuse selection, some of it dating back to the 1940′s. My Chartreuse flight, thoughtfully selected by bartender Otis Steven Florence, included a 15 year old V.E.P. Liqueur Fabrique Par Les Peres Chartreux (green 54%, yellow 42%) and the now-defunct Sussex Green Chartreuse with fascinating notes of ginseng, heavy chamomile and fresh-cut grass.

THE RUM HOUSE, Times Square

In love with the Rum House

In love with the Rum House

The best thing to happen to Times Square in ages? The Rum House. This classic bar was revamped by the crew behind Ward III back in 2011, entirely to its benefit. While maintaining a dim, “lived in”, Old World feel, the spirits – particularly the rum – selection is stellar and the cocktails vastly improved. A heavenly respite from the madness of Times Square and the tourist throngs outside, its a true cocktail haven that feels like stepping onto an old movie set. Here, over a luxurious Negroni Leoni ($16), mixing Santa Teresa 1796 Solera rum, Ilegal Mezcal, sweet vermouth and Campari, I feel as if I’m in the Manhattan of old, comfortable in my vintage dresses, open to intriguing conversations with strangers at the bar, soon to become friends.

The Rest

BIRRERIA at EATALY, Flatiron

Beautiful city views from Eataly's rooftop

Beautiful city views from Eataly’s rooftop

No, this isn’t about cocktails. It’s all about a stunning rooftop bar in view of the Flatiron building and the Manhattan skyline, idyllic on a warm day. Cask-conditioned beers ($10 a pint) and wines (like Bastianich wines on tap, $12-18) are the drinks on offer.

Best of all, beers are brewed rooftop in glistening gold tanks (“made 30 feet from where you sit”), are unfiltered and unpasteurized, naturally carbonated, and served at traditional cellar temps of 50-55 F. I enjoyed Wanda (chestnut mild ale), Giuseppina (Italian-American IPA), and Patrizia (American dry stout brewed with Wellfleet oysters from Matthew Shellfish Co.)

BOOKER & DAX, East Village

The glow of Booker & Dax

The glow of Booker & Dax

Despite the molecular raves (I ever long for the experimental side of cooking and cocktails to be prevalent in the mix next to classic and straightforward) and though I loved Dave Arnold‘s cocktails at national events, I was a bit disappointed in my experience at Booker and Dax. Much like my visit a few years ago to its already legendary parent restaurant Momofuku Ssam next door, things sounded better than tasted.

Booker & Dax cocktails

Booker & Dax cocktails

In the case of a Lechuga ($14), a mix of gin, lemon, and bibb lettuce freeze-dried then muddled into powder,  the end result is little flavor. I guess I should have expected that with bibb lettuce, but I was hoping for vegetal notes in a fresh, clean cocktail. It tasted like icy water with a backbone of gin. Likewise, a BDX Marg, sounded delightful, combining mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, Cointreau, and lime served over shave ice (a nod to Hawaii and Japan), but tasted more icy than nuanced. The cocktail that worked for me was surprisingly the sweetest and best as dessert, a Banana Justino. Merely two ingredients – Zacapa 23 rum and bananas – are run through a centrifuge, yielding a thick elixir, sweet and bracing.

CASA MEZCAL, LES (Lower East Side)

Casa Mezcal

Casa Mezcal

Charming, funky Oaxacan decor (Day of the Dead paraphernalia, colorful lights and artwork) and friendly service goes a long way in making Casa Mezcal a worthwhile stop, though I haven’t eaten here so can’t vouch for the food. Mezcal cocktails aren’t exactly noteworthy, especially given the average $14 and up price tag. But they are good and the mezcal selection strong (menu grouped by agave plant varietal). Over mid-afternoon cocktails with grasshopper salt, it feels as if I’m right back in Oaxaca.

EMPELLON, East Village

Empellon cocktails

Empellon cocktails

With one of my two best bar experiences of my 20+ bars this visit being Saxon + Parole under Naren Young (see above), I am eager to return to Empellon Cocina, no doubt even better under his watch. That being said, there were already some players on the menu, particularly a rosy, beet and reposado tequila cocktail, tinged with mezcal smoke, alive with ginger, vanilla, lemon.

ELSA, East Village

Elsa's classic book bill holders

Elsa’s check holders

Settling in to my East Village apartment rental directly above Elsa, I was pleased to have a charming, intimate bar downstairs, replete with vintage touches (like old books used as check holders and Victoriana-style menus). I was less thrilled, however, with only big brand liquor behind the bar – given their “craft” style, there was a nary a smaller brand to be found – and solid but not memorable cocktails. Black Book ($12) sounded lovely, mixing bourbon, rhubarb rose water reduction, cucumber, Aperol, and lime rhubarb bitter. But as with all the cocktails I tried here, the more vegetal, herbal I hoped would shine, were barely discernible.

MILK & HONEY, LES (Lower East Side)

Milk & Honey

Milk & Honey

As essentially the speakeasy that launched the speakeasy trend of the past decade plus way back in 2000 (if you’re not counting Angel’s Share, a favorite haunt of mine in the ’90′s with hidden cocktail bar upstairs through an Asian restaurant), I will always have a soft spot for the original Milk and Honey through a dingy door on a sketchy, Lower East Side block. That’s all gone now as LES is plenty gentrified, while the original, dim, dive-y space is now Attaboy, a similar bar from the same owners.

The new Milk & Honey reminds me a bit of Dutch Kills in Queens or The Varnish in LA or any other derivative spot across the country, with elegant, understated, Prohibition-era decor. That is to say, I don’t find it particularly original or memorable – but when in the Flatiron District, the swank location of M&H is a solid stop for well-made cocktails and doo-wop over the sound system, as was the case on my last visit.

PRESERVE 24, LES (Lower East Side)

Preserve 24's downstairs bar

Preserve 24′s downstairs bar

Having just opened when I rented a nearby apartment, Preserve 24 is most notable for its Jules Verne-esque, old world look. Circa 1800′s underwater diving equipment, beer taps made from piano pedals, an eclectic mishmash of woods and antiques in a two-floor, multi-room space are delightful.

I haven’t tried the food, but the cocktails are lovely in concept and solid, if not as balanced/nuanced as I would hope for, like a Compass Rose ($13) mixing pisco, bourbon, Green Chartreuse, house strawberry rhubarb preserves and Peychaud’s bitters, or a smoky-soft El Hecho combining mezcal, velvet falernum, lime and parsley honey.

THE WAYLAND, East Village

The Wayland's

The Wayland’s Garden Variety Margarita

Though it can be a bit too noisy to talk, the glow over over rustic wood floors, vintage ceramics and glassware is all-encompassing at The Wayland. Their famed Garden Variety Margarita ($11) is really is all that, laden with blanco tequila, ginger, lime, agave nectar, smoked sea salt and beautiful use of kale. Not merely trendy, I could happily do more kale cocktails. Another winning mix? Indian Summer ($11), combining Ford’s Gin, lime, curry, cilantro and chili salt. Hail to refreshing, savory cocktails!

WHITEHALL, West Village

Whitehall cocktails

Whitehall cocktails

Impressive as Whitehall’s gin collection is, the understated cocktails don’t quite showcase the beautiful botanical spirit.

They are simple, understated, yes, but also forgettable, even soft and muddled in terms of flavor. Too bad, as the cool, white ceramic walls and relaxed bar staff make it an inviting place to pop in while in the West Village.

Jan
01
2014

Imbiber

Palazzo delle Misture in Bassano del Grappa, Italy

Palazzo delle Misture in Bassano del Grappa, Italy

Best Bars of 2013

Article and photos by Virginia Miller

Another year, another few hundred bar menus tasted and perused around the globe. This year was the most full yet: I visited over 25 cities in 10 different countries. Which means weeding through best tastes is even more complicated. Given the vast range, I have three 2013 lists (more for best in food/dining here): 12 Best New Bars in San Francisco (opened November 2012 to November 2013); 10 Best Bar Experiences, USA; 10 Best Bar Experiences, Global.

Click on each bar name for my original reviews on what makes each a standout – some I will be reviewing in the coming weeks.

12 Best New Bars in San Francisco

Novela

Novela

1. Hard Water – American whiskey treasures rarely found and beautiful whiskey cocktails, too.
2. Trick Dog – Artistic menus (Pantone swatches! LP folders!), killer food and varied cocktails – if one can push through the crowds flocking to one of the hottest bars in the US right now.
3. Third Rail – Jerky tasting menu and cocktails to suit a range of palates, Third Rail confirms the Dogpatch ‘hood is coming into its own.
4. Novela – Gorgeous, sleek, color-coordinated books, cocktails as elegant and fun as the literary characters they’re named after.
5. Tosca – Thankfully, the jukebox is intact, as is the look and feel of one of SF’s greatest iconic bars in its new incarnation – and that classic House Cappuccino finally tastes like it was meant to.

Saison's No. 4

Saison’s No. 4

6. Saison – Finally: a fine dining bar destination not as experimental as Chicago’s The Aviary, but as elegant and delicious.
7. 1760 – Christopher Longoria’s ingredient/produce-forward cocktail list is a beaut.
8. TBD – Tim Zohn’s “loopholes” cocktail list and extensive beer on draft menu offers something for everyone – without high ABV and with some of the year’s best food.
9. Padrecito – Killer gourmet Mexican food meets its cocktail match in a mellow SF ‘hood.
10. La Urbana – Mexico City meets SF in experimental cocktails with regional stories of Mexico behind them.
11. Dogpatch Saloon – The Dogpatch is lucky to have two of this year’s best new bars.
12. Alchemist – Spacious and cool, it’s a SoMa haven for films on the wall and low key but quality cocktails.

AND DON’T FORGET: Alta, Bergerac, Brass Tacks
BEST NEW BEER BAR: Mikkeller Bar
BEST NEW BREWERY: Cellarmaker Brewing Company
BEST NEW WINE BARS: 20 Spot, Aquitaine

10 Best Bar Experiences, USA

Saxon + Parole

Saxon + Parole, NYC

Two of my best bar experiences all year were in New York City at two bars with now-changed circumstances: one is The Beagle, which sadly just closed, where Tom Richter churned out of some of the great understated drinks (and kick ass beer cocktails) in all of NY in a relaxed setting tinged with Old World elegance.

The second is Saxon + Parole under Naren Young. Young recently came on board at Empellon Cocina, no doubt even better under his watch. When he was in charge of the menu at Saxon (along with The Daily and other former bars), each drink, like a Celery Gimlet, sounded straightforward. But Young’s drinks are among the finest examples of nuance and balance that I have tasted anywhere. They exhibit complexity and robust flavor in plainclothes. As a master of balance, I’d drink at whichever bar Young is crafting cocktails.

Despite my multiple visits this year, Squeaky Bean in Denver would have made the list but now that Sean Kenyon and crew are no longer on board, I can’t vouch for it’s quality.

Besides these two NY bars, the other top bar experiences of 2013 in the US are:

Liberty Bar, Seattle

Liberty Bar, Seattle

1. LOA Bar in New Orleans, LA – Still the most creative cocktails in New Orleansand among the great cocktail bars in the US.
2. The Aviary (again) in Chicago, IL – The ultimate upscale, imaginative, “fine dining” cocktail experience. Period.
3. Liberty Bar in Seattle, WA – Impeccable spirits selection and cocktails more complex and exciting than the casual neighborhood setting and menu would suggest.
4. The Rum House in NY, NY – The best thing to happen to touristy Times Square: a spirits and cocktail aficionado’s haven just steps from the madness.
5. Amor y Amargo in NY, NY – A tiny gem, the model for what a perfect amaro bar should be.
6. Owen & Engine in Chicago, IL – A beer geek’s treasure that also calls to the spirits and cocktail lover.
7. Essex in Seattle, WA – A laid back respite in a residential area crafting highly approachable but nonetheless intelligent drinks.
8. Old Major in Denver, CO – Denver’s first amaro den, shining bright with all things bitter and robust.

10 Best Bar Experiences, Global

Nu Bar Bologna - Virginia Miller

Nu Bar, Bologna

1. Mezcaloteca in Oaxaca, Mexico – The ultimate mezcal bar, a library of over 400 mezcals served with studious dedication, in the mezcal capital of the world,  enchanting Oaxaca.
2. Tales & Spirits in Amsterdam, The Netherlands – The idyllic cocktail bar and restaurant in Amsterdam… but it’s the “invite only” upstairs bar that made me want to move in.
3. Palazzo delle Misture in Bassano del Grappa, Italy – In the dreamy, mountain/river village where grappa reigns, an unexpected oasis of absinthe, quality craft and classic American cocktails.
4. Nu Bar in Bologna, Italy – A shock: an oasis of proper Tiki kitsch, rum and tropical cocktails in the middle of a few thousand year old Italian city… also serving pizza and pasta, of course… from the unmatchable Daniele Dalla Pola.
5. Fridrich in Salzburg, Austria – Among the most badass wine (and fruit brandy) bars in the world: sip Austrian wines and brandies set to Fridrich’s incredible vinyl and CD collection, played with DJ precision in this sexy, tiny haven of a bar I WISH was my neighborhood hangout.

Tales & Spirits, Amsterdam

Tales & Spirits, Amsterdam

6. Limantour (both locations) in Mexico City, Mexico – The bar that started it all in MX, two sexy dens of craft cocktails beyond merely tequila and mezcal.
7. Open Baladin in Rome, Italy – With over 200 beers and drafts, this welcoming bar showcases the glories and creativity of Italian beer (the most experimental in Europe), alongside craft beers from around the globe.
8. Astrid y Gaston in Lima, Peru – If only bars around the world could showcase pisco the way it is here.
9. Hiding in Plain Sight (HPS) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Among the most visually beautiful cocktails I’ve seen anywhere in the world in an intimate, unpretentious Old World setting.
10. La Garre in Bruges, Belgium – In a beer-heavy city (and country), this tiny sanctuary hidden in an alley is the kind of Belgium beer bar you dream of.

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