Have you ever gone out of your way for a good burger? Passing 5 McDonalds until you arrive at In-and-Out burger? Great, you are aware of your taste buds.
Do you DVR Iron Chief? Does every special even warrant an extravagant meal? Have you saved for months (or put yourself into debt) to eat at a multiple Michelin Start establishment? You are a foodie.
Takes one to know one. I was a die-hard-global foodie until I climbed the Mt. Everest of foodie pilgrimages and dined at the French Laundry. Experiencing the pinocle of fine dining perfection made me realize that food, a necessity for life, can be created with a range of delicious so vast that I don’t need to spend $1000 on lunch for 2 to make me say ‘yummmm’.
Seeking a new taste challenge I found something that dramatically improves with great ingredients in skilled hands — a proper cocktail.
If Foodies love food than Drinkologists love Mixology
I have never needed a drink, never sought out multiple shots of whisky washed down with PBR. I have left work on Friday night and wanted a tasty beverage that also takes the edge off.
Beer is not my beverage of choice. With limited options for the budget minded drinker I opted for Ciders only to be left feeling full, peeing every ten minutes, or with an upset stomach from overly sweet “Chick drinks”.
To my friends who like getting a buzz without all that boozy taste I would like to introduce you to the Mixologist, bartending elevated.
How to spot a Mixologist
- Their drink station set up goes well beyond limes, lemons, olives, and those ridiculous Crayola -Red cherries.
- There are fresh herbs on the bar – Mint is a good start but get excited when you see tarragon, basil and rosemary.
- Home made Simple Sirup — double points for flavors like ginger, lavender, or roasted pineapple.
- They have at least 3 different types of bitters or tinctures — little bottles of magical potions that elevate cocktails from average to memorable.
- Each cocktail comes in a specific glass and type of ice — from rocks to crushed to blended how your water mixes with booze makes a different in taste and resulting buzz.
You might think so but it’s all about bang for your buck. From a bar owner standpoint there is a greater profit margin on cocktails even if you spend more on what you mix in the glass, mixology bars sell more hard liqueur and overall make more money. A great cocktail crafted by a skilled mixologist may cost from $10 up to $20. Most bars price drinks based primarily on the price of the booze — with a well mixed cocktail you actually get what you pay for, smoother sprits in larger volumes that go down a treat.
One Glass of Beer/Cider on tap is $5 and has %6 alcohol – depending on your tolerance you could drink 3 or 4 before you get that tipsy feeling. Total spent $20 + $4 Tips = $24
One Tiki Cocktail $10 has at least 40% alcohol — finish just one and you are all ready in a happy place. Drink 2 and your worries are behind you. $20 + $4 Tips (yes, I tip more for more talent) = $24
What kind of drinks cost $10+?
Each drink is different. From the Manhattan, rocket fuel served straight-up in a martini glass, to “The Missionary’s Down Fall” served in a hurricane glass filled with crushed ice and so much muddled mint the rum and lime drink is leafy green. A great cocktail comes in any shape, size and strength.
Here’s the great part about a great mixologist — they can craft a beverage for what you like! Some mixology bars limit their menu to about 6-12 specialty cocktails mostly to provide the freshest mixers possible. If you ask nicely they can usually whip up something (unless there is a line 4 people deep) Or direct you to a drink on the menu to satisfy your cravings.
Keep and Open Mind — I used to say things like “Oh I don’t like Bourbon (or rye or scotch or tequila)” basically limiting my cocktails choices to vodka based thinking they would taste less “boozy”. Mixology changed my mind. After placing my drink choice in the hands of a skilled craftperson with guidance like “something fruity” I have discovered even Bourbon in the right hands can be smooth fruity but not overly sweet.
It’s not the bar it’s the bartender — my local Mixologist Joe Lee founded Tiki Tuesday at the 540 Club, a inner Richmond District Dive Bar, where vintage cocktails are not what you would expect. Joe Lee’s Tiki Tuesday serves up potent concoctions for the bargain price of $7 to $12 per cocktail. Joe showed me how pre-squeezed-fresh juice, bitters and muddling can elevate booze to the bev-er-age, while I delighted in being the Guinea pig to Joe’s fine tuning the Tiki Tuesday menu.
I’m sold, where do I go?
- Willson and Wilson/Burbon and Branch — in the Tenderloin these unexpected unassuming bars mix up beverages so unforgettable you will keep coming back.
- Alembic – in the Haight legendary small and inventive
- Comstock Saloon – Northbeach “gold rush” era style bar and restaurant
- 15 Romolo – tucked in an ally way in north beach this place is packed on weekends.
- Aliza – In the Outer Richmond Michelin Star restaurant with only 6 seats at the Bar, come for the food but don’t leave without having at least one cocktail. Best cocktail menu layout.
- Mr Smith – part of Maximum Productions this bar/club in SoMa mixes upstairs with a DJ and dance floor downstairs for when those cocktails make you want to shake it off.
- 540 Club Tiki Tuesday – ONLY Tuesday nights from 4pm
- Restaurant 1839 – historic Adobe building near downtown this place is simply outstanding
- Montrio Bistro – Next to the Marriott solid cocktails and area’s best happy hour where a selection of top shelf beverages for only $5.50 from 5 to 7pm weekdays
- Tavern Law – Capitol Hill “Top 25 bars in America” by GQ this place does mixology better than anywhere I have been on the west coast
- Olivers Twist — in Phinny Ridge north of downtown cocktails with cardamon, rosemary, mostly served straight up.
- Dirty Martini – Covent Garden, Hanover Square, Bishops Gate, has happy hour on weekends pouring cocktails for only 5 quid (that’s slang for 5 pound about $8USD) the best value proper cocktail in London.
- The Booking Office – ST. Pancrass Station in Marrtiott Hotel mixes up Victorian and modern “Punches” (aka cocktails) it’s pricy (starting at 12 pounds per drink) but tasty.
Insta-graming pictures of drinks is less exciting than food porn. It also makes you look like you have a drinking problem. If Joe Lee is making it… I’ll Try That!