New Cocktail Bar for Charles Phan and Erik Adkins (Sound the trumpets!)

Holy moly! San Francisco cocktail world, rejoice! We're about to witness a supernova.

Earlier I had mentioned that the super fantastic Erik Adkins was stepping back from managing the cocktail menu at Heaven's Dog to usher in the super talented Trevor, formerly of Rickhouse. And now I'm wondering whether it has anything to do with this happy piece of news: Charles Phan (famous proprietor of Slanted Door, Wu Hing General Store, Out the Door, and Heaven's Dog) is opening a new spot on Pier 3 on The Embarcadero—and the restaurant and its food are all centered around Erik's drinks, as Eater SF reports!

Details are few, but the restaurant is set to feature Creole food to compliment a "creative seasonal cocktail program" created by Erik, describes Eater SF. 

I could not be more excited.

One of the distinguishing marks of San Francisco cocktail culture is that much of it is invested in food establishments. Restaurants, it seems, have an easier time acquiring liquor licenses or taking over places that already have them, and so you have a frequent interplay between food and cocktails. But I am incredibly excited to see what happens when cocktails take centerstage, and the food follows—and led by one of the most awesome bartenders.

It's going to be a great year for cocktails.

Crossposted on The Joy of Drinking.

Midweek Weekend: Rickhouse

Ever have a week so tiring that halfway through you need a little weekend? 

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. It was one of those weeks. So Josh and I headed down to one of our favorite bars in the city: Rickhouse. 

We love Rickhouse for three main reasons:

  1. The cocktails are great.
  2. High-quality ingredients with a passionate staff? Yes, please!
  3. The price is cheaper than most other cocktails in this class. Each cocktail used to be $8, though we discovered yesterday that the prices were bumped up to $9 or $10. 
  4. Two words: Punch bowls!

It was crowded even mid-week—typical, due to bar's location in the Financial District, which draws flocks of suits and high heels for happy hour drinks. Even aside from the business types, however, the drinks attract cocktail enthusiasts from all over. Just last year, Rickhouse won a prestigious award for best high-volume bar at Tales of the Cocktail, and most recently, one of its bartenders, Russell, was named bartender of the year by Nightclub & Bar (if you ever sit at his bar, ask for a daiquiri. It's said to be one of the hardest drinks to make, and Russell nails it!). 

I ordered a Penicillin #2 (pictured above), one of my old fall backs when I want something refreshing after work. It's a smokey mix of Scotch, lemon, pineapple gum syrup, and bitters (a California twist on the New York original—yes, the Penicillin—that uses a ginger honey syrup).

Josh ordered a Improved Gin Cocktail—a class of cocktails that is incidentally one of my favorites, as well. This "improved" breed of cocktails is a simple (and delicious!) twist on the classic Old Fashioned with the addition of Maraschino liqueur and a touch of absinthe. It's a recipe that dates back to the 1880s, the cradle of modern cocktails, when Jerry Thomas and others started adding the then-new maraschino liqueur to drinks. You can use this method with any spirit by stirring your favorite poison with simple syrup (or sugar), Maraschino liqueur, angostura bitters, and a dash of absinthe. Rickhouse, however, chose to spotlight the gin variation on the menu, using, specifically, Bols Genevere gin. This Dutch preparation of gin ages the spirit in casks, which imparts a spicier, smokier flavor—whiskey lovers, rejoice.

We also discovered last night that, in addition to the prices, the Rickhouse menu has changed. The long, lengthy litany of cocktails has been replaced by two simple double-sided cards. Along with the Improved Gin Cocktail, it includes another favorite: the Vieux Carre.

We think the menu change is probably because the old bar manager, Trevor, headed over to Heaven's Dog. I'm not sure, though, who is writing the menu at Rickhouse now.

There's nothing like a midweek respite. Now, back to the work week. And thank the Lord, tomorrow is Friday! 


246 Kearny Street  

San Francisco, CA 94108

Essential Cocktails: The Manhattan

Home Manhattan

Ah, the Manhattan—one of the most classic cocktails and one of Josh's and my favorites.

I have so many great memories of this drink and its lovely, spicy balance of wood and sweet.

It was actually one of the first cocktails that Josh and I learned to make. Cramped into the small dorm room in a college music frat, one of Josh's old buddies opened up his clothes closet to reveal an ad hoc shelf made out of two chairs and a few pieces of plywood, a delicate looking structure that held a sophisticated array of spirits that he had collected from online shopping—and, what's more, a home ice machine.

We were enchanted. With old jazz bubbling out of his stereo system (college music majors—go figure), John twirled a mixing glass in one hand and a jigger in the other—and began to show us how to make a Manhattan. John—a slimly built college senior who was fond of sweaters, cigars, rocking chairs, and classical music—was also a surprising, self-taught bartender. He had scoured all the books available at the time and made careful notes in the recipes' margins, honing each through trial and error. Don Lee, who would later teach me all sorts of cocktail wonders, told me that learning to make cocktails in a vacuum was impossible. For ordinary folks like Josh and me, it certainly was. But John had somehow become a self-made man in his exploration of some of the classics. The bar renaissance might have very well have started in that tiny dorm room.

The second memory that comes to mind is actually a work party in DC. On a cold day in February, a coworker and I decided to go in on a dozen oysters. We paired it with a strong Makers Mark Manhattan with more than its fair share of bitters. Somehow perfect.

Enough of this sentimentalism schmentalism. On to recipes!

The key to a good Manhattan, in Josh and my minds, is water content. A lot of people dump everything into a glass, add a couple of cubes, and give it a single stir (or worse, shake). When they pour it out, it tastes bitter and sour. When you stir the cocktail adequately and let it sit, the water pulls out all of the lovely characteristics of the whiskey. It becomes almost floral. The bitters become Christmas spice, instead of pepper spice, and the Vermouth becomes smooth.

So here is how we like to make a Perfect Manhattan (perfect being both sweet vermouth and dry vermouth, which is what we prefer):


1.5 oz whiskey (I went for Buffalo Trace this time, which is on the sweet side—I'll often reach for a Rye instead, like Rittenhouse or Old Overholt)
.25 oz sweet vermouth
.25 oz dry vermouth
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 dash peychaud's bitters


1. Build cocktail in mixing glass filled with ice
2. Pour in all ingredients.
3. Stir, stir, stir. Stir. Add more ice. Stir, stir, stir for 30 seconds. (Stir cocktails with no citrus. Shake cocktails with citrus.)
4. Let sit for a bit.
5. Add more ice, if room. Give it a last stir.
6. Strain into coupe glass with julep strainer.
7. Serve up.

Garnish: cherry (Luxardo cherry, if you can afford!)




Cross-posted from The Joy of Drinking.