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All things classic

For drinks, here are a few you might like.

-- Negroni: Equal parts Gin, Sweet Vermouth, and Campari. If you don't care for Campari, try it with Aperol. It's a different drink really, but you'll get the idea.
-- Manhattan
-- Old Fashioned: Leave out the muddled fruit, and for the love of God no soda water.
-- Sazerac
-- Aviation: For a while this was the darling drink of the cocktail geek set with good reason. You can leave out the Crème De Violette if you like, and in fact I like it better that way myself.

For Vodka drinks I'd give the Moscow Mule a try. If you have citrus Vodka you might want to try a Cosmo. It doesn't do much for me, but well made it's a good drink, and it's so rarely well made it's worth trying to see how it can be good.

As for spirits I second yarm's recs. and would add:

Junipero Gin -- It's a pretty botanically forward so it's not for everybody, but it's great.
Rye -- You may already have some, but if you don't it's worth checking out. My favorite (though can be hard to find) is the Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond version which clocks in at 100 proof. Their non Bottled in Bond version is good too, as is Old Overholt.

May 15, 2009
boozemonkey in Spirits

Top Craft Cocktails/Mixology in San Francisco?

I'm afraid I can't be of much help here. I live near Alembic, and I pretty much just go there when I'm in the mood for a classic, and too lazy or don't have all the things I need to make it at home so I don't really order off their menu.

Have you not liked the drinks you've ordered, or is it just that they don't fit the flavor profile that's in your head? If it's the latter, I'm will SteveG on asking nicely for a taste of whatever it is that interested you in the first place. I've generally found that the folks at Alembic (or any good bartender) are happy to have interested, engaging customers at their bar. Provided they're not in the weeds at the time.

Top Craft Cocktails/Mixology in San Francisco?

I'd second pretty much all of the previous recs.

Slanted Door's drinks are superb, and they've got a great location. The down side is that they are quite popular for their food, so it can tough to snag a seat at the bar. I generally find the best time to go is between lunch and dinner service. Heaven's Dog is fantastic as well, and is using the Gentleman's Companion as their drink guide, so it's a good place to see their tweaks to Baker's drinks. They've also got a pretty rock star line up of bartenders, so it's a great place to choose the "bartender's choice" option from the menu.

The only downside of the Alembic, is that they are pretty small, and very popular so it can be a bit difficult to get a seat. The drinks are worth it though. Another thing worth noting is that once a month on a Sunday they do Savoy night where they swap out their menu for the Savoy cocktail book. Obviously it's a long shot as to if you'll be in town for one of those Sunday's but you can keep an eye on their blog for announcements -- http://alembicbar.blogspot.com.

Cantina focuses on Latin spirits and cocktails if that sort of thing is of interest to you. If you can, drop by on a Wed. by as you'll find co-owner Duggan McDonnell behind the bar.

To the list, I'd add Clock Bar in the St. Francis where Marco Dionysos is currently plying his trade.

I'm biased as I have some friends who work there, but you might also want to check out Elixir. They're a neighborhood type joint, that just so happens to be dedicated to making top notch cocktails.

Shamrock Shake Sightings?

rworange -- It may be too late for this to help, but I saw somebody downtown last week with a Shamrock in hand. Unless he had brought in from outside SF my guess is he got it at the McD's at Market and 2nd (next to the Men's Warehouse).

Mar 17, 2009
boozemonkey in Chains

Original Gin

Dearshakti,

Not sure about DC, but any of the well known places in NY (e.g. Pegu, Flatiron, PDT ect.) should be able to hook you up.

Mar 09, 2009
boozemonkey in Features

Best Cocktails in the Bay Area?

Don't think I have a ton to add, but I love the sound of my own typing, so here goes with the random comments.

Cantina -- Love this place, but it's good to get there early. It tends to get pretty busy, pretty quickly. If you catch one of the owners (Duggan) behind the bar he's more than happy to talk spirits and cocktails if that's your bag.

Slanted Door -- I think they're quietly running one of the best drink programs in the city. They're pretty busy almost always, and they get huge post-work traffic, so I'd recommend hitting the place up between lunch and post-work hours. Take an afternoon off, it'll be good for you.

Alembic -- This place is just as popular for its food as its drinks, and if very small so if you're the sort that likes to sit at the bar go early or be prepared to take your chances.

Clock Bar -- This is already one of my favorite bars in the city. I only know Toby Maloney from reputation, but I think you'll that the head bartender, Marco Dionysus, thinks about drinks and making them in much the same way.

Beretta -- This place is a freaking who's who of SF bartending talent. It's ridiculous. They don't take reservations for parties under 6, and people start coming in as soon as they open so your best bet is to be there when they're unlocking the doors.

Elixir -- I'm a bit biased because a friend of mine works there, but this place very much has a neighborhood saloon feel so I kind of dig it when I'm in the mood for a local joint feel but wouldn't mind also being able to get a good drink while there.

Absinthe -- A Cathedral of cocktails.

Bar Drake Sir at the Francis Drake Hotel -- I been here several times fairly randomly, and have been quite happy with their drinks. Probably not a destination place, but if you're in the area or, I don't know, crawling from Cantina to Clock Bar you wouldn't be a fool to drop by there in between.

Anyone try (ri) 1 yet?

I tried some recently and wasn't quite able to make up my mind as to how I felt about it. I do know this though -- It's certainly not worth dropping $50 on. I'm with sku 100% on his suggestions for an alternative.

Oct 23, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Xoriguer - the gin of Mahon (Menorca)

I did -- The owner poured some straight, and made a G&T and martini with it. We weren't very fond of it in any of the three forms. We were unaware that it uses a wine base, so it may be that our expectations of a more traditional gin flavor had something to do with it. If I come across it at a bar I'll probably give it another try just to see.

Oct 01, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Xoriguer - the gin of Mahon (Menorca)

If it's not in the states now it should be soon. About a month ago I was at one of my regular haunts and the owner had been givin a few sample bottles from the distributor, so they're definitely trying to break into the US market.

Sep 25, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Ring-a-ding-ding cocktail bars

I'd definitely recommend checking out Clock Bar. It's got a retro feel, and the cocktail program is one of the best in the city.

ISO Navy Strength Pymouth Gin

Sadly, I'm pretty sure the Navy Strength is not available in the US. If you're looking for a higher proof Gin, you might want to give Martin Miller's Westbourne Strength Gin a shot. I believe it's pretty easy to get, and is a pretty tasty Gin.

Aug 04, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Good Scotch Bars in Your City

A somewhat unlikely place you might want to check out in San Francisco is Whiskey Thieves. I say unlikely because it's a typical San Francisco dive bar, but as the name implies they are very serious about their Whiskey. Last time I talked to the owner (admittedly a while ago) they were over the 250 bottle mark. One caveat depending on your proclivities -- They are owner operated so are able to allow smoking indoors.

Jun 23, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Metamorphosis cocktail

Here you go -- It was on the Imbibe blog a couple of years ago.

2 oz. Becherovka (find it at Wally's Wine & Spirits and other well-stocked spirits shops)
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. clover honey syrup (heat equal parts clover honey and water on the stove to create a thin syrup)

Combine ingredients in ice-filled shaker. Shake, strain into glass and garnish with a twist.

Jun 19, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Hops Luxury

JonParker -- Actually Dogfish Head just recently worked its way in here is SF. They have several (including the 90 min. IPA) on tap at Toronado, and in bottles at a few places around the city.

Jun 19, 2008
boozemonkey in Features

Finally Tasted Absinthe - Yuck

I agree that a good Absinthe is good on its own, and that sugar isn't really necessary either, but I would say that water isn't quite so dispensable. Adding water brings the herbs used in the distilling process to come out of suspension which makes for a fairly different experience. Also, as it hovers around 160 proof, cutting it with water can be a somewhat prudent maneuver.

Jun 17, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

signature cocktail for 40th bday party?

The first thing that pops into my head is something with Chambord. Perhaps a sort of sour? Off the top of my head I would say 1.5 oz. of Gin, 1 oz. lemon juice, and .5 oz. of Chambord. If it turns out too tart for your tastes, you can just slowly add simple syrup until it suits you.

Jun 12, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Gin testing?

Always nice to see more gin folk.

As a general note, I'd recommend checking out thrift stores for glassware. You be surprised what you can find cheap at many places.

For your G&T's you might want to get a some of the more "boutique" tonics that are on the market such as Fever Tree or Q. They can be a bit pricey, but not too much so, and the difference in quality is amazing.

I think any one person's preference for the ratio in their Martini is entirely on personal. As long as you don't end up with that wave the bottle over the glass garbage I'd say experiment until you find what works best for you. The one caveat would be that ratios will change depending on the Gin your using. I'd put more vermouth in a martini made with Junipero Gin and one with Plymouth for example.

As for drinks, I would go ahead and give a Gimlet a try, just use fresh lime instead of Rose's -- Just keep in mind that you'll want to add some simple syrup to compensate not having the sweetness of the Rose's. I can't recommend the Pegu highly enough. Properly executed it's one of my favorite drinks.

As for recommendations, here are some for my favorites. I'm not sure if maraschino is in your budget but if it is, I highly recommend picking some up for the first two. It's used fairly sparingly so a bottle will last you a good while. Also, if you ever get a windfall and feel like splurging for green chartreuse I'd recommend checking out the Last Word, and Corpse Reviver #2.

Martinez
1 oz. gin
2 oz. sweet vermouth
1 dash bitters
2 dashes maraschino

Aviation
2 oz. Gin
1/2 oz. maraschino
1/4 oz. lemon juice

Negroni
1 oz. gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1 oz. campari

I always think it's good to try the same drink with different Gins as the character differs enough to make certain gins optimal for certain drinks (I'm on a pretty tight budget myself, and I try not to think about the fact that I feel like I "have" to have three gin's in my liquor cabinet). Personally I'd go for the control cocktail first as I would be more familiar with the flavors of that Gin even in a new cocktail. Familiarizing yourself more with the non-gin elements of the drink may make it so when you try the test drink you're more focused on what the new gin elements are doing. But trying it both ways to find out what works best for you doesn't sound too bad either:)

May 29, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Post Prom Cocktails?

I had a few drink at Bar Drake, the recently opened “hotel” bar and was fairly impressed, so you might want to give them a shot (though I don’t know if they keep 2am hours). I’m also quite a fan of Cantina just up the street on Sutter almost at Mason.

Origin of term 'Up' ?

Great insight Caviar. My only real quibble would be that "neat" and "up" is not the same thing. "Up" means chilled but no ice in the final product, while "neat" means unchilled.

May 07, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Origin of term 'Up' ?

My totally random and made up guess: Another term for a drink with ice is "over", perhaps the logic went that because one picks up something that is tipped over a drink with no ice should be "up" but still chilled?

Seems like a reach, but there you go.

May 07, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

anyone tried Genevieve gin yet?

Being a Holland style gin, one can't really compare it to the London style. Before tasting some, I heard it described as "funky" and "an acquired taste", after tasting it I'd very much agree with those characterizations. I quite liked it, but the sort of whiskey/gin flavor was certainly unexpected. If possible I'd recommend tracking down a bar that has it on their shelf and getting a taste to make sure you don't end up with a bottle gathering dust in your liquor cabinet. It's definitely worth trying though.

Apr 21, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Appetizers and Drinks

You might want to check out Slanted Door in the Ferry Building. It's close the freeway (though is downtown which you are looking to stay away from), has tasty food, you'll pretty much have to park in a garage, and they run one of the best drink programs in the city.

Gin: my new hobby

Had to pop back in as I forgot to also recommend giving Blue Coat a try. It's not as in your face as Junipero, but has a really nice peppery finish that's quite nice.

Also, for a drink that suits Plymouth you might want to try a Vesper. I find that it's soft enough to let the Lillet Blanc come through nicely, but still has enough botanical oomph to make a nice compliment.

Apr 17, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Gin: my new hobby

Woo! Another Gin convert!

For your martini, I'd recommend ditching the olive and going with a twist. You could also go sans garnish and toss in a few dashes of orange bitters.

As for smack you upside the head Gin, I'd have to go with Junipero hands down. It's one of my favorite's and is very, well, pretty much everything forward.

Apr 17, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

One bottle of Stoli Elit...and One Problem...

Good gravy, that's a lot of dough for Vodka. Off the top of my head the only cocktail I can thing of other than a martini that wouldn't be insulting would be a Vesper. It seems that the martini is the best option though, given that the Elit schtick is its super smoothness.

Apr 11, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Absinthe SD

I've tried three that are currently out there - Lucid, Kubler, and the St. George. I'm not much of a fan of anise, so the Lucid and Kubler didn't do much for me. Oddly enough though, I love the St. George. The anise is prominent, but there's an herbal complexity that kind of distracted me from it. Unfortunately it's a bit hard to come by as they're not making enormous batches of it, and it sells like crazy.

Apr 11, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

The Original Bond Martini

For what it's worth, my favorite Gin's right now are Plymouth, Junipero (Anchor Brewing), and Bluecoat. Plymouth is the softest of the three and Junipero is quite the heavy hitter. I would also recommend more than a squirt of vermouth as well - It goes a long way in massaging the less tasty elements of the botanicals in gin.

Apr 03, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Cocktail Recipes that Surprised You

I'll second the Last Word - It's one of my favorites. It's taking longer than I thought it would, but I'm still insistant that it's going to be this year's Aviation.

Mar 26, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits

Sazerac

I'm a bit confused here. Why say it was origanlly made with Rye, then go on to say that it was first made with Brandy?

Mar 13, 2008
boozemonkey in Recipes

Grape Vodka-Cîroc

With the caveat that I may be totally wrong, I believe it qualifies as a Vodka rather than, say an Eau de vie, in that it is distilled and filtered such that it becomes a true neutral spirit. I do know that there's a movement in the EU by the big vodka making countries to make it such that only Vodka made from grain or potatoes can be called Vodka. As a jaded drinker I'm of the opinion that it's just an attempt to get on the Vodka bandwagon by throwing in the twist of making it from grapes.

Feb 12, 2008
boozemonkey in Spirits