Serious Eats: Drinks
First Look: Cocktails at Tradition in San Francisco
Ian Scalzo and his partners at Tradition (the same folks behind Bourbon and Branch and Rickhouse in San Francisco) have been busy. They opened Local Edition (you can see our First Look here) just a few months back, and now have followed up with a spot that's essentially eight bars in one. "It started as a 'drinking through the ages idea,'" said Scalzo, "but we really wanted to focus on different types of bars, and how each has their own style."
On the right side of the room, they've built a set of private booths—snugs, they're called, each decorated with old liquor ads and available by handy online reservation. Sections of the menu correspond to each snug: there's a New Orleans-inspired collection of drinks, and a tiki collection, a speakeasy section where all the drinks are served in mason jars ("a real speakeasy didn't have nice glassware," notes Scalzo), and one called The Grand Hotel, with drinks "either created at big old hotels or named after big old hotels." There's the Dive Bar, the English Pub, the Scottish Pub, and the Irish Pub.
Every section of the menu also taps into Tradition's barrel-aging program. While barrel-aged complete cocktails are still having their moment, the Tradition crew is taking a different tack, barrel-aging individual spirits and finishing them in barrels washed with other spirits (as well as wine and even Pu-erh tea.) "We thought, let's start doing what the Scotch people have been doing—aging Scotch in bourbon barrels, finishing in sherry barrels," said Scalzo.
But the program's not limited to traditional combinations: for example, they're serving Ron Zacapa 23 rum that has aged in a barrel washed with Ardbeg 10. The Scotch adds a delicate smoky side to the rum—it's like no shot we've sipped before. There's also Russell's Rye finished in a Green Chartreuse-washed barrel, and they're working on another rye that's aged in a cask washed with bitter IPA. What's next? "Maybe Apple Pucker Bourbon for the dive bar menu," jokes Scalzo. (At least, we think he was joking.)
Scalzo introduced us to 8 cocktails: one from each section of the Tradition menu. Check out the drinks in the slideshow above, or head down to Jones Street to sip them for yourself.