There's no denying that San Francisco is a cocktail kind of town. With our Barbary Coast, gold miner past, and our fog-cloaked, artisanal-palatted present, ours is a perfect city for sipping on the hard stuff.
Of course, we want our sips to be well-balanced and distinctive. Points for showcasing small-batch spirits, and we love things that are locally produced. We want our drinks to be constructed with serious purpose, but with a sense of playfulness, as well.
San Francisco Cocktail Week aims to showcase all of these elements of the city's cocktail scene, and then some. With everything from vodka-paired dinners to an 'Altered State Fair,' there was no shortage of drinks to try and settings in which to enjoy them.
We stopped by a few of Cocktail Week's sold-out events to assess the scene, chat with city's cocktail lovers, and of course, sample the goods.
The Artisan Tasting opened the week off with a bang, featuring a slew of locally produced spirits, shaken and stirred in a variety of tasty permutations. Held at Anchor Brewery (an amazing spot of drink-creation in its own right), the event also promised "paired bites" to accompany the cocktails—by the time we arrived, the food was long gone (and "went quickly," we were told). Still, the packed house seemed none too disappointed, and took the opportunity to erm, drink more cocktails (hey, that's what late-night pizza/burritos/pupusas were meant for).
Notable purveyors included 1512 Spirits, ORO Pisco, Craft Distillers, Old World Spirits, Sutton Cellars, Distillery 209, and Tempus Fuguit Spirits. And while that does make for a whole lot of drinks (many present made two, or three), two stood out from the rest as being truly excellent cocktail creations. The 20th Century, courtesy of Tempus Fugit (based in Petaluma), was a rich blend of Voyager gin, Kina L'Avion D'Or, Tempus Fugit Creme de Cacao, and lemon. With a rich, chocolate-laced start and a clean, citrusy end, it was a drink that was both unexpected in flavor and completely classic in profile.
Also excellent was Distillery 209's Lemon Ginger Thyme Punch. Spicy and herbal, the punch was easily drinkable and showed considerable depth.
Spirited Food Trucks was another twist on San Francisco's food and drink scene. Held at the SOMA Streat Food Park, four cocktail stations were set up in the Park's center, each serving cocktails in a creative fashion. Sake in a coconut, gin in a keg, carbonated rum, or canned vodka—these drinks may have been less-than-traditional, but that didn't mean they weren't delicious. Of course, a whole fleet of food trucks stood at the ready to provide the very necessary requisite bahn mi, reuben, or similar.
The Best of the West, held at Tradition, brought together bartender representatives from the whole of the west coast—San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Reno, Sacramento, and Portland. Each mixed up a drink meant to be representative of their respective city; while the associations weren't necessarily obvious (save the tequila and Fernet combination hailing from Vegas), the drinks universally did the West proud. (Although I have to say, Portland and L.A. stole the show for me. And that's from a girl with obvious hometown pride.)
Did you attend cocktail week? What were the highlights for you?
About the author: Lauren Sloss is a bicoastal food-lover who is based in San Francisco. Some of her favorite things include The Black Keys, goat gouda, and guacamole. You can follow her on Twitter @laurensloss.