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Goodbye, Pantone: New Menu at San Francisco's Trick Dog
It's become a San Francisco must-Instagram: the iconic Pantone-swatch menu of the Mission's Trick Dog, captured by just about every cocktail-loving visitor to the city. But seven months into the bar's tenure on 20th Street, they've done away with the vivid color-swatch booklet, and started fresh with a record album full of new drinks. I stopped in last night to check it out.*
*I should note: I'm a regular at Trick Dog, and though I didn't choose my new apartment exclusively because the bar is just down the block, I can't say it wasn't part of the appeal. I've gotten to know the bartenders over the past few months, so this isn't an anonymous review. That said, I showed up unannounced after I saw a note about the new menu on the bar's Facebook page. There were 2 barside seats left at 4 p.m.; it's a popular place.
"We wanted to come up with an iconic visual image," bar manager Morgan Schick told me about the new menu format. "We were looking for something that naturally held together, like the color-swatch book. What else comes in a folder or a binder?" They quickly stumbled upon the idea of an album full of 45s. "Obviously we're always playing music here in the bar; it's an integral part of the feel of this place," notes Schick. They collected the pocketed booklets on eBay, and gathered a selection of labels to re-create, scanned from albums or gathered from record-collector websites. The menu text was added to the labels before printing—one drink per record side.
You could spend quite a while paging through, but Schick offered a cheat sheet to the cocktails, which are all $12. "If there's a unifying factor to the menu, it's Pacific Rim, almost tropical flavors," says Schick, noting that every drink has some sort of bittering agent to dry it out.
If you're looking for something bright and refreshing, Schick will point you toward the Bad Girl, made with St. George Spirits' Botanivore gin, sherry, plum, lime, and Sencha soda. If you usually go spiritous there's the spicy Centerfold (made with Old Grand Dad bourbon, peach cordial, and bitters), the Goldfinger (made with Tanqueray Malacca and a special tropical vermouth made in collaboration with Sutton Cellars), and the Bankrobber (made with Wild Turkey Rye, Ferrand Cognac, Becherovka, blackberry, Bonal, and bitters.) If you have a thing for a cooling cone of crushed ice, Schick recommends the sherry cobbler, 'I Am...I Said', named after the Neil Diamond song, and made with menthol crystals along with sherry, curacao, and genever. For the adventurous, there's a drink a drink made with mustard, honey, and mezcal, called the Eye of the Tiger.
I started with the Louie Louie, a rich, fresh, and bitter combination of pineapple and Campari with Bulleit Bourbon. The sweet side of the bourbon-and-fruit combo is cut through with Campari's edge. I also tried an Elvis-inspired That's All Right, made with Suze, Small Hand Foods orgeat, Denizen rum, and lime, which started fruity but evolved into complex, bitter flavors at the back end of each sip.
But my favorite drink of the evening was perhaps the most tiki of the bunch, a tangy and tart combination of reposado tequila, Gran Classico, coconut, bay laurel and lime, served in a ceramic pineapple complete with straw-hole. It's called 'Mr. Big Stuff', and the song's likely to be stuck in my head for a long while now, especially since I plan on ordering this thing frequently.
There's a selection of brand-new $10 highballs in the back of the book, including a mix of Talisker 10 Single Malt Scotch and Squamscot Old Fashioned Maple Cream Soda, plus another featuring Pampero Aniversario Rum from Venezuela with Kazouza Tamarind soda. If you're going zero-proof, there are an assortment of unsual sodas plus three non-alcoholic cocktails, including a concoction made with Provençal-inspired herbal syrup, pineapple, lemon, and tonic.
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