Serious Eats: Drinks
First Look: Cocktails from the Bar Manager of Bourbon & Branch at The Vestry, San Francisco
Note: First Looks give previews of new drinks and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
Darren Crawford of Bourbon & Branch describes the cocktail list he's designed at The Vestry—the restaurant and bar next door to the popular Valencia Street music venue The Chapel—as "a little bit of everything, something for everybody." The first two cocktails on the debut list are available with a choice of gin or vodka. "We're not high and mighty here," Crawford says, saying that he aimed for the menu to be full of "fun stuff to drink."
The Vestry's menu lists flavors ('lime, pineapple, coffee') not methods—you won't see a tincture or infusion mentioned. "I want people to focus on the flavors, not worry about the vehicle," says Crawford. But infusions are actually the key to keeping the program simple, Crawford explains. Crawford developed a few multi-ingredient syrups, which can be batched by the kitchen. "Those are the vehicles for adding complexity to the cocktails without stressing the bartenders out too much," says Crawford. "I only want the bartender to touch four bottles for a drink," he notes. "I don't want a 10-ingredient tiki drink here," he says. He notes that the syrups also help maintain consistency: "We got rid of muddling to exercise control over the recipes," says Crawford. "If you're muddling a habanero for each drink, you never know how spicy that drink will be."
Though Crawford stresses that the menu is meant to be fun, not obscure, the cocktails do incorporate a few liqueurs that may be new to some guests, such as Dolin's Genepy des Alpes (an Alpine liqueur that Crawford said is "a little more subtle" than Chartreuse), peachy Rinquinquin, and herbal Becherovka, which spices up a cocktail made with bitter Salers and earthy mezcal.