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.
The menu at Third Rail, the new Dogpatch cocktail bar from Jeff Lyon and Phil West of Valencia Street's Range, is divided into four sections. Where Range is known for 'farm to glass' drinks, Third Rail doesn't have a kitchen. "I knew there was no way I could produce the volumes of purées and syrups [that we make at Range]," said Lyon, "But I didn't want to get totally away from seasonality."
The seasonal drinks currently include flavors like Asian pear, kiwi, and pomegranate, but they're not all produced-based. "Some of the seasonal cocktails are evocative," notes Lyon, mentioning the Cloven Hoof, which is made with rum, Armagnac, Madeira, clove bitters and a seven-spice mix. "It makes you want to be by a fire."
The goal was to offer a variety of cocktail styles: "We all have our tendencies," says Lyon. "If I had my way, I'd make all Manhattans and Sazeracs, 'cause that's what I drink. But I wanted the menu to be balanced on the spectrum."
The menu's aperitif section includes cocktails that feature sherry and vermouth, including Sutton Cellars offerings made in the neighborhood. Those who lean toward variations on the classic sour will gravitate toward the 'Citrus' section on the menu, with drinks employing cara cara oranges plus lots of lemon and lime. The bar's eponymous cocktail (developed by Lyon in his early days at Range) has a quarter-ounce pour of orange bitters (a happy accident that resulted from heavy-pouring bitters bottles when the drink was in testing) mixed with aromatic Lillet, lemon, honey, and bourbon, and shaken with a piece of unpeeled orange.
The 'Spiritous' section brings in apple brandy and nutty Oloroso sherry, Benedictine and tequila, plus a rye they've infused with fresh medjool dates. Lyon is still stocking the bar, but notes that there are more sipping Scotches, tequilas, and mezcals than they've offered at Range. (He also has a lineup of different Fernets: there's Lazzaroni, Leopold, and R. Jelinek.)
Chef Phil West says that he and Lyon "did a lot of R&D—i.e., going out drinking" before the opening of Third Rail, checking out bars that had snacks but no kitchens. "I've always loved jerky," said West, so he put together a menu of nine options, four of which are made in the kitchen at Range.