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Cheese Tinctures and Sesame Orgeat: New Cocktails at Saison in San Francisco

We chat with Chase White about the new cocktail program at the Bar at Saison [Photographs: Wes Rowe]

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.

Chase White worked in the kitchen during the early popup days of Saison in San Francisco, but it took a move to NYC for him to step behind the bar, first at Brad Farmerie's Double Crown and then at The Daily, where he worked with bartender Naren Young before moving on to the New York outpost of the Experimental Cocktail Club. Back in San Francisco, he's returned to Saison in the role of head bartender.

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Chase White behind the bar.

White has revamped the menu, retaining a handful of the drinks and introducing new ones that he says he hopes people will "get a kick out of," whether they're new to the world of cocktails or jaded pros. His drinks span the spectrum of tiki riffs and fizzy Champagne drinks to spirit-forward stirred offerings, but the words he keeps returning to in his cocktail descriptions are 'texture' and 'umami'. One drink is flavored with an orgeat that incorporates roasted black and white sesame seeds instead of almonds, and another is sprayed with a smoked cheese tincture. That's right: a cheese tincture.

Liquid nitrogen "does an amazing job of chilling a glass," says White, "Plus it's a lot of fun."

White points to the "general sensibility of the kitchen" as a point of inspiration, and he says he'll be collaborating more with Chef Skenes as seasonal produce begins to arrive from Saison's farm in Marin. (White is scheming a cocktail with sorrel.) But the drinks aren't meant to be used for pairing with food in the dining room: "Wine will always pair better," says White, and while guests are welcome to order a cocktail before dinner or as a break between courses, he isn't working on mixed drinks to serve with the tasting menu. "The high alcohol and bold flavors of a cocktail would mask the subtleties of the food," he explains.

The Bar at Saison is meant, then, as a spot for a predinner cocktail, or a place to visit on its own. Reservations can be made online or by calling 415-828-7990, though they do also hold a few seats for walk-ins.

Curious about the cocktails (all $16)? Head over to the slideshow for details on five of the drinks at the Bar at Saison »

About the Author: Maggie Hoffman is a Senior Editor at Serious Eats, based in San Francisco. She founded Serious Eats: Drinks in 2011. You can follow her on Twitter @maggiejane.

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