Water — the most important resource in the world and the perfect muse for the new Eight Course Cocktail Tasting Menu. This unique experience is our tribute to food and drinking cultures throughout the world, by way of the waters that connect us all. The menu is a mix of low-abv cocktails and half-size, full-proof cocktails that feature our house distillate program, made via our rotary evaporator. With the culinary program creating such a strong sense of place in their dishes, it was really important to us on the bar team to mirror that mentality in our beverage program. We wanted to use non-traditional, often savory ingredients like seafood, mushrooms, or olive to blur the lines between the bar and kitchen, creating a menu that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Just as chefs carefully craft their tasting menus to take the guest on an edible journey, we have curated this experience thoughtfully from start to finish.
These eight cocktails are meant to transport you to water-centric regions around the globe. For instance, Bay of Biscay, a riff on the classic Adonis, with Single Estate Manzanilla Sherry, 20 year Vermouth, and olive and anchovy distillate is meant to evoke the Basque region of Spain. Served in a hand blown porrón and accompanied by a gilda (a garlic stuffed olive, anchovy, and guindilla pepper pintxo), every sensory experience and detail is accounted for. Our Baltic Sea cocktail, a twist on a Penicillin, highlights smoked dulse seaweed from Monterey Bay Seaweeds with Highland Park 12 Year, Svol Aquavit honey, galangal, and lemon. Served in a glass Viking drinking horn and painted with smoked seaweed powder and bee pollen, this striking drink summons the visceral and aromatic experience of slugging mead on a viking longship amongst the seaspray.
Our exploratory approach to the bar program is driven by a simple motto: “Fuck around and find out.” Oftentimes, wild ideas initially expressed as a joke or “wouldn’t it be crazy if…” will spark a scheme for a new cocktail, technique, or even a whole new menu. The team is constantly bouncing ideas off each other and we have developed a strong creative channel between the bar and kitchen. Just like the culinary program, the cocktail program lives and dies by the seasons. At the heart of it, we’re looking to reflect our locale in every glass — from the dark urbanity of the city, to the surrounding agricultural fields, to the majestic Pacific coastline, and beyond.
In the competitive world of cocktails, especially in San Francisco, it often feels like everything has already been done before. So it’s our job as bartenders to look for new ways to challenge ourselves, specifically with ingredients. If a guest raises an eyebrow in skepticism of a foreign flavor on a drink menu, we see it as the ultimate compliment. That one small moment of nonverbal communication shows that these ingredients are worth the time to explore, as they challenge preconceived notions of what flavors belong in a glass. When done right, it’s like magic. Opening a person up to explore outside their comfort zone is not an easy feat, but it’s also the most rewarding part of bartending.
Our desire to explore these flavors through an ambitious house distillate program would not be possible without the rotary evaporator. Technically a piece of laboratory equipment, this machine allows us to distill spirits in a hyper controlled environment, resulting in flavor profiles not possible through traditional techniques. Classic distillation typically occurs well above 175 degrees Fahrenheit, often killing some valuable tasting notes of more delicate ingredients. But distillation in a rotary evaporator occurs around 95 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing us to capture those notes in a spirit and thus, your cocktail. With regular infusion alone (also known as maceration), it’s often an all or nothing situation as far as flavor extraction goes. You can’t be as selective with the different layers of flavor that emerge in the final spirit. The rotary evaporation process allows us to remove undesirable flavors from complex ingredients. For example, lavender can have a bitter flavor profile after infusion; the rotary evaporator allows us to distill only the delicate floral character, leaving the bitter notes behind in the tails of the distillation. This process also removes all of the perishable particulate from the maceration, so we are able to make ingredients indefinitely shelf stable without any loss in flavor over time. We can catch seasonal flavors in their prime and preserve them for year-round use. One such ingredient is foraged eucalyptus. We macerate it in neutral grain spirit for 30 days then distill it, producing a very rich and oily eucalyptus distillate that goes into Sea of Japan — a cocktail visually inspired by the Hokkaido scallop. To date, we have produced over 50 house distillates to be used throughout the cocktail program and we are working diligently to greatly expand that number in 2023. Ok, enough of the nerdy shit.
Although the concept of each cocktail in this tasting menu is strong enough for them to stand alone, together they deliver an artful progression of flavors, with each course thoughtfully sequenced to highlight the next. This isn’t a cocktail and food pairing, but a tasting experience in its own right. Not paired per dish, it’s instead designed to flow with both the progression of the evening and the meal, as we share the story of each sip. We can’t wait for you to try this.
- Trevin & Michael