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Time for a drink

By Paul Einbund, Photographs by Laura Flippen | May 25, 2011 | Story


Spade & Archer
at the Burritt Room
What makes a good cocktail? Balance. A drink shouldn't be too strong or too sweet, heavy-handed with the citrus or weak. In the best drinks, no single sensation is noticeably greater than the others. This fine blend of rye, vermouth, Cynar, demerara syrup, and orange, peach, and lemon bitters, in a glass rinsed with green Chartreuse, checks all of those boxes. The combination of ingredients brings forward flavors and aromas that aren't detectable in its parts. 417 Stockton St., S.F., 415-400-0500


Mint Julep
at the Alembic
Not just for Derby Day, a classic mint julep is one of our favorite ways to cool off on those rare warm summer days. And, in the Bay Area at least, there's none better than the julep served at the Alembic. Bar manager Daniel Hyatt says it's all about a gentle touch with the mint; he muddles the herb just enough to open up the leaves to flavor his sugar syrup, then garnishes the icy silver cup of Old Fitzgerald bourbon with a generous handful of mint as well,
to let the aromatics shine. 1725 Haight St., S.F., 415-666-0822


Bella Rufina
at Plum

A new cocktail bar adjacent to
Daniel Patterson's Plum is set to open any minute, with the noted cocktail innovator Scott Beattie on board to run the shop. In the meantime, at
the restaurant, Beattie's pouring the region's most refreshing wine-based drink, made with brachetto, a red sparkler from Italy with a light strawberry flavor, Carpano Antica vermouth, orange bitters, and amarena cherry. 2214 Broadway, Oakland, 510-444-7586


Martini
at the House of Shields

Dennis Leary has breathed new life into this 100-year-old bar since he took over the lease last July. Leary, who also runs the Sentinel, the shoebox-size sandwich shop in the former cigar store out front, offers cocktails in keeping with the mood of this history-rich spot. Not for the faint of heart, his martini—No. 3 London dry gin and Dolin dry vermouth, stirred—is strong and serious, going a step beyond taking the edge off. 39 New Montgomery St., S.F., 415-284-9958


Smoked Manhattan
at Plate Shop

For this brand-new riff on the classic Manhattan, the glass is smoked by placing a martini glass over a snuffed cedar stick. Then it's filled with
Bulleit rye, Lillet Rouge vermouth, Regan bitters, and an orange peel. Imagine sipping your cocktails around a campfire and you get an idea of
the flavor of this intriguing drink. 39 Caledonia St., Sausalito, 415-887-9047


Top Notch Volcano
at Smuggler's Cove

Tiki drinks can be so disappointing—sticky, cloying potions that seem better suited to theme parks than to serious, adult drinking. But at this renowned tiki mecca, the drinks are sophisticated, clean, and sharp tasting. Even this enormous punch bowl filled with two kinds of rum, maraschino liqueur, and passion fruit, pineapple, and lime juice, garnished with toasted cinnamon and nutmeg and drunk with straws, manages to taste seriously brilliant, like a cocktail for grownups. 650 Gough St., S.F., 415-869-1900


Barrel-Aged Negroni
at Martin's West

The barrel-aged cocktails trend got
its start at Portland's Clyde Commons but has since migrated around the country, including to local spots such as Zero Zero, Blackbird, and Martin's West, a favorite British-style pub in Redwood City. There, a combination of Brokers gin, Campari, and Dolin sweet vermouth spends six weeks in a bourbon barrel before it's poured, during which time the flavors mellow, the alcohol softens, and the drink takes on an entirely new and delicious dimension. 831 Main St., Redwood City, 650-366-4366


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