Thursday, December 6, 2007

Repeal Day - The Wreckoning Pt. 1

As many (I hope) of you know, yesterday was Repeal Day (thanks to the most awesome Jeffrey Morganthaler!), the best drinking holiday ever. Repeal Day celebrates the ratifying if the 21st amendment which affirmed our right to drink delicious, delicious booze, and paved the way for America's youth to surreptitiously get wasted on malt liquor behind the local 7-11. Something I never did. Hi mom! So how does a young, hip, and strikingly handsome man in San Francisco celebrate such a grand moment in our history? I don't know what he did, but I went on a cocktail crawl (I'll be here all night folks).

It was a somewhat last second sort of thing as I had previously decided that given my current fiscal situation and the need to get up in the morning to engage in cubical and cubical related activities, I would just stick to a couple of drinks after work. As the end of the day approached I decided, to be blunt, to fuck it, and go out in style. I put together an ambitious (overly so it would turn out) list of places I wanted to go, and when the whistle blew I was off.

House of Shields - House of Shields was my first stop partly because it's the only kick-ass bar within radius of my office, but mostly because it was built in 1908. What better place to begin a celebration of the death of repeal day? Fortunately for us, when the new owners bought the bar several years ago they left the bar unchanged allowing all to tipple in turn of the century splendor (though I have to admit I wish they had kept the trough at the bar for urinating, but that's just me I guess).

When prohibition hit, the owner converted the bar to a restaurant, and the large basement area into a speakeasy - The best part? There were tunnels which ran from the speakeasy under Montgomery St. to the famous Palace Hotel allowing patrons to discreetly move from one place to the other. A rather persistent bit of historical apocrypha about the place I particularly enjoy says that Warren Harding, staying at the Palace Hotel in 1923 during a trip to the West Coast, died not in his suite at the Palace, but in the House of Shields. Not wanting the post-mortem scandal that would arise from a President dying in a speakeasy, his body was smuggled through the tunnels and back to his room.

Oh, but I do go on in my old age don't I? Sitting in those turn of the century digs I decided to start my night off simply with a glass of Glenlivet 12 year. This was the first Scotch I ever had, and while I've had many Scotches since that first glass which I would say are better, the Glen (we're friends like that) will always have a special place in my heart.

After this, things took a bit of a turn for the worse. I headed up to my beloved Cantina only to find it was closed for a private party. Blast and damnation! I was beginning to get thirsty so started trolling about my brain for someplace in the area I could get me some booze. Where did I end up?

Rye - I've been here a few times, and while the space is well done (they kind of go for a hip-dive feel) I have never really felt comfortable while there. To their credit, and the reason I went, is that they make some excellent cocktails. On the menu they had a classic prohibition cocktail that pretty much demanded I order it - The Jack Rose. It was quite tasty, though not something that really knocked my socks off. I was a bit worried that the pomegranate would dominate the flavors, but it actually did an excellent job of mellowing the rougher edges of the Applejack and tied in well to the citrus of the lime. Overall it was just one of those drinks where I felt like something was missing that I couldn't put my finger on. Still, it was an excellent way to really get the Repeal Day ball rolling. As I finished my drink I thought about heading across the street for my next stop, and that's just what I did.

The Ambassador - This place is nothing but mixed feelings for me. It's one of the most gorgeous bar spaces in the city, they have quite tasty food (if a bit overpriced), and they make a damn fine drink. On the downside they have, hands down, the single most insouciant group of bartenders I have ever encountered. In my entire life. When you're the only person in the entire place, and your bartender is just sort of staring at the walls, texting people, and even fluffing the bowl of matches (not that kind of fluffing you perv!) one is easily given the impression that they would just as soon you not be there in the first place - But I digress. Looking at their menu I was drawn to a drink called the Passion Batida made with Cachaça, muddled limes, sugar, and passion fruit juice. It looked gorgeous, but the flavor just didn't live up to the looks. It pretty much came down to the passion fruit. Perhaps it's my taste or the bartender went overboard on proportions, but the flavor just left me felling bleh. The passion fruit really wanted to muscle the Cachaça out of the way, and the citrus seemed to just sit there like in much the same way the bartender was.

Coming tomorrow - Will our hero be able to get a seat at Absinth? If not what shall he do? How much more can he drink before he decides to call it a night? All this and much more in part 2!

As always feel free to leave a comment or send us an e-mail at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.

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