Wednesday, May 14, 2008

San Francisco Cocktail Week: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Last night marked the inception of San Francisco Cocktail Week with a launch gala at the famous Starlight Room located in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. It took a while for the crowd to reach full bloom as the elevators were slow and tiny, but the room filled to capacity soon enough. Nothing gets a turnout like telling San Francisco there are free drinks somewhere. The crowd was eclectic to say the least, composed of local cocktail luminaries, hipsters (overheard cell phone conversation - "Just get down here, all you have to do is sign some guest book and you get two free drinks. Who cares what it's for?"), and an octogenarian who thought the ice and water the bar tender had put in his martini glass to chill it was the martini and took several sips before he had it taken away and filled with martini.

Ed and I took a quick glance at the drink menu and both settled on the Starlight Room original, the Cable Car - Invented by Tony Abou-Ganim in '96 while he was working at the Starlight, it's a uniquely San Francisco drink. One which Ed and I weren't really wowed by. To be fair, the main problem was the crowd - While the bar was fully staffed, the wall of humanity at the bar which seemed to materialize out of thin air all at once was amazing.

I've seen friends of mine four deep at the bar, clinging to life by a thread while beating back the hordes of thirsty (and demanding) wolves, but it was just insane. So it's not surprising that the drinks felt a little rushed, we both felt they weren't as chilled as they should have been nor did they quite have the level of dilution that they needed. Though really, we were being a bit nitpicky there. The only real misstep Ed and I found in the drink was the cinnamon sugar rim. I know that's the touch that's supposed to really make it, but we found that the cinnamon added a less than stellar contrast to the overall beverage.

Next up I went for their variation on the Martinez because, well, how can I turn down Maraschino? This one was perfect - Things had calmed down at the bar a bit and the bar tenders were able to spend a little more time with the drinks. It's funny to me that some times in the debate about the origin of a particular drink, those which are believed to be the primordial ancestors are skipped over in the rush to keep focused on the modern drink at hand. The Martinez is a great example of why it's sometimes good to take a moment to step back, drop by Grandpa's house, and listen to him tell you how easy kids have it these days. And they do.

There was a couple of brief, ceremonial speeches made by Harry Denton, Duggan McDonnell, and Tony Abou-Ganim after which Ed and I had pretty much had enough of the crowds. Making our way out of the hotel we were talking about how we were totally going to go home. Until Ed spotted the hotel bar. "You want to grab another
drink?" the bastard asked. Having heard good things about the recently opened Bar Drake it seemed like a great idea. I went right of the Golden Hind, a tasty looking mixture of Plymouth Gin, Green Chartreuse, St. Germain, lemon juice, and pineapple juice - Clearly they knew I was going to be stopping by and threw something on the menu just for me. Rumors that the drinks were delicious enough, and the bartender friendly enough to keep us around for more than just one drink are spurious lies.

Overall it was a great way to kick off a week that should promise to be a lot of fun. The only bad thing about the evening is that, in my role as "guy who has a stupid day job," I was unable to attend the after-after party at Beretta. Duggan tried his best though, "Come on guys, drinks and food at Beretta. It'll be a great time, you really should come by." Fuck you, Duggan.

Comments always welcome or feel free to e-mail us at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.


erik_flannestad said...

As another guy with a day job, that is exactly why I did not go. There is no way I would have been able to resist an after party at Beretta.

By the way, Rob sez to mention Sonny Sharrock to you.


Hope to see you around at some of the events...

drinkaweek said...

I hear ya - I'm still struggling with the part of me that likes to have fun, and is chastising me for not pretending that I'm still young and can drink all night, get a few hours of sleep, and still function the next while quite possible still drunk. I'm hoping to have the chance to make it up at either the Friday or Saturday events though.

Oh, now that brings back memories...

I should hope so, otherwise I think it will be all the evidence needed to indicate that one of us is a figment of the imagination:)