The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
January 26, 2016
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Jeff Hollinger doing his special voodoo at Comstock Saloon. Photo: Liza Gershman Photography.

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The exterior of The Lark Bar. Yelp photo by Albertino M.

This Friday January 29th is going to be a dark day in SF: after 14 years with the Absinthe Group (currently celebrating 18 years), which includes more than five years at ~COMSTOCK SALOON~, Jeff Hollinger (aka Jefe) is leaving his post as saloonkeeper. Sadly a barman’s late hours don’t coincide well with a busy family life, and he has decided—after at least a year of mulling it over—that he needs to move on. Hollinger started as a bartender at Absinthe and will be wrapping things up as a bartender this Friday, when he’ll be behind the stick starting at 12pm—we’ll have to see how long he lasts. There will be boots.

I’m sorry I won’t be there to raise a glass in person to one of my favorite and most talented people in the industry. Thank you, Jeff, for everything you have contributed to the SF cocktail legacy and craft. You have always been a font of information about cocktail history, a keeper of the flame of SF bar history, and you make a mean Martinez (and Cherry Bounce!). You have always been so hospitable, ever-ready with a big guffaw, and a mentor to many—we all learned from you in many ways. The ultimate barkeep. We’ll miss you, but now we hope to see you on the other side of the bar.

Meanwhile, ~THE LARK BAR~ has opened in the former Dave’s. To recap, Future Bars (Bourbon & Branch, and Cask, which is next door) took over the beloved downtown dive bar and are keeping things pretty simple. Look for a sports bar vibe (TVs still in effect), with affordable cocktails, shots, and beers. They have a an updated food menu, including chili (a Dave’s tradition, $4), hot dogs ($5-$6), a variety of panini (ham and cheese, cheese and bacon, and mozzarella and tomato, all $6), and a few snacky items. Hours are Mon-Sun 11am-2am. 29 3rd St. at Market, 415-952-7504.

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The “I’m a Broke Ass” Flight: three wines for $9 at The Punchdown Yelp photo by Albertino M.

Fans of natural/minimal intervention wines will be happy to hear ~THE PUNCHDOWN~ has reopened in its new location in Uptown Oakland—they closed a little over a year ago when owners D.C. Looney and Lisa Costa lost their lease.

So the next time you’re seeing a show at the Fox Theater, you can swing by and check out the new and spacious digs. Look for more room, more retail wine, more flights, and more food options (well, once their gas gets turned on—so no food for now). Scoop also reports: “They’ll also bring back their daily happy hour, winemaker/importer events, and guest chefs, as well as organize their natural wine club.” Hours are daily 12pm to close (10pm during the week and 12am Fri-Sat). Follow @thepunchdown on Twitter for updates as they ramp up. 1737 Broadway at 19th St., Oakland, 510-788-7877.

January 12, 2016
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The Gangway. Yelp photo by Kevin Y.

About six months ago, I heard the historic dive ~GANGWAY~ was up for sale (nooooooo), and I have to admit I shuddered at the thought that SF’s first and oldest gay bar (since 1961—although the bar has been in existence since 1910, which makes it 105!) could potentially be in peril. And then I just saw the pending liquor license transfer to “Breaking Chad, Inc.” (noooooooo) and called the bar. And then I heard the last thing I wanted to hear from my favorite bartender there: that a couple straight guys are reportedly taking it over. NOOOOOOOO. Now, this isn’t confirmed or final final, but it definitely doesn’t bode well.

I will keep checking in with the bar on any updates, and I also reached out to “Breaking Chad’s” legal rep to relay a message and see if they have any comments on their plans. Now, excuse me while I start crying into my really strong drank, because that’s all the Gangway serves (well, and a whole lot of dive bar realness). SIGH. 841 Larkin St. at Geary, 415-776-6828.

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Winter Cocktails of the Farmers Market in 2015. Photo by Amanda Harris via Facebook.

By Dana Eastland. CUESA’s seasonal cocktail fest is back, this time with Winter Cocktails of the Farmers Market on Wednesday January 27th. From 5:30pm-8pm, the Ferry Building will be filled with bartenders offering their take on the art of the modern drink, with beverages inspired by modern art. The evening is a partnership with SFMOMA, which is reopening the spring, and includes plenty of cocktails, bites, and fun.

Thirteen bartenders from all over the city will participate, including Crystal Chasse (Blackbird, Dirty Habit), Megan Daniel and Alex Smith (Whitechapel), and Jack Bates (Alamo Drafthouse), with cocktails made from spirits sponsors including Disaronno, Heaven Hill PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, and Rémy Martin. And of course, all the drinks will feature seasonal produce from CUESA’s farmers’ market.

There will also be chefs from local restaurants serving appetizer bites, including Ryan Shelton (Reverb Kitchen & Bar), David Murphy (Whitechapel), and David Bazirgan (Dirty Habit). Tickets are $60 per person and include three full-size cocktails, unlimited sample-size drinks, and tickets to try the bites. You can also purchase a “season ticket” to all of the three upcoming cocktail events for $150. Ferry Building Grand Hall, Embarcadero at Market.

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By Dana Eastland. We mentioned it in December but don’t forget that San Francisco Beer Week is coming up soon. It’s from January 22nd through 31st, and there are lots of great sudsy events to check out.

A few to consider: on Saturday January 23rd, Red Dog is hosting chef Beau Schooler of Juneau, Alaska, and Almanac Brewing for a special Alaskan Seafood and Almanac Dinner complete with seafood from both Alaska and California (and yes, there will be crab!). Tickets are $150 per person and include food and beer.

Then, on Sunday January 24th, Red Dog is hosting Almanac again, this time for a Chef’s Night Out dinner complete with some of the industry’s favorite chefs. Dishes inspired by attendees Liza Shaw (Merigan Sub Shop), Tim Archuleta (Ichi Sushi), and Lauren Kiino (Red Dog) will all be on offer. Tickets are $145 per person and include food and beer.

On Tuesday January 26th, ~BON MARCHÉ~ is hosting a Feast of the French Flanders, curated by master cicerone Rich Higgins, featuring five courses of French cuisine and Flemish ales for $79 per person.

On Wednesday January 27th, Black Hammer Brewing and chef Mark Liberman are hosting a special event in the former TBD space, which will include a sneak peek of the space’s future. The special sneak peek includes beer from Black Hammer, including some completely new brews, as well as lots of small bites to try.

There are tons of beer events happening the whole week, on all sides of the bay. Be sure to check out the schedule here, and get ready for brewing madness. Event locations, times, and costs vary; see each event for details.

December 22, 2015
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Kevin Diedrich behind the bar at Turnkey at Cantina. Photo by Wes Rowe Photography.

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Earlier in the year, we broke the news that Andy Chun and Jan Wiginton of Press Club and Schroeder’s purchased downtown craft cocktail bar ~CANTINA~ from owner Duggan McDonnell, and now we receive an update that they have brought on Kevin Diedrich (BDK, Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen, Burritt Room) as a partner and bar manager. Diedrich just launched ~TURNKEY AT CANTINA~, a temporary menu over the next couple of months featuring his top cocktails from past gigs. Later in the year, the space will get some updates, and a new menu will launch as well. Open Mon-Sat 5pm-1:30am. 580 Sutter St. at Mason. 

Just when we reported on the new brunch at ~TSK/TSK~ (called Broderick’s), and then Hoodline notes the temporary bar concept is wrapping up this month. According to this post on Facebook, the bar’s last night is in fact on New Year’s Eve, and they are doing a huge “liquidation sale.” Prepare thy liver for mad, crazy deals on slushies, shots, and beers, and wildly discounted cocktails. Prices are slashed at this pop-up superstore! Heh. We’ll keep you posted on the new concept, Horsefeather, as it takes shape in coming months. 528 Divisadero St. at Fell, 415-522-0800.

December 15, 2015
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Foreign Cinema and Laszlo bar manager Nicky Beyries. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The Immortal. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Through the Mirror (formerly available with blackberry balsamic and now with tangerine shrub). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Last week I got to take a break from my fire hose of email (LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT OUR SPECIAL NEW YEAR’S EVE PRIX-FIXE DINNER!) and head on over to the bar at ~FOREIGN CINEMA~, where the new bar manager for both Foreign Cinema and Laszlo, Nicky Beyries, walked me through her new cocktail menu and philosophy.

She was previously at Lazy Bear, and her approach is very culinary-minded (her family is big on canning—owning a Salinas farm will have that effect) and she also studied winemaking. I tasted through five of her cocktails and was struck with how balanced they were, and sophisticated too. Bonus: French New Wave buffs will note the reference to Cocteau’s Orpheus with the current theme.

Lovers of vermouth and aperitifs should check out the Negroni-inspired Blood of a Poet, with Square One bergamot vodka, Dolin Blanc Chambéry, Salers gentiane aperitif, and a slice of dehydrated blood orange. Meanwhile, the sidecar gets a 2.0 treatment with Eurydice—instead of being overwhelmed with orange, Beyries was inspired to take it in a different direction, making it with Wild Cupreata mezcal (which is more floral than smoky), fresh lemon, English mead (it rounds the cocktail out), rich simple syrup, rosewater, and a rim of spun rose sugar (it’s a beaut).

My personal favorite for the season was The Immortal, with Bernheim wheated whiskey, fresh lemon, allspice dram, housemade Fuyu persimmon and cinnamon purée—it has holiday notes to it, so if you’re craving some seasonal cheer, here’s your pick.

I love a Boulevardier, and The Henchmen is a mighty tasty spin on it, with High West double rye, Leopold Bros. aperitivo (with some fantastic bitter orange and grapefruit notes), Cocchi di Torino, and an orange twist.

Through the Mirror features the palate prickle of housemade tangerine shrub (previously blackberry-balsamic), plus aromatized wines (Cocchi and Dolin dry) and is rooted with a mezcal rinse. I was thinking this was like a martini that was light on its feet.

In addition to her beautiful cocktails and the updated bar program, which will be changing seasonally, ~LASZLO~ is going to be getting a well-deserved facelift in the New Year, moving away from its industrial and dark look. There will be accordion windows that will open onto the front patio, a lighter color palette, new banquettes, and the DJ booth will be moved, so the bar will be a bit longer. They’d like to bring it back to when it was a popular industry hangout, and the updated cocktails are sure to be a draw. They plan to close for a couple of weeks in early January; we’ll keep you posted. 2526 Mission St. at 21st St.

I also hear that Foreign Cinema is going to be gaining some additional storage in a space next door, so the extensive wine list is going to be boosted up even more—to 1,000 bottles—and there’s the possibility of another private dining room being added too (TBD!). Stand by for updates in the New Year.

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The Elbo Room. Yelp photo by Omar K.

By Dana Eastland. After many months of speculation, meetings, and stories, it looks like beloved Mission bar ~ELBO ROOM~ is going to stay open—at least through the end of 2017. Woohoo! Eater caught the news on the bar’s Facebook page. We’ll happily drink to that. 647 Valencia St. at 17th St., 415-552-7788.

Ken Furusawa, the former bar manager at Ichi Sushi, is now running the bar at ~1300 ON FILLMORE~ (you may also remember him at Range, Saison, and La Folie). He’s taking the classic repertoire of Low Country drinks and modernizing them a bit. The menu boasts lots of bourbon, as well as Madeira, because of South Carolina’s history as a fortified wine port. There’s a pecan old-fashioned, made with Scotch, muscovado sugar, pecan bitters, and a chicory ice cube, or try the Madeira cobbler with demerara sugar, orange, and lemon. Here’s the menu for your perusal.