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2014's Best Cocktails, Bar Trends, Classic Sips, and More

SRO

7x7 Magazine's annual Best of SF showcases all you could ever hope to eat, drink, see, buy, know, and do in the city. Here is the Best of Drink: 

Cocktail Hideaway: SRO

Tucked in the back of SoMa’s Oddjob bar, SRO—short for Standing Room Only—is a “continuation” of tiny and beloved Big (the Tenderloin bar that shuttered this past summer). Like its forebear, there’s vintage glassware, no menu, and house-made ingredients, which can be found in their Persian cucumber–infused mezcal and Cognac-based strawberry cordial, among other potions. SRO head bartender Joey Picchi—a former cocktail stylist—has a lofty goal: craft a perfect bespoke concoction for everyone who walks in the door.

Unique Appellations: InoVino

After years spent curating the deep wine cellars at Perbacco and Barbacco, sommelier Claudio Villani opens his first wine bar, which focuses on appellations of the Italian Alps and volcanoes. Bright Friulanos and tannic Nebbiolos from the North contrast with intense, fruity Etna Rossos and other volcanic-soil wines from the South—both pair well with the pizzettas and salads also on offer. 

Cocktail ice cubes: campari, spiced wine, and strawberry juice. 

Rocks: Cocktail Ice Cubes

Forget the Rubik’s Cube–sized lumps landing in the city’s fancier Old Fashioneds. At 1760, the Pear-Ginger cocktail (Verdicchio, gin, pear juice, and a ginger shrub) employs a single, slow-melting ice cube made of Campari, creating new layers of flavor as it melts. Sip the difference with the strawberry-juice cube used in The Orbit Room’s Mint Hill Punch, and enjoy the frozen spiced-wine berg in The Coachman’s Cardinal cocktail.

Sober Moment: Fanciful Zero-Proof Concoctions

Hear this, teetotalers and designated drivers: A night of revelry no longer requires you to suffer plain old ginger ale. Bartenders are mixing up alcohol-free libations to rival their boozy counterparts. Try the Year of the Dragon, with tangerine, dill, egg white, lime juice, and soda at Trick DogRich Table’s sparkling grapefruit-and-elderflower refresher; or the Blue Flower Lemonade at Kin Khao.

Egg separator from Cask 

Expansion: Cask

If you haven’t yet made it to Cask, the craft-booze emporium, you’ll soon have two more locations to discover. Their new home in Rincon Center has a definite wine focus, but you’ll also find the array of zesters, jiggers, muddlers, and shakers that made their original Third Street venue a destination for seasoned boozehounds. Later this year, they’re crossing the bridge to open an even larger, third spot in Berkeley.

Taproom for Beer Geeks: Cellarmaker

Within the confines of a converted industrial garage, owner Connor Casey crafts half a dozen unique brews from hops he sources from around the globe. Sample away, but be sure to take home a growler of either the Christopher Riwaka Pale Ale with New Zealand Riwaka hops and the Beertender’s Breakfast, a collaboration with Monk’s Kettle that uses a blend of yeasts for layers of “earth, spice, fruit and funk.”

Classic sips: Alta CA

Alta CA bar manager, Ashley Miller, takes classic cocktails to new, idiosyncratic, labor-intensive heights. For the julep-esque Kentucky Kangaroo, she infuses bourbon with pu-erh tea, and replaces mint with herbaceous eucalyptus and bay leaf syrup. The Fashions of 1796 officially identifies as a rum and rye Old Fashioned, but also relies on spicy rye for some of the kick, plus mole bitters and a few drops of blood orange essential oil. 
The Curious George is a whiskey sour at its core, dressed up with smoked egg white and dill. 

Home Bar Trend: Craft Mixers

Never heard of artisanal quinine? It’s only the most essential ingredient for a 
sophisticated gin and tonic. Thankfully, such local companies as 
Yum Yum Tonics (yumyumtonics.com) and C&B’s (candbbottling.com) are making tonic syrups and drinking vinegars to up the ante on your cocktail game. For a classic tang, try the tonic syrup from Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. with a splash of soda. Available at Rainbow Grocery and Bi-Rite

Ultradrinkable Summer Brew: Almanac’s Golden Gate Gose

Tart, tangy, and slightly briny, Almanac’s take on gose—the salted sour brew that originated in Liepzig, Germany—is our go-to warm weather beer. Made with lemon verbena and coriander from Dirty Girl Produce, it’s the lemonade of beers, perfect for a bright, sunshiny day. Find it on tap at The Willows and Alta CA, and on sale at Bi-Rite and Whole Foods.

Remastered Buzz: Blue Bottle Iced Coffee Carton

If the ever-expanding Blue Bottle locations still haven’t thinned the line at your preferred outpost, fear not: BB has launched packaged New Orleans iced coffee ($4)—all the same cold-brewed chicory goodness, but with a splash of Clover Farms whole milk, in an old-school mini carton. Available at Whole Foods and all Blue Bottle locations

This article was published in 7x7's June 2014 issue. Click here to subscribe.