Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

The Strangest Ingredients Found in Craft Cocktails Around Town

Trick Dog's Alcatraz

Trick Dog's Alcatraz, photo by Allison Webber Photography.

With the opening of new bars around town comes the introduction of unexpected cocktail concoctions. So put those Old Fashioneds and Martinis on the back burner, and welcome cocktails featuring savory ingredients like vegetables and spices, salty additions like powdered insects and seaweed, and creamy components like yogurt, oats, and clarified milk.   

Trick Dog 

New-classic Trick Dog is no stranger to strange sips. From cocoa butter and kombu to shortbread and Szechuan pepper, the Bon Vivants have been coming up with some truly obscure concoctions for years. Their new, SF tourist map themed menu launched last week, and brings with it more surprises. Try the Alcatraz, a blend of Four Roses small-batch bourbon, apple, lavender, kombu (seaweed), and horseradish. Salty, sweet, and spicy, this drink is sure to excite your tastebuds. 3010 20th St.

Dirty Habit 

San Francisco’s newest hot spot, Dirty Habit, is enticing patrons with whimsical drinks and a must-see rooftop patio. For those who enjoy a savory sip, try the Dirty Nap, a unique and earthy mix of Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth, porcini mushroom, Lustau “Don Nuno” Oloroso, and King’s Ginger liqueur. For something with a smoky kick, order up the Leather & Lace with James E. Pepper Rye, Lustau “Peninsula” Palo Cortado, Licor 43, and tobacco bitters. And, of course, not to be missed is the Big Drink 2014’s Chupacabra, with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Los Altos Blanco Tequila, Aperol, grapefruit cordial, fresh lime, and Sal de Gusano (a mixture of Oaxacan salt blended with desiccated earthworms). 12 4th St.

Bartlett Hall 

For a traditional brewery and hearty food spot, Bartlett Hall knows how to modernize traditional cocktails with surprising twists. Take the Tessie Wallbanger, a refreshing mix of vodka, lemon, carrot syrup, and IPA beer. This cocktail will have both beer swiggers and cocktail aficionados alike swooning, not to mention local bunnies knocking down the door for a taste of some of that carrot syrup. 242 O’Farrell St.

Gaspar 

Although reminiscent of a Parisian-inspired brasserie both in menu and decor, Gaspar’s cocktail list brings with it a few modern surprises. Absinthe, popular in Paris in the late 19th and early 20th century, is modernized with lime, mint, soda, and an unexpected aloe liqueur (yes, the same thing you’ve rubbed on many a sunburn) in the Absinthe Frappe. 185 Sutter St.

Ziryab 

We’d guess that first on your list of cocktail additions wouldn’t be this date-repelling fig-garlic puree, but when combined with tequila, benedictine, and lemon, it's a surprisingly welcome addition to Ziryab's Jericho Fig Tree. For something equally obscure, but less controversial, try the Ostwald Ripened — a mix of Arak (a strong anise-flavored spirit), Bols yogurt, pavan (a Muscat grape and orange blossom liqueur), and cinnamon — a unique combination of creamy, fruity, spicy, and tangy. 528 Divisadero St.

The Coachman 

Charles Phan’s newest bar and restaurant takes an old English approach to cocktails and food. Their creative concoctions feature milk in unusual forms. Try the Scottish Highland inspired Athol Brose — a creamy mixture of whisky, honey, Straus milk, oats, and coffee. The milk and oats add a hearty breakfast quality and grainy texture to the unique cocktail. For something less reminiscent of your morning porridge, try the California Milk Punch — brandy, rum, and Arak pack a punch that are mellowed out by clarified milk and spiced syrup. 1148 Mission St.


Found an obscure ingredient hiding in a recent cocktail? Tell us about it in the comments.