Having only experienced Tradition on a weekend evening when mobility is nigh impossible through the twenty-somethings mobbing both sides of elaborately recesses bar trenches, I wasn’t sure what I was going to be in for when I visited GM Claire Sprouse there for this weekend’s picks and drinks. On 12:30 on a Tuesday, walking in from the hot sun and insistent panhandling of a Tenderloin lunch, Tradition seemed almost placid, a fortress built from dark wood and cold beverages.
For her part, Claire was the ideal host. Hailing from Houston, Texas, where she lived for the last ten years before moving to SF, Claire was hired away from her job at one of Houston’s first cocktail bars, a place called Beavers, to work at Rickhouse, another Future Bars property. She's a veteran competitor in cocktail competitions, and won her first bar contest in Las Vegas, an event that cemented her transition from a degree in Art History to a lucrative one in the service industry, where’s it’s clear that she definitely belongs.
Once again Tom Cruise appears as Jack Somebody and it’s up to him to save the world from evil. Only the world has already been almost destroyed–it’s 2077 and the aliens that Cruise presumably failed to save us from in 2005’s War of the Worlds have wrecked the Earth, which Cruise now hovers above as a sort of very well attired hybrid security guard/janitor. Director Joseph Kosinski , who also did Tron Legacy, has based Oblivion on one of his own unpublished graphic novels, and its literary aspirations definitely show, as well as his obvious acuity for visual styling. It doesn’t always come together, but as far as big, dumb fun, Oblivion is twice as big and not nearly as dumb as Cruise’s most recent outings.
Claire recommends “The Mind Eraser (for 2)”
Located conveniently on the “Dive Bar” section of Tradition’s menu, the Mind Eraser is a slam-dunk match for a movie named Oblivion about a man who starts off his journey with a “mandatory memory wipe.” It’s also massive, bearing down on the bar before me in a huge goblet, looking more like a crazy, Coca-Cola and crushed ice based spaceship than a cocktail. Luckily I’d brought a friend, but “It says it’s for two, but it could probably be fore six people,” Claire tells me as she sets it down with both hands. Poured from heaping measures of vodka, house-made Four Barrel Coffee liqueur, Punti Mas (a bitter, herbaceous sweet vermouth) and Nocino Walnut Liqueur, it was far more delicious than it had any right to be at that size, with an earthy, rooty undertone that would show up in the rest of Claire’s selections as well.
Rodney Ascher’s almost unbelievably enjoyable documentary about the many theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has been playing for a week at the Roxie Theatre already. If you have any affinity at all for film, or for absurdist humor, get down there and see it! Eschewing the traditional doc form, the film is built from a deftly-edited hodge-podge of footage from the original Kubrick films discussed and a bevvy of clips from mostly fair-use sources. If you’ve ever wondered exactly how many phallic symbols occur in the maze at the end of The Shining, Kubrick’s stance on the murder of the American Indian population (as expressed by the persistent appearance of cans of Calumet) or wanted to decipher his apology to his wife for faking the Moon landing, Room 237 has the answers—sometimes four or five at a time.
Claire recommends: “TTBZ”
Showing kinship with Ascher’s doc, Claire cites TTBZ as “not a drink that a lot of people would expect.” A swizzle cocktail that mixes up the original tiki formula, TTBZ comes from her Valentine’s day menu from earlier this year, and isn’t on any of Tradition’s regular slates. It comes in a small, elegant glass and is flavored mostly by Zucca Rhubarb Amaro, a bitter herbal liqueur, and filled out with Orgeat Almond Syrup, lime juice and Mandarin Napolean, a mandarin orange liqueur. “Most people expect tiki drinks to be fruity and sweet, but this one is bitter and very bold,” she says. It’s a deep red, and immediately takes my mind to the infamous bloody elevator scene of Kubrick’s masterwork. It tastes like wacky dirt… delicious wacky dirt. Somehow the flavor fits just right for the off-kilter hilarity of Room 237.
Conceived around the same time as Oscar hit The Artist, Pablo Berger’s luxe, new silent adaptation of the Snow White myth wasn’t completed until last year. More of a tribute to the early silent tradition than Michel Hazanavicius' film, Berger’s transplants Snow White to Saville, casting Snow White as the daughter of a famous bullfighter who is grimly gored in the film’s climactic first scene. Successfully combining strains of the macabre, gorgeous cinematography, dream-like musical sequences and real dwarves, Blancanieves is a worthy and fresh update, firmly deserving the many accolades it’s received, including Spain’s submission to the foreign film category of the Academy Awards.
Claire recommends “The Tuxedo”
The Tuxedo appears last, the most dainty of Claire’s drinks, in a small stemmed glass with a twist of orange peel. I take a first sip, and it also proves the most beguiling, dotted as it is with hints of citrus, sweet fruitiness and nicely dry finish. Claire describes it as "like a martini, but classic and a little sexy." A base of Old Tom Gin underpins the drink, flavored with sweet vermouth and Olorosso Sherry, a less yeasty, drier sherry from Blancanieves’ birthplace, Spain. It comes from Tradition’s “Grand Hotel” menu, a riff on classic, classy cocktails found in sweeping turn-of-the-century vacation palaces. To me, the foretaste gives it a somewhat feminine body and the aftertaste, dry and crisp, contains a hint of masculinity, a perfect match for Blancanieves.