For a long time I've been awaiting the opening of Heaven's Dog. Yes, I've been looking forward to the food, but even more so I've been anticipating the drinks. Why? Simply because the Slanted Door cocktail program, long managed by Erik Adkins, is one of the best in the country. It doesn't get enough praise in the national press because it's overshadowed by the entire restaurant concept. But people like Adkins, Jen Colliau and the rest of the crew are as big of cocktail aficionados as anyone working at Bourbon and Branch or New York's PDT. Plus, they also tend to be enthusiastic about wine and beer and food pairings, which are often forgotten aspects of bartending in the cocktail-mad world.
So how were the drinks? In a word--delicious. None of the opening list are original recipes, rather they are obscure "classics" adapted from the great Charles Baker's book Jigger, Beaker and Glass (also known as the Gentleman's Companion). I like this decision by Adkins, since Baker's book is the most evocative ever written on drinking, with a Baron-Meunchausen-like tone of fantastic travel, exotic places and people, all garnished with exquisite drinks. The drinks and their names fit perfectly with the combo of cocktails and unique Asian food, since this was the spirit in which many of them were conceived or originally enjoyed. Furthermore it enhances the sense of voyage that you feel when you taste the dishes.
My first drink was awesome. Calvados, lime, grenadine, and absinthe make up The Pan American Clipper, a drink served up in a coupe. Each and every flavor came through individually, but also meshed into a harmonious whole. I also drank the Biarritz Monk Buck, an armagnac and yellow chartreuse concotion fired by a spicy ginger purée. Tastes of a friend's Pisco Apricot Tropical and Remember the Maine convinced me that every single drink on the menu is worth having. And the Famous Shanghai Buck cocktail might just be the best cocktail I’ve ever had, made with fresh pressed ginger juice, Pampero Aniversrio rum, lime and a stick of ice. And if you can't decide, there's a "Freedom from Choice" option where the bartender will improvise something for you if you simply tell them your preferred base spirit.
The Cap Haitian Rum & Honey includes a hand-sawed block of ice in it. Apparently Charles Phan grudgingly had to make way for Erik’s ice projects in the walk-in, but I’d say it was well worth it.