1. Family Winemakers of California Festival: Small, family-owned California wineries are the stars of this sprawling tasting event, which features more than 750 different wines sourced from over 20 appellations within the state. For the first time, many wineries will also be selling wine on-site, allowing drinkers to take home their favorite bottles after tasting. There's also a special new iSip lounge, with a paired wine and food tasting led by sommelier Courtney Cochran. Tickets are $65 in advance and $75 at the door. (Sunday, September 9, 3-6 pm, at Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, Marina.)
1. The Corner Store Opens: Located in one of the city's more unusual spots (the former Hukilau space at the corner of Geary and Masonic), this new restaurant offers classed-up comfort food like burgers and wedge salad, as well as an extensive cocktail program (all $9) with lots of housemade syrups and sodas. The Strawberry Blonde (gin, cilantro, strawberry syrup, Drake's hefeweizen) caught our eye, as did the Pickled Paloma (tequila, pickle juice, lime, salt, house grapefruit soda). They also offer traditional fountain treats like a black cow or a strawberry soda float, and grown-up desserts like the 50/50 (spiced rum, orange marmalade, vanilla ice cream). Seven draft beers and six draft wines round out the selection.
Whether their focus is beer, wine, or a particular spirit, bars here have always enjoyed specializing. But despite our town's reputation as ground zero for drinking trends, we've never had a bar exclusively focused on cider– until now. Upcider is the brainchild of Ozzie Gundogdu and Omer Cengiz, Turkish natives who both moved to SF in 2004 and met while working at Les Joulins Jazz Bistro. When they noticed that SF was without a cider destination, the former roommates decided to strike out on their own and create one. "It was a missing concept in the market," says Gundogdu. "In the entire United States, there are just a couple of cider bars, and the Bay Area had none."
1. Drink Here Now Bartends at Bottle Cap: Hi, I'm Allie Pape, and I've been writing the Drink Here Now/Lowering the Bar columns for the past three years. I'm breaking the fourth wall for a moment to let readers know that on Tuesday, I'm going to be on the other side of the stick for a change. I'll be participating in Bottle Cap's Charity Guest Bartender program, dishing up $5 Barbary Coasters (Flor de Cana rum, lime juice, ginger syrup, falernum, allspice dram). I'll be donating any tips I receive to Planned Parenthood Shasta-Pacific, which provides critical healthcare and screening services to low-income women across the Bay Area. The bar will also have live music from guitarist Craig Ventresco from 7-10 pm. I hope you'll come say hello, have a drink with me, and give a few bucks to this great cause! RSVP on Facebook to attend. (Tuesday, August 28, 6-8 pm, at Bottle Cap, 1707 Powell St., North Beach.)
1. Mission Rock Resort Opens: The newest spot from the owners of MoMo's and Pete's Tavern, located in the former Kelly's Mission Rock Cafe off 3rd Street in the Dogpatch, has plenty to offer: Sizable decks, gorgeous bay views, regular sunshine, and pre- or post-Giants game convenience. The cocktail menu includes approachable concoctions like the Pearry Francois (pear vodka, ginger liqueur, St. Germain, sauvignon blanc, housemade ginger beer; $11) and the Kappa's Fire Island (pisco, pineapple, cilantro, serrano chile; $11), and for weekend brunch, they're offering $16 bottomless mimosas (with your choice of orange, grapefruit, cranberry, or pineapple juice). Play ball. Daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., 817 Terry A. Francois Blvd., Dogpatch.
1. The Mortimer Opens in the Hotel Adagio: The popular Bar Adagio has departed this life, but its successor, The Mortimer, has plenty of new advantages, including a renovated street-side space and a full menu of dishes like roasted poblano quesadillas, roasted pork belly with white beans, and filet mignon with lobster sauce. Most importantly, the cocktail menu has been refreshed, with intriguing drinks like the Early Bird (mezcal, kiwi, lime, St. Germain, salt; $10) and the Green Dream (pisco, green chartreuse, jalapeno, mint simple syrup; $13). For groups, they've also got three punch bowls that serve 2-4, including the Phantom (blackberry-infused brandy, Snap ginger liqueur, champagne, almond syrup, orange; $34).
1. Qi Ultralounge Opens in SOMA: After two years of renovations, this new cocktail lounge and dance club (pictured above) has opened in the former Annie's Social Club space at 5th and Folsom. The new theme is aquatic, with white sofas, sexy murals of underwater damsels, purple lighting, and even a custom ocean-breeze scent. Cocktails are themed around the four elements, with Methane (reposado tequila, peach, lime, simple syrup, black salt rim; $12) representing fire, Reservoir (cachaca, creme de cassis, vanilla syrup, mint, lemon; $12) representing water, and Granite (cognac, Cointreau, sour, Black Mission fig, ground cinnamon; $13) representing earth. (Tuesday-Wednesday, 6 pm-12 am, Thursday-Saturday, 9 pm-2 am; 917 Folsom St., SOMA.)
1. Amber Dhara's Ayurvedic Cocktails: Amber Dhara, the sister spot to Amber India on Valencia Street, just opened the doors to its enormous space (6,000 square feet!) a couple of days ago, serving the upscale takes on Indian fare that the mothership is known for. A new addition, however, is Nirupana Srivastava's lineup of $11 Ayurvedic cocktails, made according to the principles of Indian medicine (though we doubt they'd recommend the booze). The intriguing entries include the Belly Dancer (mezcal, Rhum Clement creole shrub, housemade aphrodisiac nectar, citrus, Madras spice rim) and the Blessed Monk (Hangar One Buddha's Hand vodka, goji liqueur, lemon basil, lemongrass, black pepper, coconut water).
1. Dixie Introduces Happy Hour: With summer Fridays in full effect, consider making a trip up to the Presidio for some quiet, greenery, and happy hour at newish Southern spot Dixie, whose food and cocktails were praised by our own Carolyn Alburger earlier this month. The restaurant's "Cocktail Hour" includes rotating $5 menu items (this week's has been fried chicken), as well as a $5 wine, cocktail, and beer, with offerings like the Georgia Lemonade (Buffalo Trace bourbon, peach liqueur, lemon, soda) and a bourbon-barrel-aged Widmer Brothers ale. (Daily, 4-6 pm, at Dixie, 1 Letterman Drive, Presidio.)
Despite the timeworn warnings about books and covers, research has shown that plenty of wine drinkers make their purchases based on the label of the bottle, not its contents. But while many of those who take their wine seriously may decry ignorant consumers who choose a chardonnay with a cute dancing kangaroo over a pristine French vintage with no graphic-design chops, the managers of the Lark Creek restaurant group (a Bay Area restaurant company whose SF spots include One Market, Cupola Pizzeria, and LarkCreekSteak) were confident that they could find wines with cool labels that also tasted great.