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The Little Things

One thing I love about Neyah White's operation at NOPA is the care and attention he pays to the less heralded aspects of cocktail craft. Sure he cares about the base spirits, fresh fruit juices, and interesting herbs and spices. But the things most loves seem to be the liqueurs, bitters and tinctures that don't get all the same attention. Most of them he makes by himself, which is why it was a treat to get a tour of his own personal cellar space in NOPA's cramped store room, where his magical infusions and marinations all happen.

Fish and Farm

Had a chance to stop by and see the new culinary team at Fish and Farm, Charlie Kleinman and Jake Des Voignes. You might remember that these two were the old culinary team that cooked a memorable meal last year back at the Fifth Floor. I was glad to see that the two had returned with such flair at a small downtown restaurant that bustles with an animated energy, yet preserves a sense of intimacy and discretion.

School Spirit

Wine classes in the city abound. You can learn about reds and whites in any number of places, from City College to the CCA to multitudes of smaller, private institutions. But if you wanted to learn about spirits and cocktails there has been no organized way to do that. Until now.

The New St. Germain?

Without question, the biggest thing to happen to the spirits world last year besides the legalization of absinthe was the unstoppable success of St. Germain, the elderflower liqueur released in Spring 2007. Bartenders, shop owners—everyone fell in love with it. It was hard not to because it is so damn good—fully flavored, but in a remarkably integrated and tactful way, sweet but not too sweet, incredibly long finishing… just an extremely well-made product for sipping or mixing.

Are You Hung Over?

Hopefully this was not you on the morning of January 1, 2008.

Dept. of Silly Products, II

An electric martini maker? This should insult every bartender—or really anyone with use of his or her arms. Is it that hard to stir a martini or shake a margarita? C’mon!

Cocktails on the Fly

I feel remiss, as I don’t know that I’ve done anything yet to promote one of the Web’s most engaging cocktail resources and one of the most creative and talented bartenders I’ve ever met.

My New York Competition

Little did I know when I was in New York a couple of weeks ago that I would be going back so soon. But, indeed I was—though this time not as a journalist, but as a bartender.

A cocktail I created at the suggestion of Duggan McDonnell at Cantina (we just had to invent a cocktail that contained some form of sherry, and it had to be available on a drink menu somewhere), somehow made it to the finals of the National Sherry Cocktail Competition. And I got a return trip to duel with some of the country’s best.

Invisible Cities

One of my favorite novels by Italo Calvino is Hidden Cities, which is imagined as a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan and includes Polo’s fantastical and imaginative descriptions of 55 cities he’s seen on his travels.

I had a hidden-cities moment myself the other day, when I was led to a party in a particularly fantastical backyard, behind a row of houses near Duboce Park. The yard, shared by several residences, was a marvel and to emerge from an ordinary back door to gaze upon it was similar to feeling like Alice after falling down the rabbit hole.

Cocktails: NYC vs. SF

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