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spirits

Anchor Brewing and Buena Vista at SFO

Going through airports is as bad as it’s ever been. I don't mind taking off my shoes in security--it's the belt that's annoying. One thing that's made flying better, however, is the appearance of local food and beverage vendors in the terminals. I noted this trend a decade ago in my native Austin, TX, as its then-new airport sported such local favorites as Matt's Famous El Rancho (Tex-Mex), Schlotzsky's (sandwiches) and the ever-popular Salt Lick BBQ, whose airport location is closer to the original restaurant (and its pit) than downtown Austin is, so you know the meat is fresh.

SF International Spirits Competition: Rainbow Bright




Last weekend I judged at the SF International Spirits Competition, a great event that brings spirits experts from around the country to taste and judge which are the best vodkas, gins, whiskeys, piscos, liqueurs, etc. Many of the best spirit bottlers in the world do submit their products, so, yes, it can be a great tasting experience. However, with the great also comes the not-so-great, as can be seen in the flight this poor panel was tasting. I'm not sure which category this rainbow of artificial coloring fell under, but it couldn't have been fun to put these things in one's mouth.

Historic Cocktails Tour of SF: History in a Glass

San Francisco bartenders were treated to a unique experience a couple of weeks ago: the first (that we know of) SF historical cocktail tour. It was sponsored by Plymouth Gin and Simon Ford (the brand's ambassador; below, at left) and conducted by Dave Wondrich (below, right), the undisputed authority on American cocktail history and author of Imbibe.


Drinking Las Vegas

Along with many prominent San Francisco bartenders last week, I took in the unholy jambalaya of libation promotion that is the Las Vegas Bar Show. While boutique brands like Michter's whiskey and Barsol Pisco had small booths on the periphery of the show, the main floor was dominated by big brands, novelty vodkas (such as O2, "the world's first sparkling vodka"),



energy drinks and lots of blondes, such as you see at the Nuvo ("the world's first sparkling liqueur") and Rock Star Energy Drink booths.

Stompin' at the Savoy

This was the scene last week at the Alembic, the best cocktail bar between Van Ness and Japan, where intrepid bartenders Thomas Waugh and Daniel Hyatt (in ties and vests) had suspended the use of their standard cocktail list and replaced it with the entire 293-page Savoy Cocktail Book. Originally published in 1930, this volume is both a valuable historical clue to the vibrancy of a distant age and a still-relevant compendium of drinking fun. A dozen copies of the book were available at the bar, and drinkers were invited to simply thumb through it and find something they wanted to drink.

DIY liqueurs, redux

All my talk of making home liqueurs, combined with the premature but tantalizing glimpse of sunny spring last week, prompted me to get into the act with a little home brewing. The project? Cherry-blossom liqueur. Right now, a bowlful of blossoms from the tree outside my house is steeping away in Everclear. I have no idea if it will turn  out to be tasty. But at least it sure looks purty…

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.

Absinthe Obsession

Wow, this headline “Hundreds Line Up in Alameda for Ancient Liquor” is crazy. Absinthe is cool, but who expected this response? I still stand by my prediction—at least half those people are not going to like the product once they taste it. (H/T to Camper for the link.)

Dept. of Silly Wine Products Part 1

I gotta get one of these “wine enhancers.” I love the idea of using crystals and metals to “balance tannins and astringency of young wines,” but I’m even more excited that it has a similar application for coffee.
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