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.
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…
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.
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.
Oenophilia is still such a minority hobby that wine lovers always get excited when someone famous from outside their realm shows an interest. That’s why you can always find articles in Wine Spectator about some football or baseball player or actor who collects wine. Such was the excitement last week, when a dinner was organized around Maynard Keenan, lead singer of the rock band Tool and avowed wine geek and now wine producer.
St. George Spirits of Alameda, the good folks behind Hangar One vodkas and all the amazing Aqua Perfecta eaux de vie, recently had me out to preview the long-awaited release of their absinthe. Lance Winters, the distiller, was the mastermind behind this delectable spirit, and he was kind enough to pour the better part of a bottle and talk about the product, its history and how it should be consumed.
At 7x7, we focus on the relatively small area denoted by the numbers in our title. Sometimes I argue with the powers that be that we should extend coverage a bit. Not that there isn’t sufficient activity within city limits to supply our editorial needs, it’s just that there’s so much really cool stuff going on in the whole Bay Area that I feel bad in not writing about it.
December 5 is an important day for drinkers, as on this day in 1933 the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing Prohibition and reinstating our right to imbibe. Phew.
It’s hard to imagine the 14 years America spent as a dry country. Certainly, in the decade of the raging ‘20s there was still a lot of drinking going on. But this was all illegal and organized crime saw a huge increase as they became the arbiters of the new underground economy. Repeal not only legalized drink; it also put the kabosh on a great deal of criminal dealings. We celebrate with a big batch of bathtub gin and a toast to Al Capone.