Wisdom of My Father


This is my first Father’s Day as a dad, and my parents just came out to visit from Vermont to meet the baby and spend some time with me in San Francisco.

Along with sound advice on parenting and relationships, my father dropped some cocktail wisdom on me when I took my folks out to Trick Dog for drinks.

I usually assess the cocktailing potential of a new bar by ordering a Blood and Sand (equal parts Scotch, sweet vermouth, OJ and Cherry Heering). Any hesitation or confusion from the bartender, and I would know not to order another cocktail. The tragic flaw is that I am rarely in the mood for such a sweet drink. When this came up in conversation, my old man started to smirk.

My dad, he does it one better. He orders a Perfect Manhattan (“perfect” denotes replacing half of the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth), and if the bartender says something like, “Oh, all the drinks here are excellent,” he says, “You know, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll have a beer.”

An engineer by education, and a craftsman by avocation, I’m really unsurprised that he would devise such an efficient and elegant approach.

Perfect Manhattan

(Dad usually calls for Jameson, technically making this a perfect “Emerald”, a much smoother alternative to the traditional rye)

two ounces whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
a dash of orange bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

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SpeedRack is Back

If you are in San Francisco this weekend and looking for something to do, check out SpeedRack, the touring female bartender competition that’s raising money for breast cancer research.

The last time I attended SpeedRack was in Portland, and I can vouch that it’s a rowdy, raunchy and a raucous good time. Tickets are only $20 ($25 at the door), so come cheer on your favorite local cocktail-maker. If you aren’t in SF, check their site to see when SpeedRack might be coming to your city.


WHEN:           Sunday, Feb 24, 2013 3– 7pm (website says Feb 24, 2012 in places, but don’t be fooled)
WHERE:       The Chapel, 777 Valencia Street, San Francisco
WHY:       Watch skilled, gorgeous bartenders, imbibe excellent drinks, save some boobs
WHO: a great list of competitors, many of whom are personal friends, so I can’t say who I want to win.

  • Alicia Walton – Elixir, Bloodhound, Momo’s (San Francisco)
  • Allison Webber – Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen (San Francisco)
  • Ashley Curren – Rickhouse (San Francisco)
  • Claire Sprouse – Tradition (San Francisco)
  • Danielle Marchant –Monarch (San Francisco)
  • Jen Ackrill – Rye (San Francisco)
  • Jennifer Colliau – Slanted Door (Berkeley, CA)
  • Julie Thompson – Rye (San Francisco)
  • Kate Bolton – Maven (San Francisco)
  • Keli Rivers – Hotsy Totsy Club (San Francisco)
  • Kim Gooden – Tradition (San Francisco)
  • Kim Rosselle – Flora/ Fauna (Oakland, CA)
  • Lauren Steele – Hook & Ladder, Lowbrau (Sacramento)
  • Leilani Vella – Nopa, Lolinda, Absinthe (San Francisco)
  • Lucia Gonzales – Prizefighter (Oakland, CA)
  • Megan Silsbee – Nopa (San Francisco)
  • Michaela Leah King – Cantina (San Francisco)
  • Rhachel Shaw – Tradition, Local Edition (San Francisco)
  • Victoria George – Rickhouse, AQ Restaurant & Bar (San Francisco)
  • Vita Simone Strauss – Dogwood, The New Easy (Oakland, CA)

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Multi-Purpose Bar Tools


I hate single-use kitchen gadgets (hot dog slicers, corn strippers, pizza shears, anything from Skymall), but so many bar tools are limited in what they can do.

I certainly am not advocating a swiss army-style cocktail tool, and yes, that really does exist. There’s nothing useful about ten bulky tools crammed into one with all utility sacrificed for the sake of compactness, like the monstrosity on the right, but there is room for expanded functionality for some standard, single-purpose bar tools.

My new favorite is the Microplane Stainless-Steel Citrus Bar Tool, which combines a speed-key bottle opener format with a grater/zester and channel knife (used for cutting a twist from citrus peel). The only downside is losing the speed-pour pulling ring on the back end, which really only matters to a professional. For home enthusiasts, or if you are throwing a cocktail party for friends, this tool is a fantastic way to to improve efficiency, save space and a few bucks. The item is less than $20 at Williams-Sonoma.

Anyone else have favorite multi-purpose or otherwise innovative bar tools?



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Etched Liquor Bottles For The Home Bar

On a lark, I practiced my glass etching skills on a few beautiful St. George Spirits apothecary bottles, and the folks I shared them with seem to think I should run with it, so I am considering selling a line of up-cycled liquor bottles as spirits decanters for the home bar. I hope to craft some other fun gimmicks and promotional items too.

The single bottle pictured is etched with the entirety of Benjamin Franklin’s “The Drinker’s Dictionary,” his compendium of every term meaning drunk.

The group shot is the start of a set, each displaying a quote that includes the name of the spirit,  bigger and bolder for emphasis and clear labeling. The Quotes are as follows:

“WHISKEY, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.” – Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

“ TEQUILA. Straight. There’s a real polite drink. You keep drinking until you finally take one more and it just won’t go down. Then you know you’ve reached your limit. – Lee Marvin

“I’ll stick with GIN. Champagne is just ginger ale that knows somebody.  ” – Hawkeye, M*A*S*H,  1973


I also etched Charles Bukowski’s “Beer” into a lager bottle, but it needs redesigning before I post a photo.


What do you think?

Any Suggestions?


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I was perplexed by a couple of one-off events that Krug hosted at Tales of the Cocktail last year, but forgot about it until I ran across the photos that I took. Their brand ambassadors invited out a bunch of bartender buddies out on the company dime to eat oysters and pig meat at good, but downscale restaurants while draining cases of expensive champagne.

The idea behind the campaign was to convince people that it’s a great idea to crack open a few $200 bottles of bubbly with your buddies while you throw back a dozen miyagis or gnaw on some pig feet. Not sure who gave this one the green light, but it made for some great afternoons even if the message was a bit hard to swallow.

Edit (5/19): Apparently I am not the only one noticing Krug’s misguided marketing. The day after I posted this piece, this hit the news.

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Bitter Orange Jello Slices

Ending my Lunar New Year Party with Bitter Orange Jello Shots was a hit, so I will pass along this simple recipe.

Bitter Orange Jello Slices

  • 6 oranges
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 6 oz. package of orange Jello
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 1/4 cups chilled vodka
  • 1/4 cup orange bitters (I used Angostura brand)


1. Slice oranges in half across the navel. Cut a slit in the pith near the navel, where it is strongest.
2. Slide the end of a metal spoon between skin and fruit to remove cleanly and reserve fruit for another use.
3. Bring water to a boil, and remove from heat.
4. Stir Jello into hot water until dissolved, then stir in cold water , vodka and bitters.
5. Set orange peel halves into shallow cups on a tray so that the edges are level and fill with jello liquid to the rim.
6. Let cool overnight in the refrigerator and slice each half into thirds with two vertical cuts.

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Have you Heard About HeardAbout?

I’ve been writing about my favorite dishes around San Francisco on HeardAbout.com for a while, and while hanging out with the founder and editor one afternoon, I persuaded them that cocktails would be a great addition to their culinary site, so you can check my out some of my favorite San Francisco cocktails on my HeardAbout profile.


HeardAbout also has a new iPhone App (and they promised me Android coming soon)

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Beer Salt

The most fascinating new product at this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show (at least from the drinking persective), is apparently a quarter-century old, but I hadn’t heard of it until a December.


I was planning another peaceful New Year’s eve in Manhattan at Death and Company, when a friend called to suggest that I drop everything and fly to West Texas to see a minor country music legend play a show at a tiny honky tonk bar in a little town, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so how could I say no? The show was excellent, and despite the obscurity, David Byrne showed up around 11:00. But I digress.


Every convenience store, liquor store, grocery store and fireworks stand across Texas had a display of Beer Salt, petite plastic shakers in the shape of a long-neck filled with flavored salt.  It was even saw it on several bars in Austin and Houston.


My first response was revulsion, then two thoughts crossed my mind. First, my father used to put salt in his Bud Light, but I never knew if this was entirely for flavor or if it was just to execute his favorite magic trick. Second, we put salt on the rims of margaritas, and even closer, on micheladas. For any purist who has been scoffing from the start of the paragraph, contain yourself, because I would wager that when it comes to food, you salt just about everything.  It’s a flavor enhancer, and our bodies crave it, so we are biologically predisposed to enjoy it.


I wouldn’t use this with a dark, full-bodied craft beer, but with any brew you might have sucked down at a keg party, it works quite nicely. Beyond that, all three flavors are great for sprinkling on an avocado.


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