Location: 688 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA
The staff at San Francisco’s Rye aren’t bartenders — they’re highly trained mixologists — cocktail nerds who delight in libation innovation and experimentation. But like so many SF-based establishments they’re also hardcore locavores, mixing in as many seasonal, homegrown components as possible. Think of Rye as a bookend to Farm:Table; you can start your day off with expertly crafted coffee at one location and wind it down with exquisitly formulated cocktails at the other.
We pulled up a stool (next to Farm:Table’s Shannon Amitin no less) and spoke to professional spirit-slingers Jon Gasparini and Doug Williams. They concocted a quartet of off-menu drinks for us using ingredients like bergamots, blood oranges, and meyer lemons along with some highly specialized liquors. Here’s what they blended that left us feeling stirred.
What it is: A medley of spirits originating from France, Italy, Trinidad, the US, and China mixed with Navan (a cognac-based vanilla liquer), house made kumquat syrup, a dash of port, then topped with foamy egg white, lemon peel, and served in a tall glass (phew, got all that?).
What we think: This extremely labor intensive reinterpretation of the whiskey sour is both masculine and delicate. One gastronaught was overheard exclaiming, “it’s a manly, foo-foo drink.”
Inside info: When Rye threw a mixology contest, the International Sour ended up being the winning entry.
Blood Orange Blood and Sand
What it is: Glenrothers reserve scotch blended with fresh squeezed blood orange juice, Dolin Rouge vermouth, and Cherry Herring.
What we think: According to Gasparini, “People are often apprehnesive about scotch cocktails.” For us, there was nothing to be bashful about. This easily approachable, earthy, zesty, and aromatic drink is as frothy as it is refreshing.
Inside info: The drink’s namesake comes from a 1922 film starring Rudolph Valentino and even uses era appropriate ingredients — Cherry Herring was a popular staple in pre-prohibition bars.
The Unnamed Cocktail
What it is: Fresh grapefruit, lime, and green apple muddled together with a 100% agave tequila, canton ginger liquor then garnished with a slice of green apple, and topped with crushed ice.
What we think: Tart and tingly. It hits like an exceptionally smooth margarita with a lip smacking finish.
Inside Info: This yet-to-be-named libation is typically produced with house-made ginger syrup (Rye had just run out when we visited.) Oh and if any of you clever commenters can think of a pun-tastic name for it, let us know; we’ll pass it on to the folks at Rye.
What it is: Pikesville rye whiskey, Leopold Bothers Georgia Peach flavored whiskey, Antica Carpano vermouth, Amaro, fresh bergamot juice, topped with frothy egg white.
What we think: It takes a few sips to fully appreciate this libation. But after a few tastes, you’ll be treated to a full bodied and spicy yet also elegant and herbal experience.
Inside Info: Due to its strong floral hints, Doug typically likes to make this cocktail in the spring. But get some before the last batch of Leopold Brothers runs out. The “painstakingly slow” process of blending whiskey with Georgia Peaches yields just under 20 cases a year.
Written by: Kat Manalac & Danny Dumas
Photos by: Jon Snyder