This is not even a typical ingredient. I got a nice approximation there anyway, with gin, bitters, brandy, and Cointreau. Some may point out that this is not really the recipe for a Singapore Sling, but in my experience that doesn't matter much. The drink has a history that goes back to the first part of the 20th century, and the original recipe is long lost. Subsequent attempts to reconstruct it have created a wide variety of Singapore Slings. The excitement of ordering one and seeing what kind of fruity gin cocktail arrives may be more pleasurable than the drink itself.
Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., SF. (415) 546-6300, www.thehotelutahsaloon.com
The flavor of this Lush Lounge concoction resembles cantaloupe as much as the drink resembles a martini: not much at all. The most straightforward way to achieve a cantaloupe-flavored martini would have been to infuse vodka with the fruit. The Lush, for whatever reason, has come up with an intriguingly complex work-around, mixing watermelon liqueur, orange juice, citrus vodka, and lime. Surprise it's good. I'm glad no one informed these lushes that cantaloupe is far less citrusy than most of the ingredients used here, because the drink ends up as a pleasantly tart ode to a Tropical Watermelon Starburst (the purple flavor in the green pack).
Lush Lounge, 1092 Post, SF. (415) 771-2022, www.thelushlounge.com
It's possible to imagine that this little number, served at the Metro in the Castro, was born as a Cantaloupe Martini (see above), then evaporated down to its Starburst essence and reconstituted with liquor. It uses many of the same ingredients, but doesn't taste like any particular kind of Starburst. It just has that sticky imitation-fruit feel going on that underlies all things Starburst. One of my favorite drinks in San Francisco is the cucumber gimlet at Bourbon and Branch, because it perfectly captures that soft but biting base flavor of cucumber. I find it equally remarkable that the Pink Pussy can so unerringly replicate an archetypal candy flavor (although it's not too heavy and has enough alcohol to keep pace with its sweetness). But what's in the drink may not be as important as what the drink's in: a towering highball glass, a somewhat ironic play on the straitlaced aesthetic of early 20th-century modernism, considering the cocktail's moniker.
Metro, 3600 16th St., SF. (415) 703-9750
BOURBON AND GINGER
Cocktails that taste like candy are fun, but after a couple sugar-rush headaches you start wanting something cleaner. The bourbon and ginger at Little Baobab isn't your typical Jim Beam and ginger ale mixture for one, it uses real ginger juice, which makes a world of difference. The juice's lush tang stands up harder to the alcohol than any generous splash of Canada Dry could. The lack of carbonation is also surprisingly refreshing the cocktail doesn't taste watered down with air. It's full and thick, with an insistent spiciness.
Little Baobab, 3388 19th St., SF. (415) 643-3558, www.bissapbaobab.com
LYCHEE LEMONGRASS FIZZ
Along with tasty if pricey sushi and a beautiful if perhaps similarly pricey waitstaff, the eternally hip Blowfish Sushi to Die For also offers this wonderful drink, which has the taste and smoothness of a lychee-ice-cream shake. Unfortunately, it's not very alcoholic; you'll need two to get a buzz. However, it's soft and easy enough to lead you gently into the Japanese version of Tipsyville. Soda water provides a touch of sparkle, and lemongrass syrup spices it up, keeping repeated sips from slipping into monochromaticism.
Blowfish Sushi to Die For, 2170 Bryant, SF.