SUMMER DRINKS: Five bartenders look to the past to create some of the Bay's best cocktails -- and tell you what to sip for summer.
SUMMER DRINKS Incas at Heaven's Dog with a side of Stax? A Cherry Bounce at Comstock Saloon with some Booker T and the M.G.'s? How about just a nice, perfectly made sazerac? Whether through years of bartending or expertise in classic cocktails and spot-on service, the five respected mixers below have long encapsulated what has made San Francisco a leader in the cocktail renaissance of the past decade-plus. To get a (summer) taste of their different styles and recommendations, we asked them to fill out a questionnaire delving into their personalities and cocktail prowess. The responses showed that the past is more present than ever as a delicious, tipsy inspiration in finer Bay bars.
Savoy Stomp, Heaven's Dog
Erik Ellestad first landed on the cocktail map in 2006 with his blog, Savoy Stomp (www.savoystomp.com) — during his off hours as a tech engineer he began working his way through the classic Savoy Cocktail Book, one recipe at a time. This led to monthly gathering and demonstration Savoy Cocktail Book Nights at revered Upper Haight cocktail hotspot the Alembic since 2008, and bartending at chic SoMa Chinese restaurant Heaven's Dog since its opening in January 2009. He's an expert on classic recipes; his technically-minded side informs his precision and sense of balance.
SFBG Where did you grow up, and how did that influence your bartending style and taste?
Erik Ellestad I'm from a small town near Madison, WI. Other than developing my taste for beer, cheese, and Old Fashioned cocktails, I don't think growing up in Wisconsin particularly affected my bartending. However, the 10 years I spent as a line and prep cook while living in Madison definitely affected both the way I approach cocktails and how I prioritize tasks while bartending.
SFBG What's your area of expertise or obsession?
EE Pre-Prohibition American beverages. Almost all my real favorite cocktails go back to the 19th and early 20th centuries, or before.
SFBG What do you drink most during off hours?
EE To be honest, now that I've nearly finished the Savoy Cocktail Book Project, I've been taking a bit of a break from drinking cocktails. You'll most often find me drinking esoteric beers or interesting wines.
SFBG What cocktail is exciting you lately?
EE I try to learn a new cocktail or perfect an old one every week just so I can have an answer to the inevitable cocktail nerd question, "What have you been working on lately?" This week I was inspired by Leopold's Navy Strength Gin to perfect the Inca cocktail:
3/4 oz Leopold's Navy Strength Gin
3/4 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
3/4 oz Carpano Antica Italian Vermouth
3/4 oz Manzanilla Sherry
1 tsp Small Hand Foods Orgeat
1 dash Orange Bitters
Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a small cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.
SFBG Favorite off-hours food or drink hangouts?
EE I live in Bernal Heights, so the places I get to most often are in the neighborhood: Gialina for pizza, Papalote for burritos, Front Porch for soulful American food, and Ichi Sushi, for, well, awesome sushi. If my wife and I are splurging, we'll go out to Bar Tartine, Bar Jules, or Commonwealth. Other than the bars I work in, Rock Bar, Royal Cuckoo, Glen Park Station, St. Mary's Pub, and Wild Side West are the bars I'm most likely to be found in.
SFBG Your bartending playlist?