Appetite: Bar buzz

Shuffling action around SF’s best bars has been steady in recent weeks: Neyah White leaves Nopa to become Yamazaki’s brand ambassador, Brooke Arthur exits Range to head up the bar at brand new Prospect, Reza Esmali departs Smuggler’s Cove to revamp Long Bar on Fillmore, Steven Liles journeys from Fifth Floor over to Smuggler’s Cove… Thankfully, there are others holding steady offering new seasonal menus or launching a new pop-up bar:

RICKHOUSE — It’s been a rewarding summer thus far for Rickhouse and its talented bar manager, Erick Castro, already. First, Castro won one of two mixologist of the year awards at StarChefs Rising Stars, then Rickhouse was nominated for three awards (more than any other SF bars) in the international nominees list for Tales of the Cocktail this year: Best American Cocktail Bar, World’s Best Cocktail Menu, World’s Best New Cocktail Bar. So it seems as a good a time as any to re-visit Rickhouse to try their brand new Seasonal Summer Cocktail menu — with eight original drinks plus one new punch — especially when they’re as good as Ginger’s Trois ($8).This was tops of the few I tried last week, effervescent with sparkling wine, smooth with Plymouth Gin, fresh lime and mint, balanced with bitters, lightly spicy with ginger. I hope this is a permanent menu fixture. A Cherry Blossom Cobbler ($8) is a sno-cone tower of ice, topped with a cherry, rich with Yamazaki 12-year whisky, organic cherry blossom jam and lemon juice. On the spirituous side is a Paper Plane ($9), refreshingly strong with bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino and lemon juice.
246 Kearny, SF


CLOCK BAR — Clock Bar’s fairly new GM, Phillip Barcio (formerly of Ramblas), launches his first seasonal menu, one of three throughout the year (“seasons” being grouped by produce): a May-September/berry season menu ($12-14 per cocktail). At a preview night last week, it was a joy to witness farmers and producers congregated at Clock Bar who provided much of the produce or ingredients for the menu’s cocktails.

Clock Bar’s inviting decor

The menu is ambitious, playful and farm fresh, with every drink featuring a different spirit and seasonal produce or local and house-made sodas and syrups. An Oregon 609 is complex but bright with Bols Genever, olallieberry marmalade, Cynar, Benedictine and lemon, though maybe my least favorite of the three I tried. Carl is a lighter take on absinthe (featuring Swiss Kubler absinthe) with apricot reduction and a zippy house root beer. Nutty, creamy dessert comes in the form of a Mission Flip with Pampero Aniversario Rum, house cane syurp, Mission fig reduction and a whole fresh egg. It seems a locally-embracing new season has dawned at Clock Bar.
335 Powell, in Westin St Francis Hotel, SF
(415) 397-9222


PICKLED at ABSINTHE — Yes, it’s a pop-up bar called Pickled, happening on the last Monday of every month in Absinthe’s private dining room, with ever-changing drinks created by bar manager Carlos Yturria.

Carlos Yturria behind the bar at Pickled at Absinthe

I stopped in inaugural night, June 28. A wide range of spirits are represented, from armagnac to mezcal ($10-12 a cocktail), and there’s also a revolving offering of bar bites to go with. Pisco showed itself beautiful in Carlos’ crushed ice presentation with figs, sage, lemon and a candied fig chip on top. Kudos for using my new local favorite pisco, Encanto. Close the night with a little finish of Carlos’ candied strip of rhubarb.
Last Monday of every month, 5:30-10pm
388 Hayes, SF.
(415) 551-1590