Ra and I have never gotten along. As the sun god of the Egyptians, he says people should walk sideways with one hand up and the other down. I say people should walk forward, with hands by their sides. He says Jews should be slaves. I say Jews should be rich and powerful. He says door should be spelled soldier-falcon-cat … Things between us really came to a head over the whole Library of Alexandria fire mess, though. Words were exchanged, perhaps regrettably. Since then he hasn’t exactly been overly generous with his golden rays to me or any other San Franciscan. It’s not that he’s completely shut us off. He teases us with just enough warmth, only to freeze us out once we thankfully shed our jackets. It’s his way of forcing us to be grateful to him. Jerk.
Now it’s June. Children are shrieking, lovers are lying, teenagers are doing drugs, and everyone and everything looks like a potential mate. It’s the time of year when I get the most fed up with Ra’s bait-and-switch shit. My psychologist suggests that the best way to deal with a bully is just to ignore him. I’m paying her to be right, and even if her tactic doesn’t get us more summer light, it may keep us from getting so flustered. Another thing that might help: a few drinks, ones that offer a little more than great flavor and good liquor. Even if we can’t have an actual summer, we can always down a few cocktails like those below, to which any eager marketing exec would attach the phrase "fun in the sun."
Polk-Nob bar Rye is well known for its Honey Delight, a cocktail that mixes gin and bitters with honey and tangerine and orange juices and that reportedly tastes like Sunny Delight. Putting so much effort into something that tastes like Sunny D makes little sense to me, so I opt for the similarly juicy, rum-laden Santiago Sun. This drink has the same gritty sweetness that makes mojitos and caipirinhas so popular. But some of us get a little embarrassed ordering post-trendy mos and caips aloud these days; this cocktail will help you save face. It’s crisp and strong, with a fair share of citrus to keep the rum humble. The pummeled kumquats nestled at the bottom of the drink are perfect for nibbling on while you sit in Rye’s ultra-urban lounge pretending you’re Ernest Hemingway during one of those tempestuous Cuban summers.
Rye, 688 Geary, SF. (415) 474-4448
PAT PONG PUNCH
Hit Potrero Hill’s Lingba Lounge on the right night, and you’re in for a dance treat. Hit it on the wrong one, and you’ll be stuck in an empty, sleeked-out bar with uncomfortable furniture. On either occasion, though, there’s no reason to get stumped by Lingba’s menu of neo-island cocktails. Simply dive into the Pat Pong Punch, a mixture of bourbon and fresh tamarind and pineapple juices. This cocktail is great for its simplicity: the bourbon gets soaked in the sweetness but isn’t taken under. When the juices have washed away, the oaky bourbon is left resting easily on the tongue. On nights when you require something a little tackier a little tikier order the Shipwreck, a drink that comes in a coconut, or the Bowl of Monkeys, a drink that’s served ablaze. The price of a Bowl of Monkeys includes a Polaroid of the experience, so you should probably wait until your friends from Burlingame arrive before ordering it.
Lingba Lounge, 1469 18th St., SF. (415) 355-0001, www.lingba.com
SINGAPORE SLING (OR SO)
Remember the part in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where Hunter S. Thompson says he was "drinking Singapore Slings with mescal on the side"? You might think such a cool line would have led to a proliferation of this lovely traditional drink. Yet slings in this city are rare. When I ordered one at the Hotel Utah recently, the bartender said he couldn’t make one because he didn’t have simple syrup. 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. (415) 285-3848, www.blowfishsushi.com
DOCTORED ORANGE CR&EME FRAPPUCCINO
If I can get this by the maniacal Guardian censors, I’ll recommend the Starbucks Orange Crème Frappuccino although somewhat altered from what its makers intended. It’s a regular Frappuccino with the addition of the citrus flavor you might find in those Dutch orange chocolates, but Disneyed up. Get a large to share with your companions on the way to your first bar and throw in some Irish whiskey and a few caffeine pills. You’ll probably have spent the first part of your day drinking beers at your cousin’s graduation party or your step-aunt’s trailer or the garden party for your niece’s communion. This is a nice way to commit yourself to the evening, should there be any doubt.
Starbucks, every-freakin’-where. www.starbucks.com