Welcome to The Short List. Each week, we pick a topic and share our favorite things about the Bay area.
Sure, you can get a good, basic cocktail from lots of places, but chances are you won't remember that rum and coke next year. This week we're tipping our highball glasses to some carefully mixed libations. Here are our five, must-try local specialties:
The Avenue, Fly Bar and Restaurant — This is a drink that will make your chest hair grow chest hair, but in a totally good way. Made with Willett rye whiskey, dry vermouth, Averna (a Sicilian liqueur made of roots, citrus rinds and caramel) and absinthe, The Avenue starts out with the tough beefiness of the whiskey, but finishes with an herbal, almost menthol kick.
Aviation No. 1, Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club — Ciro's bartenders pride themselves on making cocktails with prohibition-era techniques lost to the need for speed in modern times. Think fresh-cut garnishes, hand-squeezed mixers and custom liquors. The Aviation No. 1 is their standout — the fresh lemon juice, maraschino and gin-based drink is something you've probably never tasted. The cocktail gets its exotic flavor and pale blue color from the extremely hard-to-find crème de violette liqueur.
Bakua Freeze, The Hurricane Seafood Restaurant — Frozen drinks, especially those served in beach bars, have a tendency to be overly sweet and ridiculously strong buckets of liquor. The Bakua Freeze (served in a no-frills, big ol' plastic fountain drink cup) is frozen perfection. The pina colada mix blends mildly with the rum, crème de banana and splash of Kahlua that goes down as fast as the sunset on the ocean-view rooftop deck.
Blackberry Collins, Brickhouse Tavern + Tap — Brickhouse's bar is a definite cut above, with bartenders mixing a selection of specialties that go way beyond the usual sports bar's beer and basics. The Blackberry Collins is made with a Texas craft vodka, St. Germain, soda and muddled blackberries. It's a fruit drink without being too fruity, and tastes kind of like an adult grape soda.
Marti Margarita, Datz — Named for Jose Marti, the 19th-century Cuban freedom fighter who was once headquartered in Ybor City, the Marti margarita steps a classic cocktail in much the same way that Datz's menu is constantly stepping up classic comfort foods. Their margarita gets heated up with jalapeno-infused tequila and some very hot, hot sauce, before it's sweetened with agave nectar, then savory-ized with alderwood-smoked salt on the rim.