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Cocktail Recipes, Drinks

Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Have a Pleasant Evening at Rickhouse

September 30, 2011

The Pleasant Evening is a grapefruit riff on the Kir Royale featured at Rickhouse.

I’ve been to Rickhouse several times for special events, but I recently got to hang out there  while showing around a bartender visiting from Chicago. And now it’s become my favorite bar in San Francisco.

Once the door closes behind you, I like the way it feels like you’re in a different place. With its rough wood paneling, dim light and chicken wire detailing, the bar is set up to look like a rick house, a warehouse out in the country where barrels of whiskey are stored. Even the bathrooms are kind of like visiting an outhouse, sans the aroma.

Rickhouse is well-known for its punch bowls, like the popular Pimm’s Berry Punch. But we were impressed with the creative cocktails on the menu, most of which were just $8.

We slid into the open seats at the end of the bar and immediately started chatting with a friendly couple who had come down from Fairfield one one side and a businessman visiting from Boston on the other. But the center of attention was our bartender Ricky Paiva, who sported an impressive mustache that twirled up on the ends.

In between mixing cocktails like the sparkling Pleasant Evening and the Blue & Red Smash, a Bulleit Bourbon cocktail with muddled berries and mint, Ricky told us the story behind his mustache.

Ricky Paiva is one of the most entertaining bartenders at Rickhouse.

Most people think it goes with his authentic old-time mixologist look. But it was a remnant from his stint in a friend’s Burt Reynolds style wedding, complete with leisure suits and Lonnie Anderson white wine.

Bartenders are cool about sharing recipes for their drinks. When I asked how to make a Pleasant Evening, Ricky printed a small receipt with the recipe and the type of glass to make it in. So here you go:

Pleasant Evening

1/2 ounce crème de cassis

3/4 ounce fresh grapefruit juice

2 dashes peach bitters

3 ounces brut sparkling wine

grapefruit peel, for garnish

Shake the cassis, grapefruit juice and bitters in a shaker to chill, then strain into a champagne coupe. Top with the sparkling wine and garnish with grapefruit peel.

Makes 1 cocktail

Cool Bars

Cocktails & Mystery: A Visit to Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency

April 1, 2011
The website for the new bar Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency draws visitors in with a mystery of Lorraine Adeline Wilson, a redhead who went missing back in 1932.

The website for the new bar Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency draws visitors in with a mystery of Lorraine Adeline Wilson, a redhead who went missing back in 1932.

Cocktails and mystery just seem to go together. Or at least they do in detective stories of the 1930s and 40s, my favorite era for mystery books and classic movies. Whether it’s the fabulous Nick & Nora Charles and their love of martinis, rye and champagne; a hard-boiled private dick out of Raymond Chandler; or a curious tale of a Notorious villain under Suspicion, spirits and suspense go together.

Last night I visited the new Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency, the bar-within-a-bar at San Francisco institution Bourbon & Branch in the Tenderloin. The new bar’s theme was inspired by a true mystery that can be summed up as The Lady Vanishes.

During renovations for the new space, owners discovered a handbag with a 1932 driver’s license, lipstick, a nail file, and a torn up pair of stockings hidden between two walls. The license belonged to Lorraine Adeline Wilson, a slender redhead with blue eyes who had lived in the Mission. She was 29 at the time.

With this curious set of facts in mind, I rang the buzzer near the slightly seedy corner of Jones and O’Farrell streets. It was just after 6 p.m. A brunette opened the door, filling the entrance with her body. I gave her the password and she moved aside, allowing me into the dark room. Waiting for my eyes to adjust, I carefully walked about 39 Steps. We paused as she stopped to unlatch another door.

I stepped into a small, dim room with a long bar full of bottles, flocked velvet wallpaper and a pressed tin ceiling. The room was back-lit by a frosted window at one end; a mirror image of the words Wilson and Wilson Detective Agency filled the center of the pane. It was quiet except for a grainy voice warbling a song from another era. A Platinum Blonde showed me to a metal tractor seat at the bar. Before she left, she handed me a small manila envelope.

I was just about to look inside, when I noticed the bartender peering at me expectantly. He was a Thin Man.

Tune in this weekend for the thrilling conclusion…

Pop Culture

An Underground Speakeasy: Midnight Bar San Diego Style

November 6, 2009

Ian Ward mixing Panhandler's Punch at a speakeasy night somewhere in San Diego. (Photo by Michael Esposito)

“It starts at 10. See you then. P.S. Don’t wear heels. “

The text message inviting me to an underground cocktail speakeasy on a recent Sunday night was short, to the point and kind of mysterious. But I guess brevity fit occasion.

It told me to show up at an alley near Adams Avenue and between two  streets in Normal Heights. The password was zipper. So just after 11, I headed out to find the party. I don’t normally make a habit of driving down alleys. Besides not being very picturesque, I quickly discovered they’re net exactly linear. The alley ended in a T intersection with another one.

I decided to go right and spotted a shaggy guy standing in the alley talking on his cell. I went around the block and checked out the other end of the alley. Nothing there. On my second trip, the same guy was still standing there. So I rolled down the window and asked if he was there for the speak easy? He stepped forward with a smile and said “You’re looking for Zipper? I’m Zipper.”

I park and enter through a makeshift plywood gate. There’s a path covered with rough rock gravel illuminated by luminaria in white paper bags. I hear music coming from a building in front of me. Inside it’s dark too; the room s illuminated with little candles that show swaths of red, and yellow and green on the walls.

The first person I recognize is local bartender Ariana Johnson. She’s  is serving lemongrass infused Veev acai vodka, poured from  a delicate absinthe fountain. Her drink ware? A half lime rimmed in dehydrated honey crystals.

Then I spot Whisk’n’ladle Bartender Ian Ward along with Lucien Conner and Jen Queen of the nucleus of the nascent San Diego Bartender’s Guild. Ward — the ring leader —  stepped up and handed me a green Mickey’s Big Mouth. Malt liquor?? Well, not exactly. He’d made it into a Brass Monkey. The ghetto version of this drink aka a Poor Man’s Mimosa according to the Urban Dictionary is OJ and beer. Ward created his own with a mixture of passion fruit juice and chamomile. It was fragrant, lightly sweet and tart, a perfect summer’s day drink.

Next up in the cocktail tasting was the Panhandler’s Punch, an autumnal drink that starred organic apples and persimmons from Crow’s Pass Farm in Temecula. Ward imagined it as the kind of thing someone foraging around might be able to make  – as long as they also had Goldschlager, vodka and juniper berries handy.

The final drink  – an oddly enough my favorite for its creativity – was the Chorizo Margarita. Somehow, Ward captured the smoky paprika, peppery and herbal flavors – without the grease and the garlic. It was like drinking a light, tangy and slightly smoky  version  of a blood mary. I wouldn’t mind having one again.