A sweet drink at the new Tosca Lounge and other musings from SF bars 

click to enlarge Geary Club
  • Juan Pardo/special to the S.F. Examiner
  • The cozy Geary Club has all the comforts of home, if home were a stellar dive bar with classic drinks and a cheap jukebox.
The Tosca Lounge is up and running, and former Big moonlight bartender Christian Clark was tapped to make patrons’ booze dreams come true.

I’m not a big fan of swarming a place when it first opens, as I would rather step in after the roar has died down. But this candlelit spot is alive and well, with bartenders in white coats shaking up the evening while the smell of roast chicken from the open kitchen permeates the floor full of hungry guests.

A year ago, Clark made me a Brandy Crusta — mother of the Sidecar, relative of the margarita. This time — in addition to the brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice — there was a little Maraschino liqueur that gave the drink a whole new depth. And the sugar rim on the inside made it sweeter to the last sip.

Tosca Cafe has long been part of the trinity of North Beach bars, alongside Vesuvio and Specs’, where locals like Francis Ford Coppola would sit and sip the famous house cappuccino. The bar closed last year and reopened as both a bar and restaurant under the direction of New Yorkers Ken and April Friedman.

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A recent foray into day drinking left me with a nice buzz after sipping on some springtime concoctions as the day became night.

Chaya Brasserie in front of the Bay Bridge on The Embarcadero is making mean Rogue Fizzes to go along with its Japanese-French fusion cuisine.

The bright farmers market blood orange and light spice from yellow Chartreuse suited the evening as the sunset leaked onto the bridge.

Interestingly, the Chaya family has been in the hospitality industry for more than 300 years, dating back to small tea houses in Japan. And a new back bar is being built to expand the happy hour that lasts all night.

Over at the buttoned-up Alexander’s Steakhouse in South of Market, bar manager Justin Goo’s grilled-pineapple syrup is the key ingredient in his Kentucky Hula that finishes with hints of cinnamon and spearmint.

For dessert, I headed over to 1760 on Polk, where the smooth, nutty sweetness of cassis and orgeat made for a delightful black currant bramble.

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Presidio Social Club now bottles barrel-aged Negronis — ready to pour over ice to really elevate your day-drinking debauchery. The bottles go for $42 and make four to six servings.

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An old classmate and I were at Bloodhound in South of Market for a recent last call, sipping tequila on one of those warm San Francisco days followed by a freakishly chilly night.

The place hosts a clubby crowd in a neighborhood-y environment. At one point, the guy standing at the end of our communal table triumphantly raised his hand in the air, singing, “I’ve got two tickets to paradise, two tickets to paradise!”

Turns out he did have two tickets — to the nearby Crazy Horse gentlemen’s club.

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A few Sundays back, I joined a pack of bar industry folks for the last few stops of Burritt barman Shawn Beck’s Golden Mile — 12 drinks at 12 bars.

Beck is moving to Berlin to help spread cocktail culture in a place where he says it’s still in its infancy. This guy knows his stuff, as his first gig years ago was stirring Manhattans and martinis for his mother when he was 17.

We hit Rye for one of their Cure-All Old Fashioneds, then Trocadero Club for a Tecate. Mo Hodges of the dearly missed Big in the Tenderloin came up with the wonderful idea to hit up Geary Club for the 13th hole, or drink, as it were.

They don’t make hole-in-the-wall dive bars like this anymore. Well, at least in this city, where everything seems to have to be cutting edge or it’s not cool.

What’s not cool about getting five plays on the jukebox (a great jukebox at that) for a buck? What’s not cool about getting everything you need and not all the crafty cocktails you might want? And what’s cooler than what looks like Tony the Tiger’s head mounted above the back of a bar?

And in a nice little twist for Beck, bartender Lilian told us she was born and raised in Germany.

“Have fun in Berlin, sexy man,” the raspy-voiced Lilian told Beck as we put out our cigarettes and headed back into the night.

I’m sure he will.

About The Author

Rhys Alvarado

Rhys Alvarado

Bio:
Rhys Alvarado is a cocktail enthusiast and sucker for soul and sweet reggae music. A food and drink blogger since 2009, Rhys has sipped his way from Hawaii to Santa Barbara and up the coast to San Francisco, where he's found a glorious wave of craft concoctions and expert drink-makers.
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