New high-end restaurants and concept bars are adding foot traffic and vibrancy to the rapidly changing mid-Market Street neighborhood. One of the newest, AQ, is just across Mission Street from the Federal Building and another destination restaurant, Heaven’s Dog. Bartender Victoria George is part of the team that cooks up new recipes for AQ’s bar menu.
AQ, 1085 Mission St., San Francisco, (415) 341-9000
What’s the concept at AQ? We change seasonally. Literally everything, including the décor.
What are you doing with infusions? We infused dry vermouth with botanicals to make a lighter gin martini. We just made a cacao rye, and we are creating a new Sazerac with that. We are using a pumpkin-seed-infused bourbon with our Manhattan.
What’s the history of the building? It was part of the San Francisco Health Agency, and before that it was a textile space.
What are you doing with the basement? It’s a party space, and eventually it will be a whiskey lounge. Right now we are housing rare, unique bourbons and whiskeys down there.
What’s the food like? It’s a French twist on California cuisine. The chef is always looking for ways to place these awesome ingredients together. It’s amazing how he incorporates so many flavors in a plate.
What about your cocktail program? We want it to work with the menu. For example, blood oranges are coming into season, and we want to incorporate that on the menu.
How do you come up with new drinks? We have a great group of bartenders and we collaborate on ideas. We pull ideas from our own experiences and what we’ve done. The bar managers have us all make something.
How did you become a bartender? In college, I used to do amateur infusions. For example, I used some of my teas in gin, and it turned out to be good. I’ve been bartending in and out of the industry forever. My parents owned a sports bar when I was a kid, and I have been a hostess, server and a manager. But bartending was my thing. I really got into creative, classic cocktails when I moved to San Francisco four years ago. The knowledge here is so insane I couldn’t see myself leaving the bar.
Where have you worked? I was at Fifth Floor and Murio’s. That gave me an opportunity to learn without being bombarded. At Fifth Floor I really found my way with creative cocktails.
What kind of spirits do you use here? We have a very high-end well. So it’s pretty cool to work with all these ingredients. For example, Buffalo Trace is our well bourbon.
What are your big sellers? With our menu, we have turned people on to trying new things. We’ve kind of gone away from the vodka-soda thing. People here are really interested in the Mexican Piano. We set fire to it. That gives it a really smoky flavor. It turns a feminine drink into something everyone can enjoy.
Do you get regulars yet? We opened the first of November, and we are starting to see people come in more frequently. People get excited about our menu and come back to see what’s new.
Torch bay leaf in rocks glass. Shake and strain ingredients into glass. Add ice. Garnish with lime wheel.