Clock Bar, 335 Powell St., San Francisco, (415) 397-9222
During the holidays, locals and tourists alike file into the Westin St. Francis to gawk at the hotel’s festive holiday decorations. Visitors who wander into the Clock Bar will be in for a treat, too. Under the direction of general manager Phillip Barcio, the bartenders pour inventive, seasonal cocktails using locally grown fruits and vegetables. This year, the bar has created a new holiday: Repeal Month, the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition in December 1933. Whether visiting the Clock Bar from near or far, tipplers will find an island of cool within the venerable San Francisco landmark.
Tell me about this bar. The Michael Mina Group, along with Strategic Hotels and Resorts, hired the Rockwell Group to design this bar in 2008. They wanted to evoke the history of this building in a contemporary and exciting way.
What are the holidays like? This month, we celebrate what we consider the birth of the modern cocktail movement. We have two cocktails that celebrate Utah, the final state needed to repeal Prohibition: the Beaver Dam Wash Affair and the Bonneville Sidecar. We are trying to tell stories about our drinks.
What is the concept of the bar? A year ago, we began to focus on the farm-to-glass movement. We talked to folks in the Slow Food movement, Frog Hollow Farms and Eatwell Farm. Drinkwell Soda, which is part of Eatwell, made a specialty celery soda for us, and now their apple soda is on the menu. We want people to see how the seasons fit within the bar menu.
How long have you been in the bar business? My first job was as a dishwasher at Noble Roman’s Pizza, and I worked in restaurants through high school and college. I’ve been bartending for 15 years and I came here 10 months ago from Indianapolis.
What do you like about it? For so long, cocktails were an afterthought. If you wanted a flavor profile, you went with wine. Of course, a great cocktail can change your life. A bad cocktail can ruin your night.
Where do you like to drink? I like Blackbird [2124 Market St.], which is doing barrel-aged cocktails. I also like Rye [688 Geary St.], Rosewood [732 Broadway] and 15 Romolo [15 Romolo Place], which are very cocktail-focused. Rosewood is gorgeous. It’s a fabulous space, like a maze inside.
Do tourists like the bar? Most of our clients are not from San Francisco and they want what they get back home. Our approach is to say, “I don’t carry Grey Goose, but maybe this is a chance for us to turn you on to what we do have.”
Do you get regulars? We definitely get regulars from in town and from out of town. My whole focus has been to make this more appealing to locals. Our regulars tend to come in late at night and tend to be industry people.
What’s your favorite cocktail here? I love All Our Sweetest Hours, which we make here. It’s a honey Scotch drink. Our honey comes from Sweet Thieves, which has a hive on a rooftop in the Haight.
Muddle pear with bitters and lemons. Add other ingredients in a glass and shake over ice. Double-strain over ice.