How do you concoct seasonally appropriate cocktails for the sunny San Francisco winter and the wintry summer, keeping the flavors true to the time of year while pleasing this brown-liquor-loving town? Ask Kevin Diedrich, who was plucked from New York City to create the new hot spot’s drink menu for its opening eight months ago.
Here, bartenders attired in “San Francisco business hip” — jeans and Western-style plaid shirts — serve more than 300 signature cocktails a night and have command of an extensive beer and wine menu that takes full advantage of the region’s offerings. Diedrich picked everything to fit the bill, from the glassware to the drink menu — and he even mixed us a brand-new concoction with tequila and horchata that he hadn’t even named yet (though he did later that day, and you may be able to find it on the constantly changing menu).
There are a lot of bars in this neighborhood — hotel bars, wine bars, cocktail bars, dive bars. How does Jasper’s stand out? We’re a quadruple threat. We’re not just one place. Some places are a cocktail bar, but don’t serve food. Other places have a great wine list, but no cocktails or beer. We deal with everything. We have a full menu every night, 18 beers on draft, 40 in the bottle, a fully stocked bar. We’re great for wine lovers who may want a whiskey cocktail. We’ve created a hybrid machine.
You guys are new. Who hangs out here? We’re a downtown hotel [the Serrano Hotel is upstairs in the building], so we have hotel guests, but guests from other hotels, too. We have a strong local following of people in the neighborhood, the after-work crowd, but we have a huge industry following as well.
What do people like to drink? We sell a lot of cocktails, an awful lot of cocktails, almost every night of the week. But when the convention crowd comes in, they like beer. And the industry crowd — the chefs, servers and off-hour bartenders — like shots and beers.
How do you have a seasonal menu that feels appropriate for drinkers wanting a drink on a 50-degree day in summer or a 70-degree day in winter? Here, you can keep a hot drink on the menu in the summertime, but you can also keep a lot of citrus drinks on the menu to hold true to the season.
Some people like classic cocktails. You have the basics here, but how do you make them more interesting? You can take something very basic, like an Old-Fashioned or a Manhattan, and there’s easy ways to manipulate it. You can switch out the bourbon or rye for apple brandy, and then have an Apple Jack Old-Fashioned. You can switch out gin in a Gimlet for a different botanical, or you can add in St. Germain.
You’ve worked in New York and D.C., and this is your second stint in San Francisco. What are we like compared to other cities? This is a brown-spirit-drinking town, for sure. I don’t know what it is, but we love our big brown drinks. In L.A. and San Diego, they like light drinks — white wine, rum, gin drinks.
401 Taylor St., San Francisco