Starbelly makes the most of liquor-less drinks 

click to enlarge Bartender Jordana Gonzalez, a San Diego transplant, serves cocktails without liquor at Starbelly, substituting wines or fortified wines for the hard stuff. - ALEX LEBER/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Alex Leber/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Bartender Jordana Gonzalez, a San Diego transplant, serves cocktails without liquor at Starbelly, substituting wines or fortified wines for the hard stuff.

Starbelly Many San Franciscans remember this as the space once occupied by Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint, the seminal club where LGBT comedians such as Marga Gomez and Tom Ammiano (then a city supervisor) did stand-up routines. Now the all-new interior and airy patio serve as a sustainability showcase. All the wood is from reclaimed sources, with the table surfaces coming from recycled bowling alley lanes. The lampshades are made from recycled cardboard, and the silverware doesn't match because it's recycled as well. Starbelly is owned by the same team responsible for Lolinda, Beretta and Delarosa. The long, communal tables and hanging lanterns are consistent with the design of the other properties, but the restaurant's California comfort food is unique. Also unique are the drinks. Because Starbelly lacks a full liquor license, all cocktails are made with wines or fortified wines in lieu of hard alcohol. Bartender Jordana Gonzalez is a recent transplant from San Diego who also tends bar at Qi Ultra Lounge.

What prompted your move to San Francisco? Why wouldn't you want to move here? It's such a cool city. ... Every day my eyes are wide with wonder. It's hard to hide my excitement for being here. It's everything I'd hoped it would be.

Are you saying there was no downside at all? Aside from not knowing many people, the climate was probably my biggest challenge.

Would it be fair to describe you as a food connoisseur? I don't know how advanced my palate is, but I enjoy eating out. You can eat a new dish every day for every meal and still not taste everything.

Let's talk about Starbelly's cocktails. They're very cleverly done. We don't have a full liquor license, but you'd never know it. Our Cask Oloroso is made with sherry, and the name comes from an Edgar Allan Poe short story in which a man is lured to his death with the promise of sherry. Another drink we have is the Betty Draper, named for the "Mad Men" character. Since we can't use real Aperol, we use wine and bitters and bubbles. We have another cocktail called The Walking Dead. We have a lot of pop culture references on our menu.

So you're using fortified wines in very unexpected ways. Yes. For example, we use something like vermouth that you'd commonly see in a martini, and we're able to turn it around and make a craft cocktail with citrus and lemon juices in it.

What's your favorite way to enjoy the Bay Area when you're not working? If I'm not eating out or enjoying the [bar and restaurant] industry, I like to get lost in the woods, kidnap friends and go hiking.

The Cask of Oloroso

• 2 oz. Oloroso Sherry

• 1 oz. allspice-infused simple syrup

• 1 oz. lemon juice

• 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake vigorously. Serve straight-up in a coupe glass. Garnish with lime peel.

BAR INFO: 3583 16th St. • (415) 252-7500 • www.starbellysf.com

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