Even though it's a sake bar, Tsunami specializes in gin 

The area around China Basin and Mission Bay has developed rapidly from being a destination for Giants games into a full-fledged neighborhood, with new commercial and residential construction, and a whole assortment of restaurants and bars frequented by locals and visitors alike. Just far enough from AT&T Park to avoid high-volume pregame and postgame traffic, Tsunami is most favored by the young professionals who live nearby. Tsunami features an interesting quirk: While it has a large sake list, it specializes in high-end, hard-to-find gin. With that in mind, bar manager Robert Pace has compiled a unique list of gin cocktails with a distinctive Japanese touch.

Tsunami Mission Bay, 301 King St. Suite B, San Francisco, (415) 284-0111

Why gin? This is the second Tsunami [the other is located at 1306 Fulton St.], and that’s primarily a sake place. They have the largest selection in The City. The other restaurant, Nihon [1779 Folsom St.] is almost all whiskey. Here we wanted to have a fusion of everything. So we sat down with the owner and decided gin seemed like a local choice. It’s such an up and coming spirit. It’s come a long way in the last five years.

What else do you have here? We do a little bit of everything. Because of Nihon, we get a lot of whiskeys you wouldn’t normally be able to get.

What do you like? Whiskey is my first choice. I like Eagle Rare, which is a five-time double-gold winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. I work at Nihon on Saturday nights, which is pure whiskey. Here, we try to balance everything. One popular trend now is that people are combining spirits. What’s the clientele like? The majority is from the neighborhood like young professionals who commute to Silicon Valley because we’re near Caltrain. It’s not a crazy crowd and we don’t have Bud Light or draft beer. We get local business people for lunch and we get a lot of people who come in for a nightcap.

What do you like to drink and where? I like bourbon with a splash of ginger ale or a classic Old Fashioned — not one with a muddled orange or cherry. I like to go to Bloodhound [1145 Folsom St.], Toronado [547 Haight St.] and 15 Romolo, which is the best cocktail bar in The City. I’ve also been to Churchill [198 Church St.], which just opened.

What do you like about bartending? Besides the hours, the people. I love it. It’s a lot of fun. So many people are scared of gin and I like opening people up to new experiences. We have a good amount of regulars and one guy adores gin. He’s my test mule. Part of the fun is the chemistry side and the combinations that work best. I love classics, but I like to toy with things myself.

Is this a sports bar? We always have the Giants games on, but we don’t [have the sound on]. When the Giants are playing, it’s pretty nuts out there. This is a nice mellow bar. It’s kind of like the hidden gem of the neighborhood.

Does gin work with sushi? Gin is such a light and clean spirit and it pairs well with fish.


Oni No Tsuma

  • 1½ oz. gin
  • ¾ oz. green-tea liqueur
  • ½ oz. fresh yuzu
  • 3 to 5 sprigs of mint

Slap mint with hand or bruise gently with muddler, add liquids and shake all ingredients. Double strain and serve with Matcha green tea and sugar the rim.

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Erik Cummins

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