Travel the world of whiskey at Nihon 

click to enlarge Credit Julia Graham's dance experience with her company BodiGram for her smooth moves behind the bar of Nihon Whisky Lounge. - ALEX LEBER/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Alex Leber/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Credit Julia Graham's dance experience with her company BodiGram for her smooth moves behind the bar of Nihon Whisky Lounge.

In that fuzzy patch where South of Market becomes the Mission district sits a whiskey lover's refuge. The two-story bar, restaurant and lounge with tranquil river-rock flooring attracts 20-something whiskey mavens, boasting one of the largest selections of single malts in the entire country. Happy hour, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., will get you half off select sushi and cocktails. And whether bartender Julia Graham is crafting drinks or running her dance company, BodiGram, she always finds herself onstage trying to impress an audience.

What separates Nihon from the rest? We specialize in something very specific. We have the largest single-malt selection west of the Mississippi and the largest whiskey selection in California. Almost 600 total. When you have this amount of whiskey behind you, the amount of knowledge you can gain is endless.

What kind of clientele do you come across? The location itself doesn't lend itself to foot traffic. It's kind of a word-of-mouth place. Agewise, mid-20s to early 40s. A little more of the Marina on the weekends.

What do you drink? I'm a devout whiskey drinker. I drink bourbon. I like the Elijah Craig 12 [year old]. I want something smooth and sweet with a fiery finish.

What do you find to be special with Japanese whiskeys? In the tradition of how the Japanese do things, they take their time. There are subtleties. The whiskeys come off as simple yet intelligently composed.

What do you do when you're not bartending? I'm a dancer. I'm a performer. I work as a dance and yoga teacher at the Y and I have my dance company, BodiGram. We're putting together a dance constructed around the history of alcohol in August. I'm pretty much always in front of an audience.


•1½ oz. Yamasaki 12-year single-malt whiskey

•¾ oz. Stirrings ginger liqueur

•¼ oz. fresh lemon juice

•3 pieces fresh ginger

•Couple of dashes Fee Brothers lemon bitters

Muddle ginger with lemon juice. Add whiskey. Add ginger liqueur. Shake. Double strain into coupe glass. Top with lemon bitters.

BAR INFO: Nihon Whisky Lounge

1779 Folsom St. • (415) 522-4400 •

About The Author

Rhys Alvarado

Rhys Alvarado

Rhys Alvarado is a cocktail enthusiast and sucker for soul and sweet reggae music. A food and drink blogger since 2009, Rhys has sipped his way from Hawaii to Santa Barbara and up the coast to San Francisco, where he's found a glorious wave of craft concoctions and expert drink-makers.
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