5 Indian Summer Cocktails that the Drapers Would Die For

Redwood Room

The back bar at the Redwood Room

Walking through the doors of the historic Clift Hotel in San Francisco, you can almost smell the years of cigar smoke and high powered financial deals that linger in the wood lined lobby.  Long the bastion of high powered deal making, the Clift opened it’s doors in 1913 by Frederick Clift on a family property, to serve the Pan Pacific Exposition.

Build to survive earthquake and fire, it still stands with the 1924 expansion of three additional floors.  At the time, it was the largest hotel in the state, and today, while it is now owned by the Morgans Hotel Group, it still remains much the same as when it initially opened.

The dark and brooding Redwood Room cocktail lounge feels like you are stepping back in history, with modern touches.  So named for the rich redwood panelled walls, and imposing etched glass and wood bar all pull us back to the original hotel’s glamour and clientele.  Enhancing to the unique flair, the Redwood Room boasts digital art work that will change when you are least expecting it – reminding me of a scene out of the cult movie Clue.

Clift’s famous and hanging array of digital artwork displayed on plasma television screens hung throughout the room. Snack on gourmet bites while sipping on delicious cocktails and enjoying curated music provided by well-known native San Francisco DJs along with world-class talent Thursday through Saturday nights.,

Master Mixologist Anthony Kim created the inventive and refreshing cocktail list just in time for Indian Summer, which is when us San Franciscians traditionally get some suIMG_1685nshine.  Using the freshest ingredients, these 5 cocktails represent traditional drinks that you might find in any bar, but with a twist of fresh, bright, and unique flavors.

A bit like a mai tai, this drink was named for two kings:  Bourbon, and basil.  This was my 2nd favorite of the night, because, naturally I love bourbon, and the addition of strawberries and basil adds a savory but sweet note that hits the spot.

A mimosa that is splashing out to play, the passion fruit and mint play off of each other in a dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, while the vodka adds a cool touch.  A smooth and refreshing aperitif.

Nectar of the Gods and other tales from the Navy

A couple of Saturdays ago, I decided to head on over to St. George Spirits, home of Hangar 1 vodka and other delights, for their annual Holiday Open House.  For those of you who don’t know, St. George Spirits is housed in the old Alameda Naval Air Station, in, well, Hangar number 1.  The best part of the trip over there, other than the delicious libations, is the unobstructed view over the old airfield, to the cityscape beyond.

When I RSVP’ed for this event, I decided to go for the whole shebang – tasting the traditional offerings of vodka and Eau de Vies, but also included the special bottlings of brandies as well as the mescal and absinthe.  I’m not sure how much I can tell you about the latter, but I have plenty to say about the amazing vodkas and other clear liquors!  It started out with 3 inventive cocktails, made from the offerings we were going to taste.  But first, you should hear the story.

St George Spirits began over twenty years ago, by a German emigrant that found a new home in San Francsico.  Jörg Rupf began educating the American palate as to the virtues and beauty of finely crafted eau de vie., or the Water of Life.  The story of St. George Spirits really starts with the Eu de Vie, which in many cultures is th eonly way to make the fruits of summer last forever.  It all starts with the source fruits, which have to be the best examples.  The examples I tasted at the open house truely were the cream of the crop, and were luscious libations of the first class.

Aqua Perfecta is the name of the fruit brandies that St. George produces.  The word brandy here really does not bear any relationship to the sticky sweet concoctions that many American’s associate iwth the drink.  These are the essence of the fruit, suspende din fire water, which will warm you even on the coldest of days.

The Pear Eau de Vie tastes of deep buttery pears, with just a touch of spice.  It is made with over 15 pounds of pears in each bottle and it really shows!  The fruit itself comes from local sources in Northern California, and the essense tastes of pears that have been poaches and pureed.

The Framboise tastes exactly like the essense of raspberries you would expect it too.  One sniff, and you are transported to the fields of the Northwest, with powerful berry aromas and intense berry flavors.  You would never mistake this for another liquor.  This would be amazing over ice cream, with some fresh berries sprinkled on top.

This is probably the most traditional of the spirits offered, other than the plain vodka.  This Kirsch is one of the most difficult to perfect, since it is a spirit loved the world over.  The cherry flavor is tinged with an almond essense, which is developed from the fermenting pits.  The cherries used to make this spirit are not hte sweet reds that we eat, because they do not ferment well.  Rather, they are Montmorencies, a sour variety grown in Michigan.  This Kirch would be wonderful with Marzipan treats, as well as the traditional uses in fondue both cheese & chocolate.

Grappa is an aquired taste.  It is an intense flavor that can be brutal goign down.  Anyone who has seen My Big Fat Greek Weddign can understand!  Traditional Grappa is distilled from pomace, the remains of grapes after they’ve been pressed for wine, making this a very green beverage as we are using what would normally be put to compost to continue the fermentation process.  I have tasted many a grappa in my travels, but St. George makes it differently.  this grappa is actually used from another urban beverage supplier down the road – Rosenblum’s Rockpile Road Zinfandel.  This grappa is very smooth and I can really pull out the intensity of the zinfandel flavors sipping on it.

The same amazing source fruit that is used ot make the Eau de Vie is used to make the Aqua Perfecta Liquors.  These are fortiified liqueurs, which are terriffic on their own or poured over a big bowl of ice cream.  The brilliant red of the Raspberry Aqua Perfecta is stunning to look at, and even better to taste.  It is like drinking raspberry puree with a kick!  While not sweet, it has all of the fruity goodness of eating a basket of the best raspbreries during the height of summer.

The Kaffir Lime is a funny looking creature from Indonesia.  The leaves often are used in Thai dishes, and provide an intense aromatic to this vodka.  This has a refreshing fresh lime flavor.

The Buddha’s Hand Lemon is a spikey strange object, which doesn’t really look like a lemon at all, but rather some creature from the black lagoon.
It has an intense aroma of lemons that really swoops out of the glass,  This is a terrific sipping vodka, but also would make an unbelievable Lemon Drop or Martini.

Mandarin Blosson – Smells like you have an orange in your glass.  The aromatics of this vodka are like the essential oils used in room fresheners, but in a good way!  This is a truely deliciosu sipper, and I went back for several samples, poured through a giant ice sculpture luge to chill the vodka.  Mmmm it would make a delicious cosmo, but it’s really wonderful on it’s own.

One of the special offerings was the Spiced Pear Vodka.  This was a clear vodka, but had the essence of pears, with an added spice flavor that was perfect for the holidays.  I really enjoyed this vodka, and can see it over ice in front of the Christmas tree.

My notes are lacking for the further offerings, as you can imagine, but I look forward to tasting at Hangar 1 again soon!