I left my liver in San Francisco…
Just because it’s in print it doesn’t mean that it’s fact. I know that we are all aware of this truism, but sometimes I think that we forget.
I can’t tell you the number of times a cocktail geek will question my ingredients in a drink, or choice (or lack thereof) of garnish, because they’ve read it to be a certain way in a certain book. A hint to you all out there, there are many books with recipes out there, and first published doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the only recipe. Is there only one recipe for chicken cacciatore? Is there only one recipe for a martini? (In case you’re wondering, the answer to both is no.) And if I had a nickel for every time someone tells me of the hallucinogenic nature of absinthe, because they’ve read it in a newspaper article or magazine by so-and-so, which thereby makes it fact, I would be at least two dollars richer.
Does this mean that my knowledge is supreme, while others knowledge is flawed or at least suspect? No. But it does mean that I have come to question all information, whether it is learned firsthand, acquired by media, or posted on a permanent stone and steel marker.
Now I can hear all of your rumbling out there in cyber-space: “What the hell is Boudreau going on about, now?! He hasn’t ranted like this since that vodka posting of his, you know, the one where we almost had to get him committed.”
I was fortunate enough to get away last week for a couple of days, and so I found myself down in one of my favorite cities in the world: San Francisco. While down there, I decided to explore the Bay area as my girlfriend is from Shaky Town, and knows the area well. In our travels, I managed to convince her to take me to Martinez, as I thought it would be fun to visit a city with such storied liquid history.
While we were walking around, we discovered a memorial plaque acknowledging the city’s contribution to the world of the cocktail. The text on the obelisk went like this:
BIRTHPLACE OF THE MARTINI
ON THIS SITE IN 1874, JULIO RICHELIEU, BARTENDER,
SERVED UP THE FIRST MARTINI WHEN A MINER CAME
INTO HIS SALOON WITH A FIST FULL OF NUGGETS AND
ASKED FOR SOMETHING SPECIAL. HE WAS SERVED A
“MARTINEZ SPECIAL.” AFTER THREE OR FOUR DRINKS,
HOWEVER, THE “Z” WOULD GET VERY MUCH IN THE WAY.
THE DRINK CONSISTED OF 2/3 GIN, 1/3 VERMOUTH, A
DASH OF ORANGE BITTERS, POURED OVER CRUSHED ICE
AND SERVED WITH AN OLIVE.
HUMORIST JAMES THURBER ONCE SAID, “ONE IS ALRIGHT,
TWO IS TOO MANY, AND THREE IS NOT ENOUGH.”
DEDICATED APRIL 11TH, 1993.
Besides the fact that they left out the maraschino, there are many issues with which one could debate the “facts” presented on this memorial slab. To save me the trouble of explaining some of the holes in the “truths” presented on this pillar, go pick up a copy of Imbibe!, by David Wondrich; you’ll thank me later. I will say this however; the Martinez is not a Martini. It may have morphed into the Martini, but they are very different drinks, and to put up a sign stating that the Martini was created in Martinez by Richelieu is erroneous and misleading. Even if it is printed on metal and presented on stone.
The fact that the plaque is dated 1993 also leads me to believe that this rather recent addition to the city was installed to drum up some much needed tourism; Martinez is a rather sleepy town, as our Saturday afternoon tour can attest.
As for the rest of the trip to the Bay Area, I did manage to get to a couple of bars: Alembic, Slanted Door, Bourbon & Branch, Tres Agaves, and Bacar. Cantina was on my list, but unfortunately it was not to be, as we met up with Jacques Bezuidenhout at Bourbon & Branch, who then dragged me along the extremely messy tequila trail of Tres Agaves and Bacar (thanks again, Jacques!) If I hadn’t travelled on 5 hours sleep, I might have made it to Cantina, but oh well, I guess I have another reason for a trip to San Francisco (as if I needed one).
Alembic, was great fun, with excellent bar food and a very skilled bartender. It opened around the same time as Vessel did, and it was funny to see the similarities ( they even had cucumber water) in our bar programs.
The Slanted Door not only has $10 Thomas Handy Sazerac rye, but a Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta which perfectly matches it! (OK that was my discovery, not theirs, but nonetheless, the match was heavenly)
Bourbon & Branch, one of my all-time favorite bars was a blast again, with the guys treating me like gold. I was even fortunate enough to get a nip of St. George’s absinthe. It’s not available yet, but if you want to buck up $75, then I suggest you order some, for it’s a damn tasty product, probably my favorite in the US right now.
From here I met up with Jacques who took me to Tres Agaves, the only bar that I know of that shows nothing but tequila on its mighty shelves. An impressive sight indeed.
As what tends to happen when I team up with Jacques, the night began to get a little (then a lot) hazy (the lack of sleep not being of any assistance) and after a short stay at Bacar, we hoofed it back to the hotel. To all of the bartenders that put up with me on my little bar-hop I give you each a hearty “Thank You!” for your hospitality, as always, was exceptional, and I love how you all support each other and act as a team as opposed to competition or rivals.
As for some recipes to consume for the evening, let’s first try my latest incarnation of the:
2 oz gin (try Plymouth)
1 oz sweet vermouth (try Cinzanno)
¼ oz of maraschino liqueur
1 dash regan’s orange bitters
1 dash Fee’s orange bitters
stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
garnish with a lemon (and throw the olive as far away from the drink as possible)
followed by my variation of Bourbon & Branch’s Revolver:
WEBLEY AND SCOTT
2 oz Bulleit bourbon
¼ oz Kahlua (they used Tia Maria)
1 dash Fee’s orange bitters (I don’t know which brand they used)
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters
or 2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
garnish with an orange twist
As stated above, this is my version, which had to be substantially different from B&B’s due to the fact that I don’t have any Tia Maria. I also don’t know what proportions they use, but this is a darn tasty re-creation nonetheless (although I will say that I enjoyed B&B’s a little bit more). Thanks again for the drinks guys!!
Drinks and pictures by: