9 Crazy-Cool Savory Cocktails in San Francisco

Beef broth, mushrooms and pork — in a glass!
November 6, 2015
by Amy Copperman

Beef broth, mushrooms, curry, sage, pork fat — anything goes in this new crop of cocktails that have bartenders reaching into chefs' pantries and employing culinary techniques to produce "meals in a glass." While San Francisco's bartenders have long blurred the lines between liquor shelves and kitchens, these ingredient-forward concoctions continue to push the boundaries in terms of what you can expect to come from a cocktail shaker. Behold SF's textured, umami-packed liquid dinners to sip now. (But for the sake of the next morning, you should probably still pair with solids.) 

El Capitan's Pipa Cabana and Maximon 
For El Capitan's premier cocktail program, beverage director Ashleigh Plasterer and bar manager Teyler Wallace have filled the Latin America/Caribbean-leaning menu with interesting savory notes that complement South American liquors like rums, tequilas and cachaças. One standout is the Pipa Cabana, a riff on Plasterer's grandfather's recipe for a meat rub that combines cachaça and tequila with oven-roasted pineapple emulsified in oil to lend it a soft texture, while sage and nutmeg impart seasonal deliciousness. The result recalls a tropical, dairy-free eggnog unlike anything we've tried before. Meanwhile mezcal fans won't be disappointed by the Maximon, which features the smoky liquor infused with pork fat and accented with chocolate bitters, Cynar and sea salt for a round, umami flavor. 

1123 Folsom St.; 415-525-3676

Reverb's Man Down
Clear across town, Polk Street's masculine, wood-adorned Reverb is also getting in on infusions, although vegetarians will be able to take part in this concoction. Mushroom-infused rum, cinnamon gomme syrup and angostura bitters mingle for a festive, earthy flavor while beech mushrooms act as a playful garnish, one that's fit for the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland

2323 Polk St.; 415-441-2323

Novela's Phileas Fogg, Redux
SoMa's literary-themed punch house and lounge pays homage to the adventuring protagonist in Jules Verne's 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days with this rich concoction. Cigar-soaked sherry seems like just the liquor Phileas Fogg would throw back while apple juice, lemon juice and maple syrup add a warming seasonal touch, and the anise garnish imparts a spicy aroma.  

662 Mission St.; 415-896-6500

Maven’s Unwritten Law 
A comforting, seasonal riff on a shandy, this beer cocktail features rum, crisp Asian pear and Allagash beer reduced with clove and cinnamon. This hoppy cocktail gets an extra dose of the good stuff with a thick, hops-infused cream topping.  

598 Haight St.; 415-829-7982

Burrit Room's Red Baron
To make this brand-new drink, the expert bartenders at this hidden Union Square gem let macerated roasted pistachios soak in a bottle of Campari for two days, allowing the buttery flavor of the pistachio to impart a smooth finish to the clean, slightly bitter liqueur. Strained and stirred with equal parts rye and sherry, the Red Baron is a booze-heavy and smooth libation. 

417 Stockton St.; 415-400-0500

Whitechapel's Dutch Nemesis 
If you have trouble deciding among the 120 gin cocktails at Polk Street's new steampunk shrine to gin, the owner Martin Cate will probably suggest this signature cocktail with notes of cumin and caraway (think rye bread). Gin and sparkling wine create a fun, almost tingly sensation on the tongue while bitters and lime balance the concoction.  

600 Polk St.415-292-5800

Smokestack's Dutchman's Flat
Beef broth infused with ginger and tumeric tea, lemon and honey sounds like a drink to cure a winter cold, but when combined with rye whiskey and bitters, it's a round, booze-forward libation that would go perfectly with Smokestack's slow-smoked barbecue. The toasted nori garnish adds an unexpected Japanese twist for the Dogpatch's all-American barbecue spot.

2505 Third St.; 415-864-7468

Mourad's Curry and Milk 
In perhaps the best example of chefs and bartenders working together, San Francisco's star bartender Anthony Parks takes chef Mourad Lahlou's famous curry blend from Outer Richmond's Aziza and turns it into a tincture that enlivens one of the new offerings from Mourad's new, all-day cocktail service. In this rendition, gin, lime, lichi milk, pistachio and basil form a refreshing, creamy base for the acclaimed chef's spice blend. 

140 New Montgomery St.; 415-660-2500