8 Favorite Cocktails at Gaspar, Now Open

By Virginia Miller  |  May 22, 2014
Credit: Virginia Miller

Yesterday, we shared a sneak peek of the gorgeous new French brasserie from Restaurateur Franck LeClerc (of Gitane, Cafe Claude, etc.), including some early standout dishes. Today is the day Gaspar Brasserie officially opens to the public, sporting a gorgeous downstairs bar. It's time to talk about all the drinks that bar master Kevin Diedrich will be shaking there.

Diedrich first made his mark in San Francisco at Burritt Room when it opened, then he continued to make waves at Jasper's Corner Tap and Kitchen. His drink style is all about balance. But he's also got such a refined creativity, that his complex drinks often come off playful and relaxed. At Gaspar, he's pouring these skills into a menu focused on French spirits like Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados, in classic-style cocktails with a shot of fun: an ounce of pineapple juice here, an ounce of ginger beer there. There's a "hi octane" cocktail section ($12 each) and "lo octane" ($10) for lighter-alcohol, aperitif-style drinks. Here are some of our early favorites. 185 Sutter St., 415-576-8800

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Champagne Cobbler

    One of the "lo octane" drinks, this (almost) guilt-free sipper is sparkling rosé wine intermingling with locally-based Tempus Fugit's soon-to-be-released creme de noyaux (a classic almond-apricot creme liqueur). Then there are cherry notes from Maraschino cherry liqueur and a hint of orange from curacao. It's not at all cloying as those fruit liqueurs might suggest. They add a light, fruity whisper to the rosé, for a refreshing sip over crushed ice.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller


    Diedrich subs gin for the Cognac in a classic Crusta cocktail. A bit of orgeat goes in with the lemon and bitters to bring texture and surprise nutty and floral notes.  There's also a light apple essence from Calvados.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Napoleon's Own

    This one's for you Tiki or tropical drink lovers out there. A Camus VS Cognac base plays nicely with pineapple juice and a bit of Denizen rum. Maraschino cherry liqueur, fresh lime and Angostura bitters bring the Tiki balance.  This drink is off-menu right now but you can still order it - as long as they have fresh-squeezed pineapple juice in house, that is. Yes, they are squeezing it themselves, which is no easy task!

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Absinthe Frappe

    Thrilled we are to see an Absinthe Frappé on the menu - particularly one made with one of the great French absinthes, Vieux Pontarlier. You find this classic drink everywhere in New Orleans and it goes down easy on a hot day. But Diedrich tones down the anise notes that steer some drinkers away from absinthe. He puts it all in balance with lime, mint, soda and a bit of botanical-melon flavors from locally-made Chareau Aloe Liqueur. This is the one you want as a refresher, as a starter before dinner, or an afternoon sipper. Try it instead of a Southside or Mojito. You just might be hooked.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Pyrenees Crossing

    On the booze-forward side, our favorite may be the sherry-based Pyrenees Crossing, which also happens to be lighter in alcohol. Diedrich uses his own blend of three different sherries - PX, Oloroso and Palo Cortado - to cover notes from sweet to nutty. Tempus Fugit's creme de noyaux brings in a bit of apricot and almond and it's all harmonized with orange curacao. This smooth, balanced sipper is an ideal aperitif or post-dinner nightcap. 

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    The Pink Squirrel

    The Pink Squirrel was a favorite boozy-sweet concoction of the 1950's. Leave it to Diedrich to bring it back into balance, though it still feels like dessert for the cocktail lover. Cognac, cream and locally-based Tempus Fugit's gorgeous creme de cacao and soon-to-be-released creme de noyaux (a classic almond-apricot creme liqueur), combine into a chocolate, nutty-creamy drink that smells like a holiday with fresh shaved nutmeg on top.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Forget Paris

    We don't want to Forget Paris when it tastes this good: a refreshing combo that highlights the herbaceous notes of gin with the bitter and sweet we love in a duo of Italian (Aperol) and French (Amer Picon: a bittersweet, orange-tinged French liqueur) bitter liqueurs. But the secret that brings it all together? A saline solution: simply water and salt, it's like seasoning a dish, bringing it together in lovely harmony.

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    Corpse Reviver

    Diedrich's version of a cocktail classic may not revive a corpse, but it manages to deliver a kick from herbal gin, while being soft and refined with Chateau de Montifaud Pineau des Charentes Rosé (imported locally through Anchor Distilling) and a frothy layer of egg white. It's all vividly tart with lemon and raspberries.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    Pull up to the gorgeous upstairs bar and settle in for drinks and bites.

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    A striking latticework wall separates the upstairs bar from the dining room.