SF Trend Alert: Prickly Pear Cocktails

By Virginia Miller  |  May 29, 2014
Credit: Virginia Miller

On current bar menus, we've recommended bracing coffee cocktails and beautiful coconut-laced cocktails. Now we call out an ingredient we are noticing on menus from Palo Alto to St. Helena: prickly pear. The fruit is from a cactus plant, used for its color as much as anything. Bright, almost neon pink with rosy-purple undertones, it makes any drink stand out. The flavor? Refreshingly tart and sweet, it's a bit reminiscent of watermelon. Here are three of our favorite prickly pear cocktails on menus around the Bay Area right now.

La Condesa's Prickly Pear Margarita [Photo Source: Virginia Miller)

1) Lure + Till's Bright Idea

The Gist: A name San Francisco cocktail lovers have long been familiar with, Carols Yturria - who has worked at GitaneRange, Rye and many more over the past decade - is running the bar and bringing his years of expertise to Palo Alto at weeks-old Lure + Till. The cocktails aren't fussy but they're not boring either. House shrubs and balanced combinations ensure quality drinks in the hip, open air bar of the restaurant. You'll want to stick around for food from Chef Patrick Kelly, formerly of Gitane and Angele.
The Drink: The Bright Idea ($12) shows off the tart of prickly pear with subtly smoky notes of Del Maguey Vida Mezcal. Lemon and agave nectar bring it into balance, while a rinse of absinthe adds intriguing herbal whispers.
Pair With: Chef Kelly's striking Spring salad ($13) is made from locally-foraged produce many of the staff grow in their own gardens. Recently it was a melange of asparagus, artichokes, pickled ramps and fennel over a porridge of farro, quinoa, black forbidden rice. The whole dish comes to life with a vivid addition of preserved Meyer lemon rinds.

2) La Condesa's Prickly Pear Margarita

The Gist: When in Napa, tequila, mezcal and Mexican food lovers head to La Condesa on St. Helena's bustling main street.
The Drink: The striking Prickly Pear Margarita ($11) uses Tequila Tapatio Blanco, locally-imported from St. Helena's great Charbay Distillery & Winery, as the base. Margarita basics like Cointreau (an orange curacao) and lime juice get that vivid splash of prickly pear puree and welcome heat from a lime-habanero-black salt rim.
Pair With: Executive Chef Chris Mortenson's sweet and gently spicy guava chipotle carnitas sandwich ($15) piled on a bun from St. Helena's beloved Model Bakery. It distantly recalls bahn mi with a slaw of daikon and carrots, accompanied by a stack of spiced fries.

Lure+Till's Bright Idea [Photo Source: Virginia Miller)

3) Palm House's Prickly Pear Daiquiri

The Gist: Last week we gave you an early taste of Palm House, which just opened May 21st in SF's Cow Hollow neighborhood, serving Caribbean-inspired dishes in a sunny, charming Victorian.
The Drink: Bar Manager Anthony Parks (of Bergerac) crafts a fun menu of $11 cocktails inspired by the tropics and Tiki. A sophisticated slushie machine churns out blended daiquiris ($9.75) to which you can add lovely, flavor-intense fruit purees from The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley for an additional $1. Wouldn't you know the most vibrant is prickly pear, illuminating all that lime and rum with its rosy vibrancy. If you're feeling crazy, add on another $2 for a Kraken Black Spiced Rum float on top.
Pair With: Pacific tuna ceviche ($14), scooped up with taro root chips and accented by orange, mint, cilantro and mango pickle - all beautifully tied together by a perky ginger lime vinaigrette.