Log Date

A whiskey adventure for you and me.

  1. Still frame

    If San Francisco bars are any indication, for happy hour drinks after a long  day whittled away at your startup or agency this spring, stick to a simple formula: a chambray + black pants + brown work boots + a pair of rounded Warbys. Olive drab jacket acceptable on cooler days. As for hair, ladies: a top knot with long, blunt bangs. Gentleman: a respectable, barber-groomed beard and a quiff haircut.
Band together in these ensembles. You don’t necessarily need to order that Negroni before you circle back to bourbon. 

    If San Francisco bars are any indication, for happy hour drinks after a long  day whittled away at your startup or agency this spring, stick to a simple formula: a chambray + black pants + brown work boots + a pair of rounded Warbys. Olive drab jacket acceptable on cooler days. As for hair, ladies: a top knot with long, blunt bangs. Gentleman: a respectable, barber-groomed beard and a quiff haircut.

    Band together in these ensembles. You don’t necessarily need to order that Negroni before you circle back to bourbon. 

  2. Moving pictures

    Tonight - if you’re in San Francisco and would like to avoid all of that “Cinco de drinko” debauchery - come down to the Mission, for a Spirit Family Reunion show. The Chapel, 9pm. I’ll be doling out the whiskey upstairs. 

    “I don’t how much better it’s ever gonna get. 

    You like the taste of whiskey as you roll up your cigarette. 

    Well if there’s one thing I know for certain, 

    Whiskey takes away the hurting. 

    Well, take my hand and put it in your hand.”

  3. Still frame

    For your home bar: available now at Monument on Valencia (SF)

    For your home bar: available now at Monument on Valencia (SF)

  4. Moving pictures

    Bookin’ It to the Bar — The Bold Italic » 

    Some of my favorite bars to read in, and the spots that make them prime, include: the front window at 21 Club, the lounge at Empress of China, the front table at the Gold Cane, the lofted lounge at Hobson’s Choice, a window seat at Hotel Utah Saloon, the couches at the Little Shamrock, the wooden bench at Specs’, and the balcony at Vesuvio. Of course, I rarely wait until midnight to crack a book; most of these spots make good reading nooks because, during the day, natural light is plentiful and crowds are minimal.”

  5. Still frame

    SIPS OF BOURBON: Fire in the Hole at Rock Bar, San Francisco
In the hunt for a worthy San Francisco dive, I was directed towards Rock Bar, a cozy little pub enough on the outskirts of the Mission that it’s probably considered Bernal Heights, and for the weekend crowds still stay mellow enough. All the necessary components are there: cheap, strong drinks; a pool table, a jukebox; a seasoned crowd of regulars and revelers alike. It’s glorious. (They even have kitsch — the place is festooned with literal rocks.) They still care about their liquors though, and the bartender made the hell out of my first Old Fashioned, which was all fine and well until I saw a sign for perhaps the greatest drink special I’ve ever encountered: 
Fire in the Hole 
Bottle of Schlitz 
Shot of Four Roses 
Piece of Charcuterie
$9 

Brilliant. I’m done. I’ve found my dive. 

    SIPS OF BOURBON: Fire in the Hole at Rock Bar, San Francisco

    In the hunt for a worthy San Francisco dive, I was directed towards Rock Bar, a cozy little pub enough on the outskirts of the Mission that it’s probably considered Bernal Heights, and for the weekend crowds still stay mellow enough. All the necessary components are there: cheap, strong drinks; a pool table, a jukebox; a seasoned crowd of regulars and revelers alike. It’s glorious. (They even have kitsch — the place is festooned with literal rocks.) They still care about their liquors though, and the bartender made the hell out of my first Old Fashioned, which was all fine and well until I saw a sign for perhaps the greatest drink special I’ve ever encountered: 

    Fire in the Hole 

    Bottle of Schlitz 

    Shot of Four Roses 

    Piece of Charcuterie

    $9 

    Brilliant. I’m done. I’ve found my dive. 

  6. Writing on the coaster

    Bulleit 10 & Bullitt

    SIPS OF BOURBON: BULLEIT 10-YEAR @ Bar 821, San Francisco

    Finally got around to ordering the Bulleitt 10-year at a little bar tucked away on Divisadero. $12 pour. Ordered it with an Anchor Steam. “I’ll need to see two IDs for two drinks,” the bartender tells me. I paused. She blinked. Maybe I blinked too. “Oh, is this all for you?” Ended up feeling strange on a Tuesday evening, said nevermind the beer. Drank the Bulleit, waited for my drinking partner, doodled aimlessly on a red napkin. Trying to find a dive in my neighborhood; this wasn’t it. No music, no personality really, neither cheap beers nor intriguing cocktails. The bourbon was excellent, sure, but not particularly some elevated experience from the tried-and-true every day Bulleit. One reviewer (ridelight/eatheavy, photographer of the above bottle) compared the two to 400 versus 800 thread count sheets — both decent, but you’ll be cozy all the same. Oh well. 

    Carried on down the road to The Page, where they have cans of Olympia to remind me of home, and watched Steve McQueen barrel through the 1960’s streets of San Francisco in this scene from Bullitt:

  7. Still frame

    Trick Dog | San Francisco

    Trick Dog | San Francisco

  8. Still frame

    Bourbon on tap! | Broken Record, San Francisco

    Bourbon on tap! | Broken Record, San Francisco

  9. Writing on the coaster

    Ode to Oakland

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    image

    “We really ought have moved to Oakland,” I admit to my roommate.

    Our bartender sort of nods, sort of frowns, contemplates this. ”Yeah. Something’s happening here.” 

    I know I’m intoxicated by potentially fleeting charms, but certainly, that’s a feeling I’m accustomed to by now. This night, it’s unseasonably warm. We spent the day in Berkeley: some yoga, some Brazilian food truck snacks, some cheap paperbacks. We divvy up a bottle of champagne alongside Lake Merritt, recaffeinate, and wander over to Art Murmur, Oakland’s version of an art walk that sees several city blocks along Telegraph Ave cordoned off. Oakland has baited us, charmed us, even endeared us. 

    Oakland offers the community that San Francisco seems to lack, at rental prices that thankfully (thus far) fail to meet the city’s absurd norms. “Uptown” is the face of the emerging Oakland, come what may. And what would those sparse, white-walled galleries and fair trade, fresh-roasted coffeehouses be without the small plate, craft cocktail restaurants to surround them? 

    Duende, tucked away across from Fox Theater, fulfills that role, almost comically if it wasn’t so damn cozy. It’s all there: the Basque designation (“Cocina de la Claridad y la Oscuridad”), the local sourcing, the vaguely exotic dishes (and a hamburguesa), the inflated pricing. That will all soon drift away, though, as you settle in, take it for what it is. It’s a lofty, beautiful space with impeccable murals. Take a date. Try the rye drink. Take a few friends before a show across the road. Order a half-dozen of the small batch American whiskies between you. You’re in Oakland, California. A few drinks in, you’ll need reminding. 

    It can’t be ignored: “duende” refers to the soul. It’s a strangely wonderful, dark concept that doesn’t easily translate. You could lose a day exploring it. But simply put, the Larousse Spanish-English dictionary provides a description for “tener duende”: to have a certain magic. To that, goodnight Oakland, good night.